Not Your Momma's Cookbooks (Part 3)

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For someone who doesn't like to cook (and who rarely cooks), I sure own a lot of cookbooks; I love seeing all the different foods that can be made. In my ventures through the cookbook aisles, I've noticed some with less-than-typical main ingredients, cooking methods, and themes. This weekend, I'm sharing with you a sampling of the most unusual—in one way or another—cookbooks out there.

Tonight: cookbooks with unique layouts and design

Unusual Formats

140 Characters or Less
Described as "a shorthand sous-chef," Eat Tweet presents 1,020 recipes originally tweeted from @cookbook, author Maureen Evans' recipe-focused Twitter account. Because each recipe has been condensed to 140 characters or less, with no photos, this cookbook is better suited for the text and code inclined than visual learners.

Step-by-Step Photos
Originally, cookbooks were entirely text, and fairly barebones text at that, based perhaps on the assumption that the people reading them already knew how to cook. What to Cook & How to Cook It is the cookbook for people who don't already know how to cook: each easy recipe is presented with clear instructions and photos of each individual step. There's even a photo glossary of cooking techniques in the back.

Photos Only
IKEA created an internet sensation when it released a free 140-page coffee-table book in the kitchen departments of its stores in Sweden. Hembakat är Bäst (Homemade is Best) presented recipes for Swedish baked goods in the simplest visual format possible: a photo of the ingredients, and a photo of the finished product. Carl Kleiner, the photographer, also produced 10 accompanying instructional videos that can be viewed on his Vimeo channel. (This cookbook was previously featured on our list of IKEA-style instructions for things other than IKEA products.)

Interactive
Hungry? is an interactive cookbook from innocent, a UK company that makes smoothies, juices, fruit purees, and "veg pots." Aimed at families, the book is interspersed with facts, stories, games, and colorful graphics to keep kids entertained; it also identifies which steps of the recipes kids can help with. And the finishing touches? A pocket in the back to stash "Torn-out recipes, passports and secret documents... because burglars never steal recipe books" and a dish towel that lists "The 10 Commandments of Washing Up."

Quirky
Another UK book, Kevin Gould's Dishy is full of unusual, quirky features: the recipes are presented in flow-chart format; hand-written notes, excerpts from literature, and photos are interspersed throughout; and the whole book has a retro feel, despite its 2000 publication. My favorite aspect? The little graphics indicating how many people each dish serves and their accompanying text—4 jack-o-lanterns for a pumpkin stew that serves four and "Serves 2 (if you get lucky)" for Venice Calves' Liver.

Art-Book-cum-Cookbook
Until the release of Modernist Cuisine (below), Heston Blumenthal's The Big Fat Duck Cookbook was the biggest and most expensive cookbook on the market, weighing in at 10 pounds and priced at $250.00. The boxed book, complete with four ribbon markers and several gatefolds, is as much an art book or a biography as it is a cookbook. It's packed with illustrations and photographs, and the table of contents is "a four page fold-out peek into Blumenthal's mind." (If $250—or Amazon's discounted price of $157.50—is more than you want to pay, there's a less elaborate, non-boxed or be-ribboned version that's "only" $50, or $31.50 at Amazon).

6 Volumes
Nathan Myhrvold's 50 pound, 2,400-page, 6-volume Modernist Cousine set off a firestorm of discussion when it was listed on Amazon for $625.00. The "cookbook to end all cookbooks" is illustrated with gorgeous photographs that artfully depict the cooking process in action, with a burger cooking on a Weber grill in cross-section and a side-view of a stir-fry in which the food is flying out of the pan to illustrate how it transitions through three different cooking zones.

If you haven't read part one, with strange ingredients, unusual cooking methods, and unlikely author-chefs, or part two, with special themes and science-y goodness, check them out now.

So, _flossers, what are the strangest, weirdest, most unusual cookbooks you've ever seen?

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September 18, 2011 - 2:30pm
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