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11 Surprising Celebrity Cookbook Authors

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The list of celebrities who have tried their hand at writing cookbooks ranges from the not-so-surprising (Oprah) to the totally unexpected (Stanley Tucci?). Here are 11 famous, non-chef figures whose cookbooks you can buy.

1. OPRAH

When Oprah is obsessed with something, the whole world is obsessed with it. So it’s surprising that it took her until 2017 to release her favorite recipes. Food, Health, and Happiness: 115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life is part cookbook, part memoir, and part lifestyle guide from the talk show host and cultural icon (and her favorite chefs). Oprah is an investor in Weight Watchers, so obviously each recipe includes calorie counts and how many Weight Watchers points each recipe is worth.

2. COOLIO

Coolio likes to describe himself as the “black Rachel Ray,” and has been dishing out cooking advice for quite a while. A whole episode of the reality TV show Coolio’s Rules was devoted to “Cooking with Coolio,” a segment that was later expanded into a web series. He describes his cookbook, Cookin' with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price, as a guide to becoming a “kitchen pimp.” Some of the recipes include “Finger-Lickin', Rib-Stickin', Fall-Off-the-Bone-and-into-Your-Mouth Chicken” and "Banana Ba-ba-ba-bread.” In 2012, the rapper appeared on an episode of the Food Network show Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, competing in the cooking show under the tutelage of Guy Fieri.

3. MAYA ANGELOU

The poet and civil rights activist might not be as well known for her cooking as for her verse, but she’s the author of two cookbooks, Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes and Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart. The former takes a memoir-inflected approach to laying out Angelou’s favorite dishes, while the latter was inspired by the author’s significant weight loss and includes advice on moderation and portion control.

4. SMASH MOUTH

Most culinary aficionados don’t think of the back of a tour bus as the most delicious food destination in the world, but nonetheless, Smash Mouth: Recipes from the Road: A Rock 'n' Roll Cookbook does exist. The band members’ favorites from their pit stops across the country include lobster sandwiches and “Pink Lady apple and arugula salad." All the recipes were just solicited from real chefs by the band, but the book does have chapter-long cameos from famous/infamous contributors like Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar. You should probably buy the book immediately, just based on the Amazon review that includes this tidbit about Sammy Hagar's chapter: "The whole things about aliens! Wha?”

5. STANLEY TUCCI

If you thought Stanley Tucci’s turn as a foodie in Julie and Julia was acting, flip open one of his cookbooks. His first, The Tucci Cookbook, is drawn from his family traditions in Italian cooking. And he followed it up with another family-oriented cookbook. Written with Felicity Blunt, his wife, The Tucci Table (2014) combines the Italian-American and British favorites Tucci and Blunt grew up with, respectively. It features recipes for everything from pasta alla bottarga to barbecue chicken wings.

6. TRISHA YEARWOOD

In addition to her country music stardom, Trisha Yearwood has her own show on the Food Network, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. She has published three cookbooks with co-authors since 2008. Her latest is Trisha's Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced Life. Unlike the fried chicken and barbecue pork featured in her 2008 book Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen, her newest recipes tend toward vegetarian alternatives like sweet pea burgers and edamame parmesan.

7. ZIGGY MARLEY

In October 2016, Ziggy Marley made his cookbook debut with Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook: Delicious Meals Made With Whole, Organic Ingredients from the Marley Kitchen. The book highlights the Rastafarian and Jamaican cultures that influenced meals in the Marley household, and has contributions from not just Ziggy but his wife, his sister, and a handful of chefs. In addition to recipes like jerk chicken and fish stew, the book includes a hefty number of vegetarian and vegan recipes.

8. TONY DANZA

Television actor Tony Danza penned Don't Fill Up on the Antipasto: Tony Danza's Father-Son Cookbook with his son Marc in 2010. The family recipe book tells tales of the Danza clan’s large extended family dynamic alongside black-and-white photographs and nostalgic recipes like “Sunday Sauce and Meatballs.” Just about every Amazon review for the book mentions the meatballs, so they are obviously pretty spectacular.

9. REGIS AND KATHIE LEE

Back in the ‘90s, talk-show cohosts Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford penned a cookbook made up of recipes from the show’s guests. In Cooking With Regis & Kathie Lee: Quick & Easy Recipes From America's Favorite TV Personalities, chefs that appeared on the cooking segment contributed instructions for dishes like Mediterranean eggplant pie and yogurt chicken. Made for the show’s superfans rather than expert cooks, the easy recipes provide substitutions for more unusual ingredients.

10. SAMMY HAGAR

Former Van Halen rocker Sammy Hagar dipped his toes/wallet into the culinary scene in 1990 with the restaurant chain Cabo Wabo, which he founded with the rest of the band. (He later bought them out when the place failed to turn a profit.) In addition to his chapter in the Smash Mouth cookbook, in 2015, he released Are We Having Any Fun Yet?: The Cooking & Partying Handbook. As the founder of Cabo Wabo-brand tequila and Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, Hagar’s cookbook is heavy on the party aspect, but finds time to detail his favorite recipes from his favorite beach vacation spots (Cabo San Lucas being one of them, obviously) and from his time on the road.

11. MORGAN FREEMAN

In 2006, actor Morgan Freeman published Morgan Freeman and Friends: Caribbean Cooking for a Cause, donating the profits to his charity, Grenada Relief Fund, which was designed to help the island’s residents recover from 2004’s Hurricane Ivan. The cookbook is full of Caribbean food recipes from Freeman (like his grilled swordfish steak with lemon caperberry butter) and other celebrities. Some of the Hollywood figures who contributed Caribbean recipes include Tom Hanks, Ben Affleck, and Kenny Chesney (who has a house in the U.S. Virgin Islands), for instance.

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literature
12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

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Dan Bell
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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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