Friday, February 3, 2012

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

 So there I was, at the main branch of the Orange County Library, in my favorite section the "Teen Center" (there's a note on the door asking people above the age of seventeen to stay out, but I feel that's ageism and I'm not a creeper...I'm sure grabbing a book is fine...right? I always feel a little guilty) when I stumbled on some cookbooks!
Because I was recuperating from a stomach bug, I couldn't peruse them much yesterday, but I'm feeling up to the challenge of perusing today. Still not up to the cooking challenge though, it's been two days of green juice, toast, and tea.

I started with The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz, a book of mostly British fare. To enlighten her American audience, she explains certain British customs such as "Tea: How to Make a Proper Cuppa" (36) and what exactly treacle is (73). I giggled as I read about the origins of spotted dick (185). Dick is, apparently, a British word for pudding. These helpful side-notes are on parchment scroll images giving a little bit of history (in one of them she cites Wikipedia. Call it English teacher prejudice, but I wanted to shut the book then and there). 

There is plenty of standard fare: mashed potatoes, shepherd's pie, and classic roast chicken, for example. However, British cuisine is not my favorite. I don't foresee myself making haggis (155) or black pudding (157). (Bucholz notes that haggis is indeed Scottish, but it makes an appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets chapter 8.) 

Both of these recipes, the author states, are untested and she urges the reader to "proceed at your peril" or "at your own risk". I understand that these are just two of the more extreme recipes, but I can't imagine putting recipes in a cookbook that haven't been tested! What are your thoughts on that?

I do like that she gives quotes or very specific references to the book and the chapter from whence the recipe idea was born. For example, before the "Lemon Meringue Pie" recipe she writes, "They had the soup; they had the salmon; now they're listening to Uncle Vernon talk about his work while they eat lemon meringue pie. Soon Aunt Marge will have too much brandy and soon Harry will get into lots of trouble (see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 2)". In her section on "Lunch and Dinner in the Dining Hall" she gives "Nine Recipes from the Goblet" based on a quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I've shortened it here: "The House-elves down in the kitchen were outdoing themselves with a series of rich, warming stews and savory puddings" (Chapter 23).

She includes a chapter on Honeydukes Treats and it made me smile that I could make sugar mice or fizzy sherbert pouches, but she left out butterbeer! Not to worry though, I found this interesting article on the popularity of butterbeer  and it includes a recipe at the end (This may be the one time Fox News has made me happy)! I always assumed butterbeer had something to do with pumpkin and I'm glad to find it doesn't.

Through no fault of Bucholz's, most of the food is heavy and requires copious animal parts (she does suggest subbing mushrooms for the kidney's in the steak and kidney pudding recipe), so it's not my "cuppa tea".

All in all, if I had a child who loved HP as much as me, I would have this book and might let her pick a Harry Potter themed meal for a birthday or let her invite her friends over for candy making festivities. It also made me realize how much food is a part of the culture at Hogwart's and in the larger world of Harry Potter, as in ours.

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