By Bob Huber
Thirty years ago, a prominent outdoor writer in Idaho put together a collection of hunting and fishing stories, and to spice up these yarns he included a batch of woodsy recipes like green hash and juniper tea. His theory was outdoor books don’t sell well, but recipe books always do.
His book was not a great success, but it did awaken a sleeping giant. Since then several literary categories have spewed forth specific gourmet delights along with their genres, and in the publishing game, that’s called a landslide.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of quasi recipe books. I’ve even thought about publishing one of my own, extolling my celebrated kitchen formulas, like my famous chili dogs a la mode or my sardine chimichangas.
But when this latest food craze reached the hallowed halls of mystery books, I threw up my hands — luckily it was only my hands — and shouted, “Is nothing sacred anymore?”
What happened was a mystery writer by the name of Diane Mott Davison — could that be a non de plume for the insatiable Martha Stewart — began to crank out mystery books wherein the hero was a caterer named Goldy Bear. Her books were filled with fun-filled recipes, and the books’ titles left little to the imagination.
They read as follows: “The Main Corpse,” “Prime Cut,” “Tough Cookie,” “Sticks & Scones,” “Chopping Spree,” “Dying for Chocolate,” “The Cereal Murders,” “The last Suppers,” and “Killer Pancake.”
Well, the critics loved those books. The Baltimore Sun wrote: “A cross between Mary Higgins Clark and Betty Crocker.” Entertainment Weekly lauded her thusly: “Davidson is today’s foremost practitioner of the culinary whodunit.” Indeed, nothing was sacred after all.
I suppose the next genre to take up recipes will be science fiction with book titles like:
n “45l Fahrenheit, or Until Brown”
n “Martian Chron-Knuckles, Exotic Grilling at its Best”
n “The Black Hole and Other Bean Recipes.”
Or maybe the literary field of romance books with scenes like:
n “He ripped away her bodice and between gasps for air, whispered, ‘Your calves’ livers taste just like my mother’s. Come away to my castle and bring your recipes.’”
n “She stared openly at his outstretched arms, her body quivering, and she said, ‘Not without a pinch of oregano.’”
Of course many more untapped literary genres remain to be brewed with recipes. They include historical, Western, children’s, political essays, and even how-to books. In how-to books, titles might be like this:
n “How to Feed a Family of Five on $3 a Week with Meatloaf Made of Old Barn Wood.”
n “Recipes for Lavish Parties to Celebrate the Completion of Your Do-It-Yourself What-not Shelf in the Bathroom, Five Years in the Making.”
Sales of Westerns have been on the downside the past couple decades, so why not introduce a few Cowboy recipe books to spruce up the market? Such as:
n “Thunder Mountain, the Original Frijoles Shootout”
n “Ambush at Dry Gulch, a Cowboy’s Formula for Popcorn and Beer During NBA Playoffs.”
n “Pancake Flats, the Cowboy Breakfast.”
And what about the category of children’s books? Here’s a title or two:
n “A Child’s Garden of Ice Cream Delights”
n “Great Moments in Chocolate Pudding”
n “Willy Marshmallow Mysteries: Who Stole My Oreo?”
But the entire situation will probably implode one of these days when some former president’s wife writes a recipe book about the seamy side of White House life with a title like: “How to Spice the Big Muffin.”
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales.