Very few literary cookbooks were actually written, or even authorized, by the authors who wrote the stories that inspired another author to write its culinary avatar based on food references found in the original work. In fact, the only one that comes to mind is Terry Pratchett’s “Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook: A Useful and Improving Almanack of Information Including Astonishing Recipes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld,” published by Doubleday in 1999, which includes recipes for making Slumpie, Mrs Whitlow’s Artery-Hardening Hogswatcb Pie, Mrs Gogol’s Clairvoyant Gumbo and Clooty Dumplings.
In its trail follows a rather small and select collection of so called Official Literary Cookbooks that, although not written by the authors themselves, have managed to obtain the necessary approval by the author or the author’s estate (in the case of dead authors) to be able to call themselves Official. One example is “The Official Narnia Cookbook: Food from The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis,” written by Douglas Gresham and published by Harper Collins in November of 2013. Another member of this elite is “A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook,” written by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, endorsed by George R. R. Martin who wrote the foreword to the book himself. It was published by Bantam in 2012.
Curiously enough, no official Harry Potter Cookbook has ever been published although much has been written (but not authorized) on the subject of cauldron cakes, knickerbocker glory and other wizard fare mentioned in the Harry Potter Series.
One might say that literary cookbooks serve as a creative tool for the readers to actually taste, touch and smell the magic of the story-worlds described in their favorite books. An as-real-as-it-gets experience, a way of getting closer to that world, not necessarily through the words of the author but through the story’s cuisine that allows us to somehow “smell the scenes,” be it at Cratchit’s small Camden Town home on Christmas Day or in Mrs Weasley’s messy kitchen. Reliving the stories by eating and smelling your way through them. A classic formula!
But then, what if a cookbook could be used to tell an entirely new tale, a story or even an unknown legend brought to life through its recipes instead of the recipes being what ultimately brings the story back from the dead, a conductor, perhaps even the key to the story, a magical gateway if you will. To understand the story, first you will have to understand its flavors.
Emma Guilou’s The Secret Cookbook Journal is an attempt to do just that. In it, she tells the story of her dead aunt Rose Hetty Guilou who one day finds an old cookbook journal in the repository of a derelict library on the Isle of Man. The book is dated July 1893 and contains a collection of recipes recorded in longhand by a certain Tillie Scrooge of Fin. Like Atlantis, Fin was a small isle located north of Antarctica, believed to have drowned in the Atlantic Ocean sometime in the late 1800’s along with the folks who lived there. The Secret Cookbook Journal is based on Rose Guilou’s observations and transcripts from Tillie Scrooge’s original journal, a collection of recipes that tell the story of a lost people with a certain fondness for chocolates, custards, syrups and caramels. The book is the key to Fin, the only legacy left of its kin, and the journey starts once the reader decides to pick up the ladle and cook his or her way through its pages.