Like you, I have dozens of cookbooks. Most were sent to me as free review copies; you probably received some as gifts, and may even have purchased a few as well.
Either way, we have something in common: we’ve never read any of them.
In terms of their usefulness in our daily lives, cookbooks are similar to bus timetables—you may need the specific information at some future point, but it won’t do you much good to absorb it today. The day may come, though, when you decide to make crab cakes. If you’re one of the few people on the planet not pressed for time, you’ll leaf through your cookbooks to find a basic recipe. The closest you’ll come will be something called Cajun-Spiced Crab Fritters with Mango Beurre Blanc, involving a dozen exotic ingredients and two hours of prep time. At that point, you’ll either consult Betty Crocker or go online.
The one cookbook you may actually sit down and read will be released tomorrow, March 3. Ironically, all the recipes in it are imaginary, and the restaurant it’s based on doesn’t exist. The title is FUDS: A Complete Enclyclofoodia from Tickling Shrimp to Not Dying In A Restaurant. FUDS first surfaced in 2012 as a menu for a fake Brooklyn eatery; it was distributed at a New York food festival, quickly went viral, and secured a book deal for the authors.
The volume contains recipes for all the now-classic FUDS dishes such as Doodled Onions, Clumps of Turkey, Wild Dog Fred’s Hungry Boy Skillet, and the Bill Clinton Sandwich. It contains an illustrated section on How To Eat. It even has a real forward written by celebrity chef Mario Batali (“I’m not writing this for the exposure…To be honest, I don’t even like food that much. Sure, it’s fun to make and it smells good. But, come on, it’s just food.”).
Sometimes, imaginary is better.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons press, 2014); for more information, go to amazon.com