When it comes to celebrity cookbooks, we don't have a whole lot of great ones to choose from. But maybe that's more a function of who we consider celebrities these days: if our great writers cooked up food instead of plots, we might have headnotes more interesting than “You just need some good ingredients and a few simple recipes, maybe a couple of jokes, or a 'topic to dissect' at the table, the way they do at Nora Ephron's house.”
To save us from the cookbook celebrities of the present, “literary ventriloquist” Mark Crick imagines cookbook celebrities of the past and applies the style of great writers to the art of the cookbook. The Guardian recently excerpted three choice recipes from his book, The Household Tips of Great Writers, which includes Crick-as-Virginia Woolf interior monologuing her way through a Clafoutis Grandmère.
For those who love Woolf, you'll appreciate this seemingly unending sentence: “When the flour came it was a delight, a touch left on her cheek as she brushed aside a wisp of hair, as if her beauty bored her and she wanted to be like other people, insignificant, sitting in a widow's house with her pen and paper, writing notes, understanding the poverty, revealing the social problem (she folded the flour into the mixture).”
Geoffrey Chaucer's Onion Tart subjects the home cook to the horrors of Middle English vernacular and food: “Then adde onyons in slices fine ywrought, / And caste thereto sugar and salte. / Cover the panne and turn the heat down low, / Stirre every while, else the onyons stick to./ Remove the lidde and seethe for ten minutes mo, / That the sauce reducteth and darke growe.”
And Crick gives Lamb with Dill Sauce a Raymond Chandler-esque turn towards the noir: “Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved. I threw the lot into a pan with a bunch of dill stalks, a bay leaf, a handful of peppercorns and a pinch of salt. They had it coming to them, so I covered them with chicken stock and turned up the heat.”
There are 17 recipes in Crick's book, but we still hold hope yet for even more cookbook fan fictions. Dorothy Parker delivers a snarky recipe for Petits Fours, perhaps? Cormac McCarthy gravely directs Southwestern Chili Con Carne with tin cans, dusty canteens, and wood fires? Emily Dickinson offers a ballad for Pounde Cake –? Like the Battlestar Galactica reboot, we enjoy this alternate universe a whole lot more than the GOOP-iness of the original. So say we all.