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Funny bad cook books

A recent thread on recommendations for cookbooks for sourdough bread reminded me of a book that has to be the culinary equivalent of Florence Foster Jenkins recordings. It is "European and American Professional Sourdough Cooking and Recipes" by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E Herter. My copy, found in Half Price Books, is a third edition. The copyright date is 1975. It contains a lot of wrong information and a lot of "saucy" tidbits, much of it from the Alaska frontier. It has to be the worst food-related book I have ever read, but it is also the most perversely funny. Are there any other equally funny/bad cook books out there?

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  1. I would think that any of Sandra Lee's cookbooks probably would fall into your category. Titles like "Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes", and "Semi-Homemade Grilling" make me chuckle. She beats Rachel Ray by 10 minutes with "Semi-Home Made 20 Minute Meals."

    11 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Semi-homemade? Does that mean she lives in a truck? :)

      1. re: Gio

        I thought you were kidding, so I looked at Amazon. She has about eleven cookbooks listed, plus a recipe card collection, a cookbook for kids, and a music download. It's amazing!

        1. re: yayadave

          Yup - it's true. And all done with the touch of a can opener. Amazing!

          1. re: Gio

            I was going to comment on the value of having a highly trained staff to use the can opener when I remembered that Kwanzaa Kake!

            1. re: yayadave

              I couldn't stop laughing! So bizarre.

              1. re: yayadave

                That video was my first intro to Sandra Lee (I've never seen her show, I'm guessing it isn't broadcast in Canada?) That Kwanzaa Cake was hideous. Apple pie filling dumped in the middle of a store bought Angel Food Cake that's drowning in fancied-up icing from a can? This made it as a cooking show??? Makes me nauseous just thinking about it!

                1. re: maplesugar

                  GRAY icing! OK, more of a taupe, but still ...

                2. re: yayadave

                  good lord. that is something I never, ever needed to see. I feel so dirty!

                  were those "acorns" the same as "corn nuts"? I think of pairing angel food, cocoa icing, apple pie filling and corn nuts...it just does not compute.


                  1. re: lisa13

                    Don't forget the glories of pumpkin seeds.

                    1. re: yayadave

                      it was like an SNL skit somewhere between Bass-o-matic and The Fish is a Prop.

                      Makes you want to go to a QSR.

                    2. re: lisa13

                      They were corn nuts. Does anyone else call them acorns? Does anyone call them anything but corn nuts? What planet is she from?

                      I have this fear someone watched, then went out in their yard and tried to use actual acorns, which I understand aren't edible unless processed quite a bit. Certainly not something you sprinkle on your gray cake.

                      Corn Nuts. I can't imagine anything more awful on a cake - unless it was acorns.

            2. A few years ago (okay, twenty!) I spent a couple of weeks in Barcelona and bought Favorite Spanish Dishes (Club Everest books) at a used book stall. The English translations are a hoot! It was published in 1971 and the translation credits are listed as "translated by Mr and Mrs Gonzalez". Some examples:
              "Hora d'oeuvres admit multiple combinations and it would be impossible to make a list of all of them."
              "If fish are not well kept and preserved, they will decompose easily, creating toxic substances for the human body"
              A recipe for "Natural Peas": The best peas are the green tender ones. The big ones with a light green colour and hard skin are not so good.
              "Oysters have a similar chemical composition as milk".

              The recipes are somewhat interesting, but little information is given with respect to amounts of ingredients. But a fun book nonetheless.

              1. I treasure my raggedy copy of "Alice's Restaurant Cookbook," published by Arlo Guthrie's pal Alice May Brock in 1969. It's a sweet and silly riff on playing with food. The free-form recipes call for lots of butter, bacon and canned goods, and the text is peppered with comments, startling today, which distill the essence of the time period. A chapter titled "If You Worry About Your Weight" consists of one word, "Don't." A chapter on wine warns, "Don't buy cooking wine or cooking sherry. Use the real stuff. And the real stuff can be Gallo. It doesn't have to be a $7 bottle imported from France." The cauliflower recipe recommends starting with a fresh head, breaking it into florets, and saving a few to put in your hair. There's even a chapter titled "Head Snacks," with a list of taste treats that promise "oral surprise," including cold apricot nectar or a single cardamom seed. Priceless!

                1. The White Trash Cookbook (possum, anybody?)

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: wayne keyser

                    I remember that cookbook! It was hilarious! there is also the Roadkill Cookbook.

                    1. re: wayne keyser

                      That book is so funny! I lost my copy when I moved but still remember a recipe where the writer added something like "if you forget and only put in 1 cup of flour instead of 2, there won't be enough for Christmas, but it's good anyway."
                      I just ordered a book I read about here, from Amazon (can't remember the name or author but somebody posted his hilarious website and it's mostly about terrible food from the 40's, 50's and 60's). My mule (brother) will bring it to me from the US when he visits in a couple weeks. Do any of you remember the book I am talking about?

                      1. re: MazDee

                        Did Mike Huckabee author that? I read an article where he used to fry up squirrel meat in a popcorn machine, so I figured this is right up his alley.

                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          Ernest Matthew Mickler is the author of WTC. He died of AIDS in November 1988. He was 48 y/o.

                        2. re: MazDee

                          Is it the Gallery of regretable Food - James lileks?

                          1. re: lhb78

                            Here is the website for the Gallery of Regrettable Food - hilarious!

                            1. re: HSBSteveM

                              I found this gem buried in there...

                              http://www.lileks.com/institute/galle... be sure to check out the punchline

                              1. re: lisa13

                                That is scary. It would warrant a new cookbook: Cooking with Lab Rabbits.

                          2. re: MazDee

                            Don't Forget Manifold Destiny, cooking on your cars manifold. I think the really worst cookbook I ever bought was Paula Deen's first Lady and Son's cookbook. I was an innocent and had not heard of her before and having lived in both Albany GA and Savannah and having an extensive collection of southern cookbooks I just bought it without looking through it. When I finally did I was horrified, a can or this and that. It went to the thrift shop. I am just mortified at what my friends I gave copies to thought.

                        3. I found at a flee market a little recipe pamphlet from the 50's where everything was made as a jello mold. I also have several clippings from old magazines with illustrations. They are awesome.

                          1. I have my Dad's collection of "Recipes Only" grocery checkout mini cookbooks from the 80's. The food styling alone makes me laugh. The pamplets themselves are more nostalgia value... memories of time in the kitchen with Dad.

                            1. This is definitely more funny-wince than funny-ha-ha, but I somehow acquired a copy of "Miss Minerva's Cook Book: De Way to a Man's Heart" (1931), by one Emma Speed Sampson, who says in the introduction, "Sometimes I come out of the kitchen. When I do I spend part of my time censoring motion pictures, part of it writing reviews of pictures, part of it writing juvenile fiction for old and young alike, part of it writing recipes in Negro dialect . . ." This 280-page tome consists of prose recipes (Yankee Beets, Green Peppers Stuffed with Goose Liver, Turkey Trot, Abe Lincoln Toast, etc.) written entirely in "Negro dialect" by a 61-year-old white woman from Virginia. It's the most cringe-inducing book I've ever seen, and fascinating. Here's a sentence picked—honest!—at random: "Oyschters air moughty good animules if'n you treat 'em kindly." Um, sic?

                              Did everybody who could vote today do so? 1931 was not that long ago.

                              1. OMG, is that by the author of the insane "George the Housewife," of which I am proud owner? I have to run home and collectsome tidbits from it.

                                I have an old (1930s?) cookbook by a military wife, called something like "Recipes of a Rolling Stone." At one point she describes pizza, that exotic snack eaten in Italy, and suggests making your own with biscuit dough and ketchup.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                  Yup, it is the one and the same "George the Housewife," author also of "How to live with a bitch." I like your adjective insane. Much more to the point than my euphemism, "perversely funny."

                                2. We're the proud owners of the Len Deighton Action Cookbook and its companion Ou Est Le Garlic? both of which are written in comic strip form. I don't think the recipes are bad, it's just weird. British spy novelist and manly cookbook author.
                                  Check out the cover

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: hoagy294

                                    Re: Hoagy294's post.

                                    I've been looking for a copy of a Len Deighton cookbook I used to have back in the early 70s. It had several great recipes. I think it must have been printed in the UK, because it's not either of the ones mentioned by hoagy294. The recipe was for pears that were poached in a sort of caramel sauce and served with sour cream. It was great. I've tried to recreate it but there's something missing....sigh.

                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                      Apparently he wrote two others - ABC of French Food Published by Century Hutchinson, London, 1989 and Basic French Cookery Course - maybe the recipe is in there? Good luck tracking them down.

                                  2. I used to have a cookbook called "Tofu Goes West." It was from the 1970s and was all about how to cook with that wonderful new super food, tofu, but in ways beyond the typical Asian recipes. Not a bad idea, but to westernize it, almost every recipe called for, I swear, at least 2 cups of grated cheese! I sort of wish I had held on to it.

                                    I am the proud owner of "Joys of Jello" and "More Joys of Jello". 'Nuf said.

                                    1. It may be hard to find, but "The Wonnerful World of Food. 50 Funny Recipes" by Amy Goldin and Robert Kushner, Sweet Sixteen C Publications, 1978 fits in this topic very well: "Tomato Juice Liver Appetizer", "Parsnips and Pineapple", etc. Winners all!

                                        1. The WASP Cookbook by Alexandra Wentworth is hilarious but I think it's supposed to be.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                            I have that and gave several copies as gifts. It is hilarious. I have the Nancy Drew Cookbook too also pretty bad but I don't think it was intentional

                                            1. re: Candy

                                              Wow, Candy -- I would love to see that Nancy Drew cookbook! Growing up, I was a huge Nancy Drew fan! I never remember her cooking though, or food really playing a part in the books, or the cases. I have a vague idea that Hannah Gruen, her housekeeper, took care of the meals :) Have you made any of the recipes? Looks like the recipes are named after the old cases. I could see this being great for hosting a spooky dinner or maybe one of those Whodunnit parties... if the recipes are good, of course :)


                                              1. re: foxy fairy

                                                I was a fan too which is one reason I bought it. It was just a lucky find in a used book store. 1st. edition too.

                                                1. re: Candy

                                                  That was my very first cookbook, when I was around 9 years old (many years ago!). I don't recall if I actually made anything from it but I loved it because I was such a huge Nancy Drew fan. I think my mom probably still has it somewhere in with her large cookbook collection.

                                          2. OK, admittedly this does not exactly qualify as a cookbook, but this collection of 70s WW recipe cards


                                            is laugh-out-loud funny. Fluffy Mackerel pudding. 'nuff said :-D

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              I love Wendy McClure (candyboots) - her regular book - I'm Not the New Me - chronicles her exp. in Weight Watchers. GREAT read (shes from Chicago)

                                              1. re: stellamystar

                                                Yeah, I used to check her blog www.poundy.com regularly, but that was at least 3 years ago. I like her writing style (she also used to have a column in BUST magazine, perhaps still does), and those recipe cards are simply hilarious...

                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  I have four regional cookbooks I bought in France many years ago. The recipes are actually wonderful, but the photos are miscolored. I think they were cheaply put together. The photos make the food look absolutely awful - grayish and yellowish. You have to really try hard to ignore those photos and go ahead with the recipes.