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Feb 2, 2008 06:24 AM

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 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...

                     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.