I’m a bit of a fan when it comes to a fandom-inspired cookbook, as evidenced by several of my previous posts on the subject. Thankfully, Insight Editions is there to satiate my taste for themed cookbooks spanning a wide variety of fandoms, and I’ve spent the last few weeks working my way through six of their latest offerings. From meat-free options inspired by Phoebe Buffay, to Disney princess desserts, and cocktails themed around the cast of Hamilton so you’ll never throw away your shot, there’s something for everyone in this batch.
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Marvel Eat the Universe: The Official Cookbook by Justin Warner
The Marvel Eat the Universe Cookbook is a companion to the Marvel Digital series of the same name. The cookbook features nearly all the recipes seen on the show, with a few exclusives thrown in for good measure. Every recipe is inspired by a character from the Marvel universe, either through their color-scheme (Hulk’s recipe includes purple smashed potatoes and a green sauce made from parsley and spinach), their background (Black Widow’s dish is a take on the Eastern European classic Borscht and Captain America’s is a Beef Tongue Terrine inspired by growing up poor in depression-era Brooklyn), or theme (the Nova Corps get Galaxy Doughnuts and Ant-Man has miniature ice cream cones).
The book is arranged in section by the main ingredient, making it easy to find something to suit your tastes. There are collections for chicken, beef, pork, and seafood, plus others for vegetarian dishes and desserts. The Beyond the Universe section includes a few recipes that don’t really fit anywhere else: A selection of drinks is included here along with a frog legs dish inspired by Batroc the Leaper, a spicy goat-based dish for Black Panther, and even a recipe for dog biscuits inspired by Lockjaw.
Every page is heavily illustrated with photos of the dishes being prepared, the finished item, and character artwork from the comics. A handful of dishes don’t have any photos of the food itself; these are the ones that are exclusive to the book and are illustrated only by comic artwork. I felt this was a real shame because, of all of the recipes included here, these were the ones that most needed photos due to there being no episode of the show to refer back to.
This wasn’t the greatest fandom cookbook I’ve come across in my travels—linking some of the recipes to their respective characters feel like more of a stretch than even Mr. Fantastic could manage—but there are some varied and interesting options in here and enough variety that there will be something to cater to nearly all tastes. I’m sure I’ll be trying out the Green Goblin Pumpkin Bombes at a future Halloween party and Deadpool’s miniature Chimichangitas look delicious enough to persuade me to invest in a fryer.
Friends: The Official Cookbook
I was a huge fan of Friends back in the day, but I’ll admit it’s been a while since I last watched an episode. Reading this cookbook brought it all flooding back, however, and reminded me of many classic moments and quotes.
The Friends cookbook is one of the most thorough I have come across in all my time reviewing fandom-based cookbooks with ten different sections covering over 100 recipes! There are the usual sections of Sides, Main Courses, Desserts, and Drinks, but this book also includes dedicated sections for Basics (stocks, spreads, jams, and pie crusts), Breakfast, Sandwiches, and even Dinner with Friends which includes everything you’ll need to cook a full Thanksgiving feast.
The recipes vary between foods actually seen on the show and others inspired by characters and events. The former includes the famous Moist Maker sandwich (I know I’ll be trying that one over the holidays), George Stephanopoulous’s Pizza (topped with mushrooms, green bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and yellow onions), Cheesecake Worth Stealing, and Monica’s Little Drops of Heaven Holiday Candy. There’s also a take on Rachel’s infamous meat trifle, but you’ll be relieved to know this one uses candied bacon as its meat, not half a shepherd’s pie.
The non-show recipes include ideas like Phoebe’s Post-Run Recovery Bars (made with dates, chocolate chips, dried blueberries, quinoa, oats, and almond butter), Buffay the Vampire Layer’s Vegetable Lasagna (packed with zucchini, spinach, and mushrooms), and Milk That You Chew inspired by Chandler—a guide to assembling the perfect cheese plate. Everything has clear, easy-to-follow ingredients lists and instructions, there are numerous vegetarian options (thanks, Phoebe), and there aren’t too many expensive or difficult-to-source ingredients either. There are also tips from Chef Monica scattered throughout and every recipe begins with an introductory paragraph that explains where it can be found on the show—including episode numbers where relevant—or the inspiration behind it.
My biggest gripe with this book is the lack of pictures. The majority of dishes had no photos at all and, while I don’t really need photos for things like mashed potatoes or a grilled cheese sandwich (ironically, one of the few entries that does actually have a photo), photos would have been helpful with many of the recipes here, especially those not seen on screen. Pictures from the show are scattered throughout too which is a nice touch, but I still would have preferred photos of the food to extra screencaps.
This is a great cookbook that covers a wide range of foods for every meal of the day, plus drinks too, and includes many recipes that you will actually find yourself turning to regularly, rather than just for special occasions. If you’re only going to pick up one cookbook this year, I’d strongly suggest this one.
Keeping with things I was a big fan of back in the day, Barbie was my be-all and end-all for most of my ‘tween years. Barbie Bakes is a recipe book filled with recipes for cakes, cookies, pies, and other desserts. In fact, this is a sugar lover’s dream and the kind of book that will have cartoon dollar signs flashing in the eyes of dentists the world over.
As with the other books on this list, this one is divided into sections, but don’t expect any main courses or vegetarian side dishes here. Instead, there are sections for Cookies, Brownies, and Bars; Pies and Tarts; Cakes and Cupcakes; and Morning Treats. As Barbie Bakes is very clearly targeted at kids, there are also some guides to essential skills including how to fill and use a pastry bag, butter a pan, and measure out both dry and liquid ingredients. Barbie also shares her best baking tips which include always asking an adult for help, cleaning up after yourself, and practicing kitchen safety—especially where knives and hot stoves are involved.
Everything in this book is what you would expect to see from a Barbie-themed cookbook. There are heart-shaped sandwich cookies, pastel-colored donuts, and mermaid-themed cupcakes. Bright colors, edible glitter, and sprinkles are everywhere and all the photos leap off the page and beg you to eat them like something from Alice in Wonderland. I was quite amused to read some of the so-called Healthy Tips scattered across the pages. While some are indeed sensible—replacing lemon curd with yogurt or adding peanut butter and sliced bananas to a crispy rice pop rather than dipping it in candy melts—others are less so, such as replacing sugary vanilla icing with equally sugary raspberry jam.
Scattered throughout are illustrations of Barbie baking, along with her sisters Skipper, Stacie, and Chelsea, plus some of their friends. These are the only significant references to this being specifically a Barbie cookbook after the introduction and an occasional aside in the recipe descriptions. None of the recipes themselves are in any way specifically Barbie themed—don’t expect to be making a gingerbread Dream House—but the sheer quantity of pink and glitter makes it hard to mistake this for anything other than a Barbie book!
This is by far the least varied recipe book (although it ties with the next book) in this list as it focuses entirely on sweet treats, but it tackles its limited subject matter with gusto and imagination. I found lots of recipes I’m looking forward to trying out here, now let me just go check my dental insurance is up-to-date before I head to the kitchen…
The Disney Princess Cookbook
In the same series as Barbie Bakes is The Disney Princess Cookbook. This book is laid out in an almost identical format with the same four sections (although section one here omits the brownies) and similar introductions and guides to creating basics like frosting and whipped cream.
As with Barbie Bakes, The Disney Princess Cookbook is also packed full of sugary treats in every color of the rainbow, all of them themed toward different Princesses ranging from Snow White right up to Moana and Rapunzel. I was glad to spot recipes for some of the more frequently overlooked princesses here including Mulan and Tiana, and few sidekicks get their own treats too such as Rajah the Tiger, Percy the Pug, Grumpy, and Aladdin.
Sugar is really a key theme here as every single recipe is as sweet and saccharine as you would expect from Disney. Cookies, macarons, tarts, pies, cupcakes, and beignets are among the offerings and I felt my stomach rumbling and teeth dissolving just looking at them all. While almost every recipe here looks highly delicious, I would have preferred to see some healthier options mixed in here too in order to move away from the insinuation that everything related to Disney princesses has to be painfully sweet by nature.
Reading through this book made me long to be back on Main St. USA smelling the baked goods smells wafting from the bakery, or walking around holding a giant cookie on my way to another ride. Sadly, it will be a while before I can do that again given the current climate, but until then, this book might just help fill some of that Disney treat-shaped hole.
Back to the Future: The Official Hill Valley Cookbook by Allison and Matt Robicelli
It’s been a long time since I last watched any of the Back to the Future films, but this book made me want to finally get around to a re-watch.
Unlike the majority of cookbooks that divide their content by type, the Back to the Future cookbook has its five sections based on the year: 1985, 1955, 2015, Alternate 1985, and 1885. Each of those sections is not only filled with recipes appropriate to the era, but is designed to look appropriate too, with vintage-style sepia pages in 1885, retro stars in 1955, and bold neons representing the ’80s vision of what 2015 would look like. While this works great for aesthetic purposes, it’s not hugely practical. When using a recipe book, most people will be searching for a specific kind of dish (a main, a dessert, etc.), not one that fits a certain decade, so having the dishes scattered around like this makes it harder to find what you’re looking for.
The recipes include a mixture of those seen in the films (Enchantment Under the Sea punch, Uncle Joey’s parole cake, mini pizzas) and others inspired by them ( Jaws 19 Spicy Grilled Shark Steaks, Self-Lacing Chocolate Bread, and DeLorean Whitewall Donuts). There’s a good mixture of options here with a reasonable balance between mains, desserts, and drinks, although options for sides are noticeably lacking. I did like the addition of a movie marathon guide at the end which suggests catering choices for hosting a BTTF trilogy marathon including some timings for when to set things up.
As with many of the books here, I was disappointed by the lack of photographs. This was especially galling on pages where short recipes have resulted in large amounts of blank space which could have been filled with helpful pictures. For recipes like the Self-Lacing Chocolate Bread, which includes instructions for plaiting strands of dough together, pictures or illustrations would have been especially useful.
This isn’t one of my top cookbook choices this year as its choice of sections and lack of details make it less functional than others, but for BTTF fans it remains a must-have and I’m sure I’ll still be trying out some of the recipes—the Hoverboard Cookies in particular.
Break an Egg!: The Broadway Cookbook by Tara Theoharis
Finally, I’m also a bit of a fan when it comes to musicals, even though I haven’t seen as many of them live as I would like. Break an Egg features recipes inspired by dozens of our favorite musical theater productions, ranging from retro classics to the latest Tony Award winners.
This book is laid out to resemble a Broadway show with the contents page transforming into a Playbill-style Program. Appetizers become Overtures, Sides and Condiments become Chorus Tunes, and Entrees become Showstoppers. Don’t forget the Dessert/Encore either! Filling out the pages is an impressively thorough selection of cocktails, and guides for hosting various Broadway-related parties including a Tony Awards viewing party and a Pre-Matinee brunch.
There isn’t a huge amount of food on stage during a typical Broadway production—it’s hard to belt out a powerful musical number while chewing after all—so the vast majority of dishes included here are inspired by the shows rather than lifted directly from them. The Wizard and Ice is a bright green, absinthe-based cocktail inspired by Wicked, Angel (of Music) Food Cake is an opera cake made with angel food cake and inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, while Too Darn Hot Sauce is a pepper-laden sauce inspired by Kiss Me Kate.
There are, however, a handful of recipes included that are either shown or at least mentioned directly in their shows too. The Sound of Music offers up its classic Schnitzel with Noodles, Oklahoma gives us Laurey’s Prize-Winning Tarts (here made with strawberries and rhubarb rather than tricky-to-source gooseberries), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street shares The Wurst Pies in London, thankfully made with bratwurst rather than… Well, this isn’t the Hannibal cookbook after all.
My absolute favorite thing about this book, however, was the puns. With a pun literally on the cover, you might be able to guess that many of the recipes themselves have equally witty names, and there are some true gems in here. Some of my personal favorites included “Don’t Fry for Me, Argentina” (fried empanadas), “I Yam What I Yam” (yam rosettes), and “Age of Asparagus” (a vegan main using angel hair pasta).
There are several recipes I’m looking forward to trying out here. Annie’s Cheesy Street fondue looks like it would go great with the Pain du 24601 from Les Miserables, the Newfoundland Toutons inspired by Come from Away looks mouthwateringly moreish, and I’d to finish it all off with a slice of Revenge Party Cake from Mean Girls—even if that particular recipe does look like it would fit more into the Barbie Bakes book above!
Looking for More?
Looking for more fandom-inspired cookbooks? Check out some of my previous reviews organized here alphabetically by fandom.
GeekMom received copies of these items for review purposes.