The 10 Most Essential Cookbooks in the Nerd Kitchen

By Caleb Goellner in Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 8:01 am
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The needs of the body are relatively simple, but the most delicious caveat for sustaining life is probably food. Air, water and shelter just don't hit the spot quite the same way. But just because it's essential doesn't mean it has to be boring. Why eat the same thing that people from this planet/reality/timeline indulge in?

Nerds might as well spice up their life with interesting edibles found throughout their favorite fictional universes. Fortunately, publishers have been willing to feed nerdom's need for the grub that makes so many made up characters' lives worth living -- and make a quick buck off desperate, hungry nerds who are willing to eat just about anything, as long as it has a silly name based on their beloved nerd property. It's true that not every recipe can be replicated with existing Earth ingredients, technology or even magic, but approximations can suspend even the stomach's disbelief. Take a look at the ten cookbooks that can help sustain nerds of every skill level, and potentially even give them +1 cooking in the kitchen.



10) I'm In The Mood For Food: In the Kitchen With Garfield
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Even though Garfield's far more famous for eating than cooking, this collection of recipes and Garfield comic strips retains its logic with thoughtful entries, including a flavored coffee and, thankfully, a "Lazy Cat's Lasagna." The recipes are simple enough for daily use and concentrate on the kind of comfort food a nerd needs after a long Monday. Read in the voice of Lorenzo Music/Bill Murray for maximum impact.

9) Peanuts Lunchtime Cookbook
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Updated from an earlier 1969 guide, the Peanuts Lunchtime Cookbook assembles Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang for a kind of cooking narrative that delivers a number of simple, kid-friendly recipes for sandwiches and the like. What makes it extra endearing is the inclusion of two of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz's picks. There's nothing fabulous about the food and few indicators that any of it stems directly from a Peanuts story, but fans of the franchise probably wouldn't mind snagging it for half-price online somewhere.

8) A Wizard in the Kitchen
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Harry Potter fans of various ages and alcohol tolerances alike can feel the magic exuding from this unauthorized Harry Potter cookbook. Full of recipes deciphered from the descriptions found in J.K. Rowling's book series, the book covers powerful potions (booze) like butterbeer along with more kid-friendly beverages like pumpkin juice and staples of Harry's native United Kingdom like fish and chips. Given how light the Potterverse is with non-licensed eats (you won't find any Bertie Botts products here), it's a little tough to fully appreciate the cookbook, but it's a nice try by a writing team that seems to have written around legal limitations.

7) Regional Cooking from Middle-earth: Recipes of the Third Age
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This unofficial adaptation of Tolkien-inspired dishes stays true to its title, separating its foodstuffs by Middle-earth's various regions. Recipes include all of the signature dishes from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lembas, Ent Draught - even cram. The presentation balances a narrative with real-world ingredients and tips to keep things rolling, but there's a level of fan immersion that comes with digging through what turns out to be a pretty food-infused franchise. It's always fairly easy to dismiss fan-created publications like this as profiteering (especially given the timely release date of this book in relation to the Peter Jackson films), but this title is packed with the kinds of details that make it sincere and that's as refreshing as an orc vitality drink.

6) Dining on Babylon 5: The Ultimate Guide to Space Station Cuisine
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For fans of the series, Dining on Babylon 5 is a pretty thorough and immersive food sourcebook, with ingredients taking on pseudonyms in the style of the show and certain recipes (specifically the alien ones, like spoo) surfacing as more of a novelty than a truly appetizing treat. It's something of a collector's item now, having seen a fairly limited release back in 1998, but it's certainly worth any Babylon 5 fans' hard earned credits - a working version even made a brief cameo during the series' original run. No other nerdy cookbook can make that claim.

5) DC Superheroes Super Healthy Cookbook
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Any time super heroes blatantly advocate healthy lifestyle choices, the message turns out cheesy. That's why taking that circumstance to its puntastic extreme works out so well for the DC Superheroes Super Healthy Cookbook. Each of its recipes is equipped with a super hero theme plus a corresponding gag and all of them inspire groans in the best possible way. Wonder Woman prevents monkeys from "banana-nihilating" themselves with "Banana Missiles" while Robin fears a Batman-style beating for using the duo's crime lab to mix salad dressing. Green Arrow ends up stealing the show, however, by lining up fruit-topped children for a borderline horrifying "William Tell" reenactment and sneakily denying Wonder Woman his "Secret Pizza." When DC's Brightest Day event begins, it'd be pretty radtacular to reissue this delicious comedic masterpiece.

4) Stan Lee Presents The Mighty Marvel Superheroes' Cookbook
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Let's be real. For all practical intents and purposes, the Marvel and DC cookbooks are pretty much interchangeable in terms of basic list order. The real reason The House of Ideas inched ahead of DC is really because they ditched the directive to be super healthy in favor of taste - or just tasty puns. From "Hulk's Hulkburgers" to "Dr. Strange's Mysterious Stew" to Thing's "Clobbered Omelet," the entries are wonderfully silly and mostly enticing. There's even a cooking safety section featuring a befuddled Spider-Man who can't quite figure out why the roaring fire emitting from his oven is triggering his spider-sense. The kids of 1977 were lucky to have this title.

3) The Doctor Who Cookbook
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Despite the fact that most of the food in the Doctor Who Cookbook is perfectly plain, the title gives readers the benefit of a look into the lives of the television show's staff by featuring their favorite recipes. Stars like the second doctor Patrick Troughton served up vegetable soup with Dalek Krotons while producers like Barry Letts got bizarre with ingredients named after aliens from the show. Fans annoyed by Colin Baker can even put their nerdiness aside to see the actor cooking at home in one of the book's many photographs. It's kind of a shame this 1985 collectors item hasn't been reformatted to include later incarnations of The Doctor, but provided the franchise maintains its renewed vitality, maybe fans will get a chance to cook TARDIS-style once again. All that aside, any book cover featuring a Dalek in an apron deserves to be on some kind of list.

2) The Star Trek Cookbook
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Easily one of the beefiest nerd cookbooks, this sprawling collection of recipes spans multiple Trek series for foodstuffs catering to the franchise's premier characters. Presented from the point of view of the U.S.S. Voyager's chef Neelix, the book has themed food found from throughout the history of the various shows. The recipes lack the full attention to detail of the Babylon 5 book, but it ultimately makes it more accessible to non-Trekkies and helps it stand as a more fully functional resource in the kitchen. Depending on a cook's point of view, that might make it less nerdy, but considering the thing has a foreword by Quark, I think most fans of either franchise will let this one slide.

1) Wookiee Cookies and Darth Malt
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With a title referencing the nightmarish Star Wars Holiday Special, it'd be easy to dismiss the Wookiee Cookies (and its sequel Darth Malt) cookbooks as Lumpy fodder. Given the official handling of the Star Wars universe in these two kid-friendly titles, that would be an enormous and regrettable error. Incorporating Star Wars action figures into food photos next to each character/vehicle/location-based dish, the books focus on fun foods and crafts for kids. Not only can readers reference "Hoth Chocolate" and "Boba Fett-uccini," they also have access to instructions on how to present grub in full Star Wars fashion. Of the two books, Darth Malt has the more intricate action figures-meet-food photographs, but the force is definitely with both volumes, even if the second includes prequel characters like Jar Jar Binks.

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