They say you eat with your eyes first, and cookbooks do a great job of helping you do just that with their lovely, full color pictures of perfectly prepared and presented food, along with delightful descriptions of their creations (at least, most of them do). But what if the foodie or accomplished home cook on your list has already got everything that Ina, Nigella, Julia, and Oprah have to offer? Dig a little bit deeper, and gift one of these that are a bit out of the ordinary. (Eat at your own risk.)
Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine
Energy, particularly alternative forms of energy, are the wave of the future. We can’t let any heat source go to waste. You know what gets real hot and just sort of gets wasted? The engine of your car. You could be cooking stuff on that filthy engine block! Manifold Destiny is the only guide you’ll ever need to cooking outside without a barbecue. For every recipe, it gives helpful instructions on just how long to keep the food on the engine—or rather how many miles you have to drive to ensure that everything’s cooked all the way through. Cooking while commuting—now that’s energy efficient.
On the Menu: Baked Garlic, Stuffed Peppers, and Maryland Crab Imperial.
The Original Road Kill Cookbook, by B. R. ‘Buck’ Peterson and J. Angus McLean
And hey, while you’re out there cruising around in your car/kitchen, perhaps you’ll have the misfortune to hit a particularly meaty animal…or the good fortune to come across a particularly meaty animal that somebody else unfortunately just hit with their car. Make lemonade out of lemons, or rather dinner out of road kill with The Original Road Kill Cookbook.
On the Menu: Pavement Possum, Windshield Wabbit, and Highway Hash.
Eat Tweet: A Twitter Cookbook, by Maureen Evans
This quite ambitious cookbook is nothing if not a value. Based on Maureen Evans’ Twitter feed of recipes, the recipes are short and punchy: They have to be, to fit into Twitter’s 140-character limit. So that means this cookbook contains thousands of recipes. And they’re all pretty simple.
On the Menu: The recipes use a lot of shorthand, like this one for Pumpkin Pie: “Mix,heat10½oz candpumpkin/c brsug/2T SweetSpice/½t salt; +½c crm&milk. Beat+4btnegg. Fill PieShell. 25-30m@400F(center jiggly).”
The Axis of Evil Cookbook, by Gill Partington
One entry into understanding another culture is their food—it’s one of the most common and easiest ways to do so. Food unites us all, but we Americans for the most part know very little about the foods eaten by regular people in rival or combatant nations. This book gives you an idea of what’s for dinner in places like North Korea, Castro’s Cuba, or Gaddafi-era Libya.
On the Menu: Sheep Testicles, Korean Dumplings, and an Iraqi casserole called “Tongue of the Judge.”
The Unofficial Recipes of the Hunger Games: 187 Recipes Inspired by the Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games is one of the biggest young adult series of all time, centered on Katniss Everdeen, a teenager from Appalachia who, like the rest of the dystopian former United States is starving. Well, she does hunt, and her friend Peeta is from a family of bakers, so there is somefood to be explored from the books. This one focuses on the many indulgent treats the Hunger Games participants feast on during their trade rides to the Capitol (“Irresistible Hot Chocolate”) as well as homemade favorites from their home districts (“Mr. Mellark’s Farewell Cookies”).
On the Menu: Better Than Nothing Bread with Moldy Cheese and Mustard Sauce
What cookbooks would you recommend for the adventurous eaters in your life?