The Book Lover's Cookbook by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen
The Book Lover's Cookbook
(This is more my speed.)

I'm fascinated by cookbooks. I adore books, I adore food and cooking, and the combination fills me with the heady giddiness of possibility. It's more than that, though. I love the anecdotes and snippets and stories that go along with the recipes, when they're included. I love to imagine or learn the process of selecting the recipes. Which ones were hacked out at the 11th hour, left languishing on the cutting-room floor? Was there agonizing and tooth-gnashing for days over whether lemon scones with grapefruit glaze or white chocolate passionfruit torte deserved the last slot more? Were there bitter fights with editors, telephones slammed down (or, contemporarily, "end" buttons violently pushed)? Did the author follow each recipe fully one more time before publication, double-checking measurements and instructions? How much weight was gained during the publication of this book? I'm fascinated by it all.

It's interesting enough to read cookbooks from cooks, the tried and true chefs who have proved their culinary genius time and again. They compile recipes, and we understandably buy them and cherish them and dog-ear them and spatter bechamel on them. We trust them, and they've earned that. But the phenomenon I find especially curious is the celebrity cookbook. I'm not referring to those same chefs whose craft has made them famous - I won't argue or question the Jamie Olivers, Nigella Lawsons or Gordon Ramsays of the world. What surprises me is the popularity of cookbooks published by people famous for reasons totally unrelated to cooking.

Some years ago I heard rumor of a cookbook by Fabio Lanzoni, better known simply as "Fabio", the Italian cover model with the mane of wild hair, chest as wide as the horizon and winsome smile. You've seen him leer beguilingly at you from the cover of many a romance novel, I'm sure. Research told me that the cookbook, called "Recipes for Romance" was published by the "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter" company and awarded to 10,000 people who entered a contest. This book is scarce. I set about trying to get my hands on a copy and have thus far been unsuccessful. From the little I’ve learned, the book is small and simple, and contains a few recipes with a mind toward a romantic Valentine's Day dinner. That said, the recipes I've seen from it all state "serves 4". My my, Fabio.

What I wondered was - why? It made me laugh to imagine people looking at this half-naked man in a puffy pirate shirt, with a fan trained on him to make his hair blow, and going “Ooh, bless. I bet he knows his way around a nice Goulash.” Why would people care about Fabio's recipes, just because he's a sex symbol? In some cases, I can understand. When I learned there was a Roald Dahl Cookbook, I knew I would own it one day. But that’s because I’ve read Dahl’s books – I know from his writing that he delighted in good food, and if he took half the care and passion with his cooking that he took with his writing, it would have to be delicious. Dahl also put out two cookbooks to delight any child who has a love of mischief and magic (and which wouldn’t?) – Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes and Roald Dahl's Even More Revolting Recipes. But why is it big news when Gwyneth Paltrow releases yet another cookbook? Sure, she's a fine actor, but does that make her qualified to advise us on ginger-honey glazed carrots? Why would we turn to the people who can afford never to cook for themselves, for advice on cooking for ourselves? Why on Earth would anybody want to own the Cookin’ with Coolio cookbook? Actually... I think I might need to own that one. Never mind.

The Official Bewitched Cookbook


There are also cookbooks inspired by television shows and movies, so you can not only eat like your favorite famous person, but also your favorite non-existent person. They run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, with some notable examples including the It’s a Wonderful Life Cookbook, The Sopranos Cookbook, The Official Bewitched Cookbook, the I Love Lucy Cookbook, and Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook by Ann B. Davis. Trust me when I say this is but a drop in the bucket.

When it comes to the cookbooks authored by unlikely stars, I suppose it all comes down to the cult of celebrity. We admire famous people, and on some level want to emulate them. Buying cookbooks they’ve written (or had ghostwritten - scandal alert!) is no different from buying a product endorsed by them, with the notable exception that if it’s shampoo, I can see proof that Gwyneth Paltrow has shiny, manageable hair, whereas one squint at her figure makes me question her familiarity with chocolate.

For most of us, struggling to varying degrees to juggle full-time work, rent or mortgage, occasionally insurmountable-seeming piles of bills, pets, children, laundry, classes, appointments, and more - while ideally getting at least seven hours of sleep and the occasional exercise while running to the car - the celebrity life is as much of a fairytale fantasy as any Grimm ever recorded. Perhaps that’s the appeal. For the quite affordable cost of a book, we can immerse ourselves in the glamor, wealth and ease we associate with celebrity, at least as far as our pantries and dinner tables. If we can’t beat the rich, can’t join the rich, can’t eat the rich – we can at least eat like the rich once in a while.

Regardless the reason, celebrity cookbooks are a hot commodity, and there is certainly no shortage. I’ve compiled a list of some of them here – from actors, musicians and everything in between. Eat up - and if anyone owns that Fabio cookbook, for goodness' sake, speak up.

Bon Appetit!

 

Cookbooks by Actors and Actresses

Cookbooks from Literary Celebrities

Cookbooks by Musicians

Miscellaneous Unusual Celebrity Cookbooks

What did we miss? Tell us your favorite celebrity cookbook:


Much more in store:




See the most popular cookbooks to be handed down through the generations Local Flavor: Regional Cookbooks Penguin's Great Food Series