Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: The Spicy Cookbook

Title: The Spicy Cookbook

Author: anonymous

Date: 1982

Publisher: Rand McNally

ISBN: none

Length: 32 pages

Quote: “Onion breath. Garlic breath. Listerine helps get rid of them.”

With that in mind, Listerine sponsored the publication of this mini-cookbook, featuring pepper, caraway, chili powder, chutney, cloves, curry, garlic, ginger, horseradish, jalapenos, mustard, onions, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Each “chapter,” or two-page spread, offers two complete recipes featuring the flavor and some additional serving suggestions.

The complete recipes would certainly be spicy. And sour. Many call for mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, and cheese; the “overnight salad” in the pepper section suggests all five.

Let's just say that this is not a cookbook for those trying to interest young children in vegetables. Most people under age ten can learn to like lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, corn, beans, celery, snow peas, parsley, zucchini, avocado, and cucumber, all by themselves, raw or lightly steamed, with maybe a sprinkle of salt. Some like olives; some like onions; some like radishes. The mere fact that most children don't like lemons, limes, or horseradish has been known to motivate children to eat them, as at that school, in Little Women, where sucking limes became a fad. But I can't imagine a child appreciating lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots that have been lying all night in a mix of mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, lemon, cheese, and black pepper.

For adults, regular internal use of alcohol, even if all you do with it is rinse and spit, has some minor health risks. Original-formula Listerine, with its combination of medicinal herb oils and alcohol, is a valuable, safe antibiotic if it's not overused to breed strains of resistant germs. Nicer-tasting mouthwashes are less effective on disease germs but not much less harmful to natural, friendly microbes. Natural antibodies and enzymes in the mouth are sufficient to immunize most of us to many of the inevitable microbes that invade us, but if we use alcohol-based mouthwash after every meal, we destroy some of our natural defenses.

So you wouldn't want to use these recipes every day. For most people I imagine that wouldn't be much of a problem. This is a collection of recipes for “something different,” not for staples (the authors assume you already have recipes for chili beans and ginger cookies). Pepper steak, clove cookies, and tamale pie made easy by using corn chips, are things most people like but not things most of us want every day. Some of the other recipes, like jalapeno jelly and ham-peanut-and-chutney “salad,” are definitely novelty items. For people my age I suspect they fit right into that slot, along with Twister and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” of “Party Items That Encourage Parents to Fade Out Fast.”

So, who needs this cookbook? People who like spices, novelties, and nostalgia, and who are able to keep a good healthy distance between themselves and others who may not share their taste for spices.

If you don't stand closer to people than you need to be to shake hands, garlic breath is not a problem. If you habitually encroach on the personal space of people who are not “in love” with you (yes, that includes children), garlic is the least of your worries—the fact that you're forcing people to notice your breath is the problem. Air that has just been breathed, that hasn't mixed back into the surrounding air and reoxygenated itself, is very nasty even if it carries a “minty fresh” odor. If you are unfortunate enough to have to continue to associate with people who habitually get close enough to smell your breath, you need this might also like to try running a thread through a garlic clove (puncturing the garlic releases its aroma) and hanging it around your neck. If you are the one who's formed the habit of standing too close, you also can profit from this cookbook; eat these foods, do not use Listerine, and let the awareness that your last meal left a smell on your breath remind you not to get closer than handshaking distance.

(Say what? Step back where your garlic breath won't distract me, I'm missing the words. Cultural Thing, you say? Well, all cultural customs are not equally valuable. Cultures in which people normally stand within breath-smelling range, during conversations, are cultures in which people have shorter life expectancies than people the same age who normally stay at or past handshaking distance.)

Although it's a small, cheap cookbook this one was designed to be collectible, and prices are heading in that direction. Currently this web site can still offer copies for $5 per book, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment. Probably a dozen copies or more would fit into one package, but don't ask; that would be likely to inflate the price. This web site recommends that you browse around for Fair Trade Books to tuck into the package.