The best gimmick cookbooks use their gimmick as an organizing device in such a way that they would be worthy volumes on their subjects, gimmick or no.
I am unembarrassed to have “The Sopranos Family Cookbook” on my shelf because it’s a decent selection of Italian recipes. Similarly, I have heard that the “True Blood” and “Game of Thrones” cookbooks are good primers on Southern and medieval cooking, respectively. You needn’t be into the show, just the cooking style, to appreciate them.
In this regard, Craig Boreth's “The Hemingway Cookbook” is probably of more interest to the Hemingway fanatic than the die-hard foodie. Yes, there are some interesting recipes to be found here, but there is little insight into technique or to what lies at the heart of any of the relevant cuisines.
Since I fall into both camps, I was okay with that. The recipes are clear and easy to follow. I haven’t had any trouble with the ones I’ve tried so far.
In some ways, the cook serves as a culinary biography. The very first recipe is for the English tea cakes which were, according to the book, the only thing Hemingway’s mother ever cooked. Then there are recipes Hemingway himself recorded from youthful camping trips – though do we really need to formally write out a recipe for combining a can of pork and beans with a can of spaghetti?
The book then moves into food that featured in Hemingway’s writing, starting with a speculation as to how one might make the dinner Frederic and Catherine share in Milan in “A Farewell to Arms.”
(Does anybody know where to get woodcock around here?)
Other recipes are drawn from hotels or restaurants Hemingway frequented in Paris, Spain or the Caribbean.
Then, there’s the safari chapter. I doubt I will ever have occasion to make filet of lion, but it’s good to know I have a recipe if the need ever arises.
A chapter serves as a miniature encyclopedia on the alcohol of Hemingway’s, going on to give his favorite mixed drink recipes. He was apparently a fan of Gordon’s Gin (shudder), but came up with a novel approach to whiskey – combining it with water in a tumbler and then freezing it until a thin layer of ice formed on the top.