To most folks cookbooks are all very similar. Food porn photography, ingredients, instructions, rinse and repeat. Occasionally a book comes along that sends readers into a flurry of excitement (Thug Kitchen comes to mind). I can’t say a Hannibal themed cookbook was ever something I’d consider being created, but here we are.
If you told me I’d one day be reading a cookbook based on Hannibal I’d tell you that’s disgusting, but it’s possibly the best time to read and buy a book like this. Titan Books has essentially got the primo adult Halloween cookbook on their hands here and we aim to tell you what it’s like!
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook (Titan Books)
So what’s it about? The Titan summary reads:
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook is a collection of easy-to-follow recipes inspired by the show and created by its food stylist, Janice Poon. Each recipe is accompanied by fascinating insider’s anecdotes, delightful artwork and revealing behind-the-scenes photos of stars and crew on the set of Hannibal.
Why does this book matter?
Let’s get this out of the way: This book is not about cooking and eating human beings. We all know Hannibal enjoyed cannibalism, but this is actually more about how to make food look evil or human-like, just like in the TV show. Food stylist Janice Poon writes this book (with a foreword by Mads Mikkelsen aka Hannibal himself) and it ties quite nicely into the show. Not even just the show in general either, but into specific episodes. In more ways than one this is more than just a cookbook because of that, but also because it goes out of its way to explain what it was like creating food to be filmed. This book is for food lovers, Hannibal lovers, and cookbook lovers alike.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Well that’s freaky.
This is a very good book from cover to cover with a lot of content and details that are quite fascinating in a variety of ways. It opens with a great foreword by Mikkelsen who describes his first day working on Hannibal and it was all about food. He quickly makes it apparent food was a big part of the show–nearly every episode featured some kind of food within–and also relates to how the author was professional from day one. From there, Poon takes over going through the necessities for every kitchen, the history of blood in cooking and a lot more. There’s quite a bit of content here as well as it delves into breakfast, appetizer, main dishes, sides, desserts and even drinks.
Each recipe isn’t just instructions, but ways in which the dish was used or featured in the TV show. That makes each meal richer and more interesting. There are also plenty of fun asides, like Poon recounting teaching Mikkelsen how to juggle an egg, that make this much more than a cookbook. One of my favorite pages in the book discusses the history of adding protein to beer. It’s something I never knew about and according to Poon it has become in fashion to drink “meat beer.” Believe me, there’s a lot of cool information you’ll get from reading this book.
Mads makes a few apperances.
The overall tone of the book is like a creepy Halloween night which makes it feel unique too. There’s plenty of disturbing food photography–much of it shot in darker tones with plenty of shadows–that somehow still looks delicious alongside the fun anecdotes. There’s an interesting beauty to making food look creepy, gross, or downright evil and there’s plenty to check out here. There are also some great drawings of food or food preparation throughout the book too. These drawings add a more workmanlike vibe to the book as if we’re seeing the notes of Hannibal himself.
Poon also recalls quite a few anecdotes working with the series’ writers to get the perfect shocking meal for Hannibal to cook. One of my favorites in this book recounts a dish required for a scene in season 3 when Hannibal is in Florence. Bryan Fuller, the series showrunner, requested Poon come up with something from a spare arm. She suggested Hannibal make a dish like Peking Duck and then goes into great detail on how it is an incredibly brutal and visually disturbing dish to make. In response Fuller replied, “Ummm…or cured like ham?” It’s a funny moment that shows how Poon was directly involved in cooking (pun intended) up ideas for the show.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Alas, not every dish has a picture to go with it. There are a lot of images, even images straight from the show depicting a recipe, but there are plenty of pages missing photography. It’s relatively minor since a lot of these pages contain anecdotes or asides, but it’s a bit of a pet peeve for me when it comes to cookbooks!
Cool photography AND concept sketches.
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook is a must buy for anyone who watched the show due to the great detail tying many of these dishes to specific episodes and seasons. It’s also a great cookbook in general as it’s filled with fun facts and interesting details on what it’s like to be a food stylist for Hollywood. If you’re a Halloween nut, this is very good at adding a dash of creepy to your cookbook collection.