TV shows such as the Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mad Men and Sopranos have inspired a range of cookbooks
Fancy a bowl of the creamy chestnut soup Cersei Lannister dishes to Tyrion? How about some of that blood orange gelato so favoured by the vampires of Bon Temps in True Blood? You surely can’t say no to Carmela Soprano’s basil lasagna (Tony Soprano might just shoot you if you do!) The characters may be fictional, but the food they eat and cook is the inspiration for a new generation of cookbooks finding its way into bookstores.
Television viewers have long wanted to sample the elaborate meals Bree dished out in Desperate Housewives and see what it was about Monica’s Thanksgiving turkey that had the entire Friends gang salivating. For such fans, and other foodies looking for inspiration outside of their Tarla Dalal’s Pleasures of Vegetarian Cooking, there is a whole range of tie-in cookbooks based on popular television shows. The Sopranos Family Cookbook, focusing on hearty Italian-American food, is arguably the most popular of the lot, selling nearly half a million copies in the US. Some of the cookbooks are collectors items, with lavish food photography and behind-the-scenes photos from the shows. Others rely on the fan following of the shows, and the hope that someone will be interested in showing their love for Doctor Who by making Fishy Daleks.
Like most A Song of Ice and Fire fans, Chelsea and Sariann drooled over the descriptions of food in the books. A couple of years ago, they began a food blog, Inn at the Crossroads, documenting their attempts at making a few of the dishes Martin described, adding a modern twist to some and retaining the quasi-medieval aspect of others. While they were unable to recreate some of the more elaborate dishes- horse roasted with honey and peppers, for example- their research into medieval cooking culminated in an official companion cookbook to the Game of Thrones TV series, complete with a dining and entertaining guide, Westerosi style, for diehard fans.
Generally, shows with a strong food connect lend themselves better to themed cookbooks, as fans are interested in recreating the dishes they find their favourite characters eating. While the official cookbooks have the backing of the show’s producers and are released as a part of the merchandising effort, there has been a stream of unofficial cookbooks as well, labours of love by ardent fans. The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook would meet with the approval of Don Draper and his cohorts, not only for its exhaustive list of cocktails, but also for its in-depth research into the history of New York’s dining scene in the 1960s. Downton Abbey’s unofficial cookbook has recipes from both upstairs and downstairs, i.e. meals eaten by the lords and ladies as well as their servants.
Considering that mealtimes in many urban Indian households are spent gathered around the television following the fates of bejeweled vamps adding chilly powder to the demure heroine’s world-famous kheer, it is a surprise that there aren’t any cookbooks themed on Indian television shows. A collection of Ba’s traditional Gujarati recipes or a book on sweets from TV’s favourite halwai Suraj (Diya aur Baati Hum) would be sure to find acceptance among the followers of those shows. After all, TV and food go hand-in-hand.