22 May 2012

Book Review: "The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook" by Emily Ansara Baines

Quick review

Rating: 

Summary:  At first glance, it might seem like a joke, but this cookbook actually has some interesting and worthwhile recipes in it. What's more, the "survivalism" overtones from the Hunger Games book series have translated to the recipes, meaning that you can have some recipes to prepare food that you forage or hunt. (Check out the sample recipe below too.)

Full review

When I first read about The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines, I really thought it was a parody. After looking it up on Amazon, I was intrigued. I often check out books from the local library before I buy them, and this book is a perfect example of why. I wanted to find out what it was really all about.

Upon getting into the book, I was pleasantly surprised to find real, usable recipes, including things that are of interest to those interested in self-reliance and/or preparedness.

For those not familiar with the series, the Hunger Games are essentially the ultimate in "Reality TV," where teenage contestants are forced into a wilderness arena to fight to the death. The competition lasts for days, and the contestants must find their own food and water to survive. In The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, Baines presents recipes patterned after the things that the characters eat, both in civilization and in the arena.

The recipes categories are arranged by type of meal, but the organization still seems a bit scattered to me:
  • Breakfast of Champions
  • Breaking Bread
  • Keep the Camp Fires Low and Forage — Soups, Stews, and Salads
  • Humble Beginnings
  • Sink or Swim — Seafood
  • Don't Call Me Chicken — Poultry Dishes for the Brave
  • Put Some Meat on Your Bones — Beef, Lamb, and Pork
  • Wild Game for Wild Girls
  • Just Desserts

There's also a 10-page appendix on "Katniss's Family Book of Herbs," but it is largely useless, in my opinion. The objective of the appendix is to provide an overview of edible plants that you can forage and eat. However, the descriptions are minimal and have no illustrations or photos to help with plant identification. There are other good books on foraging, so it makes little sense to rely on this sparse information, especially because eating the wrong plant can be fatal.

Aside from that minor complaint, the recipes are laid out simply, with a clean, clear design. There are no illustrations, however, which is another reason I docked this book one star in my scoring. Nonetheless, the information is helpful, as shown in this recipe below, taken from the book.

All in all, this is an interesting book, not only for fans of the books, but also for preppers and those trying to maintain a more self-reliant lifestyle. For new copies of the book, Amazon's price is not bad. (That said, at the time of this writing, I saw a used copy of Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen for a bit less money, which is a far more informative book on self-reliant cooking.)

If you're like to check out more recipes from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook before you buy, you can find a few more of them at DinnerTool.com's page about the book.

Mixed Messages Mixed Berry Jam Recipe

Ingredients (yields 4 half-pints of jam)

1 pound Blueberries
1 pound Blackberries
2½ cups Sugar
2 Tbs. Lemon Juice, fresh
4 half-pint canning jars with lids and screw bands, thoroughly cleaned

Directions
  1. In a large bowl, lightly crush all the berries between your fingers. Add sugar and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly. Let stand at room temperature for 2-2½ hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Place a saucer in the freezer.
  3. Using a stockpot that is at least a couple of inches deeper than the height of your canning jars, place a metal rack at bottom to separate your jars from direct heat. Fill pot with water, cover, and heat water to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Keep simmering.
  4. Place canning jar lids in a small saucepan. Cover lids with cold water and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat; leave lids in pan.
  5. Fill canning jars with very, very hot water. Set aside.
  6. Transfer fruit mixture to a large saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Using a potato masher, mash the mixture into a thick puree. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until mixture begins to thicken, stirring often, about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove saucepan from heat to test jam for jelling point. Drop 1 teaspoonful of jam on chilled saucer and place back in freezer for one minute. Remove saucer and push edge of jam with a fingertip. If jam has properly jelled, surface will gently wrinkle. If not, return saucepan to heat and cook jam for a few minutes longer. Repeat test.
  8. Drain hot water from jars. Thoroughly shake out excess water. Ladle hot jam into each jar, leaving ½-¾ inch of space at top. Clean rim of each jar with a damp cloth. Using tongs, lift lids from the saucepan, remaining careful of their hot temperature. Shake lids dry and place atop jars. Seal each jar closed with a screw band, twisting to close (but not too tightly).
  9. Place jam-filled jars back into hot water in stockpot. If necessary, add water to pot so jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Cover pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for another 7-10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow jars to remain in the water for 5 minutes.
  10. Using tongs, remove jars from stockpot, being careful not to tilt them. Place upright on towel. Cool completely at room temperature, 3-5 hours. Jam will thicken as it cools.

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