It's a good thing for the world that I have such a small living space; if I lived in one of those stately McMansions so common south of here, I could easily fill up an entire extra bedroom with cookbooks and books about food. As it is, I only have two shelves of a standard IKEA bookcase available to my culinary literature.
No matter how much room I have in my house, however, there are five cookbooks that I rarely use and don't deserve a space on my shelf. In no particular order:
1. Natural Harvest: A Collection of Semen-Based Recipes by Fotie Photenhauer
The worst offense is not the fact that it's a cookbook full of recipes involving ejaculate; the worst offense is not even that someone had this idea and pitched it successfully to an increasingly powerful set of editors. No, the worst offense about this jismography is the fact that the picture on the front is a creamy dessert–a sort of man-a panna cotta, if you will.
2. Semi-Homemade Anything by Sandra Lee
The only good thing to say about this ever-expanding series of cookbooks is that they don't come with audio, so while the contents of the cookbooks are attempting to set American cooking back by 50 years, at least readers don't have to hear Sandra Lee's insincere chirping. There are plenty of alternatives for brand-new cooks without resorting to packaged, processed, bland crap. There are so many of these cookbooks that it seems like there must be a recipe machine just churning out anything that sounds edible. Does anyone really think Andrew Cuomo's comare eats this crap when she's alone at home?
3. Cooking With Pooh
It's not that the cookbook is a bad idea–teaching kids to cook by using a familiar, friendly, non-threatening character is actually likely to work very well. It's that asking for the book at the information desk of your local bookstore is likely to cause raised eyebrows. Cooking With Winnie the Pooh would have been a much better name, because all it takes is one 3-year-old shrieking, “I WANT TO COOK WITH POOH!” to be really, really embarrassing. Also, it's just full of cookies–surely there were healthier alternatives.
4. The Good Templar Cook Book
Reading this cookbook would lead one to think the Swedish movement known as the International Organisation of Good Templars is made up of the most dyspeptic, delicate-of-digestion people on the entire planet. There are barely any spices, and the book is full of great advice such as making fruit soup in order to render those terribly indigestible fresh fruits more palatable. The book would be a great deal less irritating if it weren't so preachy–and bland.
5. The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
I love vegetables. I love vegetarian food. I'm at my happiest when I'm surrounded by local produce at my farmers' market. When I have a couple of days in a row of meat and starch, I start to think about huge salads and thick, rich soups full of a medley of whatever's in season. I bought The Moosewood Cookbook and its sequel, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, hoping for inspiration, but despite nearly 30 years' experience cooking, I have not once made a successful, good-tasting dish from its recipes. Be gone!