"True Blood Cookbook" and "True Blood Drinks & Bites" Book Review
True Blood Cookbook
Written by Karen Sommer Shalett and Marcelle Bienvenu
2012, 224 pages, Reference
Released on October 1st 2012
True Blood Drinks & Bites
Written by Gianna Sobol and Alan Ball
2013, 128 pages, Reference
Released on July 1st 2013
Here's something you don't see every day: not one, but two recipe books as a spin-off to a TV show. In this particular case, it's HBO's ever popular and increasingly daft (but I still love it) True Blood. First up in this pair of reaper recipe collections is the True Blood Cookbook: Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps, a lavishly illustrated manual of all things culinary from the Deep South of America. The book is prefaced by True Blood screenwriter and showrunner Alan Ball, briefly documenting his love affair with Southern-style food – including grits and succotash, which will make precisely zero sense to most Brits reading it – followed by an introduction by one Ms. Sookie Stackhouse.
The food and drink is divided into sections for Cocktails (under the neon lights of Fangtasia), Home Cookin' (naturally featuring Sookie and Granma Stackhouse), Eating Out in Bon Temps (Merlotte's), and Everyone Loves Pie (Sookie again, and stop sniggering at the back). There are even brief sections devoted, again to drinks, from Alcide Herveaux and Maryann Forrester (the Maenad lady from Season 2). And yes, in case you were wondering, there is a recipe for the ubiquitous Tru Blood drink that lends its name to the show.
The recipes have been written from an entirely American stance, and thus a British reader may recoil in horror at the suggestion of 'biscuits & gravy'. Fear not though, this is not a plate of custard creams swimming in Bisto, 'biscuits' for the Yanks are more akin to our savoury scones and 'gravy' is a white sauce. Madness. It does mean however, that some ingredients – the American staple of 'grits' for example – may be difficult to come by on these shores, so there are dishes where you may struggle or have to substitute for alternatives.
While the main focus of this collection is obviously the food and drink, there is much to enjoy for the True Blood fan. As well as the illustrations of the food, there are also many pictures from the show and passages written from the point of view of the characters. It is much more than just a cookbook; it's a treat for fans – even if you never lift a finger to make any of the recipes.
True Blood Drinks & Bites is a smaller, more compact affair (it's roughly half the page count of the cookbook) focusing mainly on cocktails themed loosely to the show and nibbles that would go well served with the libation. In terms of being an essential extra, it feels somewhat more hastily put together and with less attention to detail than the cookbook. Still, there's always something nice about a hardback book with lots of pictures, although in this case it's more of the drinks and snacks than images from what you see on screen. Where the cookbook has glorious full-page images of the characters, Drinks & Bites generally uses smaller pictures to break up the text. You don't get the musings in the voice of True Blood's characters so much either, except in quotes that have been lifted directly from the scripts.
In terms of necessity for True Blood fans, you could take this or leave it – only a true (blood) completist would feel it essential to have this in their collection, whereas the cookbook would suit fans, budding chefs and those in between.
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