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A Cookbook for Insatiable "Hunger Games" Fans

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After its fourth weekend topping the box office, it is safe to say that The Hunger Games is a hit. The film had its struggles on the way to the top including unfair Battle Royale comparisons, outrageously racist criticisms of the actress playing Rue, and critics who couldn't get over a female protagonist in an action movie. Despite it all, however, The Hunger Games emerged as a massively successful film, so like other franchises that came before it (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter), The Hunger Games is becoming a brand.

Effie Trinket nail polish and the Katniss Barbie doll are some of the odder merchandising choices for The Hunger Games, but strangely enough, The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook makes sense. From Katniss hunting squirrels and buying stew at the market in District 12 to the decadent meals of the Capitol, food plays a large part in setting the tone of each location. In reviewing the cookbook, I judged it based on several factors. First, there are over 150 recipes in the book. How many of the recipes are directly out of the book, and how many are fluff recipes? Example: In The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, shepherd's pie and bangers and mash are more British recipes than specifically Harry Potter recipes. Second, how accessible are the recipes to young readers who might not have done a lot of cooking? The book can contain more challenging recipes, but there should be a balance. Finally, are the recipes any good? Will I want to go back and make any of these recipes again?

Overall, I found that there were less fluff recipes in The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook than The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook which was surprising since there are only 3 books in the Hunger Games trilogy and 7 books in the Harry Potter series. Then again, the feast scene at the Capitol in Catching Fire alone probably make up for most of the recipes in the book, including one of the recipes I tested out.

Accessibility is a big problem, however, with the book. The editor tried to stick very closely to the ingredients from the original book. In Chapter 8 “Wild Game for Wild Girls,” most of the recipes contain raccoon, squirrel, wild turkey, rabbit, beaver, muskrat, and wild goat. Unless the readers are also hunters, it is unlikely they will find raccoon in the meats section of their local grocery store. Also, many of the Capitol recipes are fine dining, and they can take hours to prepare or require techniques that young cooks won't know how to do. They might read the recipe for their favorite dish and give up before they even start. Luckily, both of the recipes I tried out were on the simpler side, so not every recipe requires a degree in culinary arts.

To answer the last question of recipe quality, I tested out two recipes, Katniss's Craved Cheese Buns and Capitol Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Slivered Nuts and Cinnamon Croutons. I chose the cheese buns because they were baked by Peeta's family's bakery and played a bigger part later on in the series, and I chose the Capitol Cream of Pumpkin Soup because it was the first food Katniss ate at the Capitol feast after a pivotal moment.

The cheese buns were the perfect recipe for a beginner cook or for a quick side dish during the week. All I had to do was combine nearly all the ingredients in a bowl, spoon the biscuit batter onto a cookie sheet, and bake the biscuits. After that, I mixed the rest of the ingredients with melted butter and brushed it on the biscuits when they were done baking. They were very similar to the cheese biscuits at Red Lobster except they were a bit sweeter and not as crunchy. All in all, I loved this recipe. It was easy and tasty, and I could definitely see myself making it on a regular basis.

The pumpkin soup was much more time-consuming and required more attention than the biscuits, but I would say it was definitely worth the extra effort. It tasted like warm pumpkin pie in a soup, and the homemade croutons gave the soup a nice texture. Also, one batch makes quite a bit of soup, and I had plenty of soup left over for several meals. If I had one small complaint about the recipe, it needed something savory to offset the brown sugar and cinnamon sweetness. I have had butternut squash soup served with shrimp, and shrimp might be a good choice for the pumpkin soup if I made it again.

In the end, I really enjoyed the two recipes I tried out, but because of my other problems with the book, I wouldn't recommend outright buying the book. For fans thinking about picking it up, I suggest borrowing a copy from the library and trying out a few recipes. That way, young readers won't feel like they wasted their money on a cookbook full of squirrel recipes.

Apr
17
2012
Rachel Kolb • Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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