Book Review of the Week: Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook
By Janice Poon
I have voiced my admiration for the television series Hannibal in the past (https://strandmag.com/dvd-review-hannibal-season-three/). Not only did the show manage to adapt the well-explored subject matter in a fresh and creative manner that still somehow remained remarkably loyal to the original source material, but it also provided a chance for first-rate actors to display their remarkable talents.
A major factor contributing to the creative success of the show was the amazing art direction, which was rich, menacing, and beautiful while constantly foreshadowing inhuman evil and madness. Fascinating books could be written about the cinematography and lighting design, and Janice Poon, the food stylist for the series, has written Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook, giving the show’s loyal viewers (affectionately known as “Fannibals”) a chance to produce the elaborate dishes displayed on the program for their own dinner parties.
In Feeding Hannibal, Poon provides recipes for most of the demonically delicious-looking dishes served on the show, along with some meals that never made it on the series. These range from chicken soup and egg scrambles to assorted meat dishes and Kholodets (a savory, gelatin-based dish in which fish are suspended). Most of these dishes require a certain level of skill, so beginners should approach the complex recipes, which require the preparer to be both cook and artist, with some caution. Don’t worry– none of the recipes call for human flesh.
I have not had the chance to actually cook any of these recipes myself, although based on an overview of the ingredients, many of the dishes sound really good. Growing up, I had innumerable disappointments with arts and crafts kits, ranging from pottery wheels to paint-by-numbers to stained-glass suncatchers. I had fun creating the projects, but I was invariably disappointed in my end result, which never came close to looking as nice as the professionally completed products shown on the boxes. I have a feeling that if I were to attempt some beautifully complex meals such as the “Arm Ham Wing” that my end result would look more like a can of Spam that fell off a truck and then got run over by the car driving behind the truck. Still, I’m sure that other people with more talent than I do will have more success.
The book is supplemented with plenty of photographic stills from the show as well as Poon’s own lovely sketches from her initial artistic conceptions of the dishes. On a nongastronomic level, most of the recipes are introduced with anecdotes from Poon’s time on the show, providing a terrific collection of background information on the series.
Feeding Hannibal is highly recommended for both Fannibals and foodies.