Book Review: The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

 Posted by on February 20, 2012 at 6:37 am  Books
Feb 202012
 

by Lady K

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men, by July Gelman and Peter Zheutlin

[Note: This review was originally posted in comments after Lady K won the book in our giveaway contest.–BoK]

So I received my beautiful “Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook” yesterday. I have to say, I am rather impressed, though I haven’t had a chance to prepare anything, yet.

There are recipes for 20 cocktails, 14 appetizers, 6 salads, 13 main courses, and 10 desserts. Sally’s French toast (with rum) is in the dessert section. Occassionally, there are a several similar recipes grouped under one heading, so there are a few more recipes total than I listed. Sixteen of the items are featured in color photographs in the center of the book with page references. The rest of the book has occassional black and white photos of restaurants, drinks, advertisements, cookbooks, and historical figures.

What surprised me is the of level of detail the book provides about the Mad Men episodes related to the food items, as well as the authors’ reasons for providing a particular version of each recipe. Every recipe introduction indicates the season number, episode number, and episode title right below the heading. Each recipe is introduced with notes about the story, characters, location, and timing surrounding the appearance of the food item in Mad Men. The http://www.ninesmequon.com/ always indicate what cookbook, restaurant, bartender, or chef they turned to for inspiration. At times it is an actual restaurant or bar that appears in the show (Barbetta, the Stork Club, the Waldorf-Astoria, Keens). At other times, the recipes are from cookbooks that would have been available to Betty, Carla, or someone else at the time. When a restaurant’s recipe is not available, the authors explain their choice in an alternative recipe. There is often some historic detail about the availability, prevelence, or introduction of a food or drink. For example, the Mai Tai introduction tells some of the lore surrounding the creation of the Mai Tai in Oakland CA by “Trader Vic” –who probably got the idea from Don Beach, a beachcomber (Rachel Menken orders a Mai Tai). The Date Nut bread recipe is taken from a recipe shared by Pat Nixon in a newspaper column. In honor of Henry’s Rockefeller connection, the Apricot Apple pie recipe is adapted from a recipe submitted by Mrs. Rockefeller to the Congressional Club Cook Book.

There is a food index and a general index. If you look in the general index under “Mad Men, episodes,” there is a list of each episode that appears in the cookbook–so if you are interested in food from a particular episode, you can look things up that way.

A large percentage of the “food moments” we mentioned on this site are included. Don’s hash, Chicken Kiev, Sal’s marinara sauce with meatballs, Trudy’s “flying chicken,” Faye’s chocolate-chip cookies, Miss Farrell’s Fettuccine Alfredo, and more. Oysters? Yes! Chile rellenos from “the Jet Set.?” Included. There is a dip recipe in honor of Pete’s chip n’ dip. Included are gazpacho and rumaki recipes in honor of Betty’s international dinner.

The steak Betty prepared for Don and Roger in “Red in the Face” the day she was “a vegetarian sometimes” is not included, but in that same episode Sally had been practicing decorating a cake with her new frosting machine –and Sally’s Cocoa Fudge Cake is included. If you like beef, there is ‘Trudy’s Rib Eye in the Pan with Butter’ as requested by Pete. There is also Beef Wellington in honor of Roger and Joan’s hotel room getaway.

There are not recipes from the Greek restaurant that Don and Peggy visit together in “The Suitcase,” but there are two appetizer recipes from the specific Greek restaurant where Mark, Peggy’s family, and Peggy’s roommate were waiting for her (same episode).

The recipes aren’t all “quick and easy,” and the ingredient lists aren’t all short. It varies a great deal, so there are some items that would appeal to novices, and others that are best left to more experienced cooks. Occassionally, there is a simple recipe and a more complicated one for the same thing. The ingredients and spices are not remarkably exotic or strange. For most recipes, you should be able to get everything you need at your grocery/liquor store, unless you live in a very small town or are visiting a cabin. If you are making oysters–surprise!–you need to buy oysters. Slightly more unusual items include: hearts of palm, anchovies, lobster, chicken livers, sherry, eggroll wrappers, watercress, crab meat. Not every recipe calls for items like this. The Beef Wellington is obviously more complicated to prepare than the roast chicken, rib eye in the pan, or the Fettuccini Alfredo. If you are reasonably comfortable in a kitchen and live near a decent-sized grocery store, you should be fine. If you rarely cook, some items might be more challenging.

If you are considering hosting a Mad Men party on March 25, you should check this book out.

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