Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines

So I haven't done anything foodie related in a while. When the school year goes full force, my passion for food often takes a backseat and I end up eating a lot of cereal for dinner. But alas, I just recently picked up The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook at the library and thought I would write my thoughts about it. I don't often review a cookbook without having made at least one recipe from it, but since this is so much more than a cookbook, I thought I could justify giving my thoughts on it without having made anything from it.

First of all, you wouldn't think with a title like The Hunger Games that there would be much to put inside a cookbook, but coming in at 239 pages, there's a lot more things food-related in the series than I first remembered. The blurb on the back of the book states:

Recipes inspired by foraging with Katniss, hunting with Gale, baking with Peeta, and indulging at the Capitol.

The chapters are divided thusly:
Chapter 1: Breakfast of Champions
Chapter 2: Breaking Bread
Chapter 3: Keep the Campfires Low and Forage: Soups, Stews, and Salads
Chapter 4: Humble Beginnings
Chapter 5: Sink or Swim - Seafood
Chapter 6: Don't Call me Chicken - Poultry Dishes for the Brave
Chapter 7: Put Some Meat on Your Bones - Beef, Lamb, and Pork
Chapter 8: Wild Game for Wild Girls
Chapter 9: Just Desserts
Appendix: Katniss's Family Book of Herbs

Each recipe has an explanation for why it's in the cookbook and how it connects to the series. Some connections are directly relevant to the story, such as the recipe for Katniss's Craved Cheese Buns:

Katniss loves Peeta's family's cheese buns, and throughout The Hunger Games trilogy the buns become a symbol of home and of Katniss and Peeta's lives before they became tributes. This symbolism is so pervasive that Katniss's preferences for cheese buns becomes part of Peeta and Katniss's "Real or Not Real" game to help Peeta find himself after the Capitol violated and changed his memories.

But some connections feel like you're playing the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with The Hunger Games instead of Kevin Bacon. Like this recipe for Super Healthy Dried Fruit Quinoa Salad:

While Katniss is able to find and gather her own fresh food, the Careers can only survive on pre-made, preserved snacks that they grabbed when they first entered the arena. This juxtaposition gives you a good idea of who is more likely to survive. If only she had some quinoa, Katniss could blend it with the stolen fruit to make the incredibly healthy (not to mention filling) quinoa salad below.

And some recipes, while not entirely connected to the series, have lovely symbolism, such as the White Chocolate Chocolate Cookies:

A twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie, this cookie is similar to Katniss's spirit - mostly dark, with patches of light throughout.

While most of the recipes in this book are well-thought out and written with great respect and care for the food, it is a bit inconsistent in places. Many recipes call for making everything from scratch, but every once in a while you will come across something that requires you to use a boxed cake mix or a can of cream of mushroom soup. It's like the book jumps around from Julia Child to Sandra Lee.

The recipes in the wild game section are definitely, in my opinion, more of a novelty than something a reader of this series is likely to make. With recipes like Mr. Mellark's Favorite Fried Squirrel, Hazelle's Beaver Stew, and Grilled Tree Rat with Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce, I'm not sure how many die-hard fans are going to be clamoring to give those dishes a try any time soon. I wonder if the author even tried them?

On the whole, I enjoyed reading this cookbook and being reminded of just how important food was in the series: whether it was, as the back of the book says, "foraging with Katniss" or "indulging at the Capitol." Every fan of the series should at least give this book a look, but I highly recommend checking it out at the library before committing yourself to a purchase. I might buy the book for the simple fact that I showed it to my students and they were excited about reading it and possibly trying some of the recipes (they wanted to have a Hunger Games party where everyone made something from the cookbook) but as for including it in my own personal cookbook collection? I'm still on the fence.

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines
Published: December 1, 2011
Publisher: Adams Media
Pages: 239
Genre: Cookery
Audience: Young Adult/Adults


  1. I just got this book, and I think it looks awesome!! Thanks for the honest review :)

  2. Ha! Fun concept for a cookbook, but I'm not sure this series was really crying out for one. Maybe it will introduce more kids to cooking?

    1. I've only read the first one, but I'm surprised there was enough to make a cookbook! I can't remember much food at all in the first. (And I admit, I skimmed your post in case it gave away spoilers for the other two.)

  3. Good critique - I would expect, I suppose, a lot of "stretching" to get a whole cookbook out of Hunger Games. And grilled tree rat? Hmmmm, I'd probably skip that one!

  4. Eeep--I did see some spoilers for later books (I've only read the first in the series). This sounds interesting but like you it seems a bit more like a novelty than an actual book to cook from. I'll have to browse through it next time I see it at the store.

  5. I have this too and love it just to have. I doubt I'll ever cook out of it, but it's a lot of fun to read.

  6. These are recipes that would appeal to my uncle. He serves all sorts of game. I have heard that squirrel is quite tasty, though I have no intentions of giving it a taste.

  7. I'd also like to add this to my collection even if I never make any of the recipes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  8. My daughter is a complete Hunger Games nut. I will be sure to pick this up! Thanks for the info :)

  9. while I liked the book, it is not one I would connect with a