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Cookbooks answer: What would Tony Soprano eat?
Question of the Day
The duo went on to write two more Mayberry cookbooks, as well as a book containing the recipes of fictional cops (for instance, “Colombo”) and one with the vittles of fictional cowboys (think “Gunsmoke”). Their 1993 book “Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook” contains recipes from Dawn Wells, the actress who played the show’s beguiling Mary Ann.
And “Granny’s Beverly Hillbillies Cookbook” (1994) offers recipes from the Clampett’s stamping ground in the Ozarks. Yes, we’re talking ground hog. “I got that from a friend of mine whose mother prepared ground hog in the Depression years,” Beck says.
Cookbooks as a general category do well for publishers, but having a television connection often gives them an extra push. Television shows have long seasons, an established audience and re-runs with the potential to constantly generate new customers.
The books also benefit from strong cross-promotional opportunities, Goodman says. For instance, customers searching Amazon or Barnes and Noble online for a Dora shirt or a SpongeBob toy might also be alerted to the cookbook, racking up collateral sales.
Some shows, like the Sopranos, make easy work for the writer by offering lots of scenes with food. In the ABC series “Desperate Housewives,” each character had her own particular culinary style.
“I felt as though I knew these characters, and that I could easily take their point of view and give them a voice in the kitchen,” says “The Desperate Housewives Cookbook” co-author Chris Styler, a chef and culinary consultant who says he was a big fan of the show.
“Some of these ideas, especially for Bree, were easier because she would go into more detail about what she was cooking,” Styler said. “Susan was just trying to keep her head above water. Lynette was always scrambling to get something on the table. Gabrielle never went anywhere near a kitchen.”
Other books require more imagination. For instance, the hit NBC series “Friends” largely takes place in a coffee shop, but little food gets eaten. The character Monica is a chef, but viewers rarely see her cook.
“We were trying to do food that made sense for young people living in Greenwich Village,” says Jack Bishop, co-author of “Cooking with Friends,” which includes recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies and iced mocha lattes, among other things.
Bishop, whose position as editorial director at America’s Test Kitchen (home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine) gives him uber-serious food credentials, says the book gives him a lighter note on his resume. “Most of what I do is pretty serious,” he says. “It’s nice to have some fun and do something a little outside the box.”
It also gave him awesome street cred with his teenage daughters, aged 13 and 16.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my career,” he says, “they think this is the best.”
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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