Are You a Cannibal or a Can'tibal?: 'Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur's Cookbook,' A Review
The first thing I want you to know about Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook, by Hannibal food stylist Janice Poon, is that it actually does include the line “Here are a few pieces of specialized equipment that will help you cook more like a cannibal than a can’tibal.” [Emphasis mine]
Also, this is the accompanying illustration:
So I kind of feel like I can stop writing this review now, because by page 10 Feeding Hannibal has already more than earned its place on my bookshelf. Here’s the Amazon link. Out now from Titan Books. Good Halloween/Christmas buy for all your Hannibal nerd friends. Gogogo.
What would a Hannibal book be without stupid-ass food puns? Honestly.
The rest of the book is similarly enjoyable, replete as it is with fun anecdotes from the show (like how Mads Mikkelsen’s prosthetic head—courtesy of the peking duck Hannibal scene in season three—got detached from its body and tossed around the set by the food crew), behind-the-scene tidbits (“For Hannibal, I loved using black quinoa because it looks like dirt teeming with tiny worms”—yummy!), and eyecatching turns of phrase (“You may only have one pair of testicles but you can’t have too many testicle recipes”).
And speaking of testicles.
Feeding Hannibal presents non-cannibal versions of many of the dishes served throughout Hannibal’s three-season run. There are other bits and bobs, too, like instructions on curing your own ham and recipes for dishes inspired by, rather than appearing in, Hannibal. (The “Eye of God Cookie Bowl”—“The Muralist never had it so sweet.”) None of the recipes feature human meat (obviously), but Hannibal was still one fancy dude, a good chunk of the food in this book is what I would classify as Weird Shit, or at least Sumptuous Shit. Hannibal wasn’t down with Chef Boyardee.
Look, I like candy corn. My palate is less sophisticated than average. But seriously, there are multiple recipes here that call for blood (not human) and lamb testicles in this book. Where the fuck am I supposed to get a lamb testicle? Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.
There are some recipes that are more normal, for lack of a better word, like “Roasted Cauliflower Brain,” Ratatouille, raspberry-based Cumberland sauce (a favorite on the Hannibal set for being “viscid, velvety and crimson… [it] has all the evocative qualities of thickening blood but none of the unhappy circumstances”) and Carciofi chicken (“Here’s a quick and delicious version using roasted chicken instead of offal”—THANKS, JANICE). In my attempts to find something in Feeding Hannibal I could actually cook, I stumbled upon the protein scramble. In addition to looking easy—Eggs and sausage. I can do eggs and fucking sausage—when it appeared in the show, it marked the first time Hannibal served Will people meat. So, y’know. Significant.
Guys. I fucked it up.
I fucked up scrambled eggs.
The Summer Pudding turned out OK, though. Berries and bread, my friend. Berries and bread. I used cereal bowls instead of “1-cup moulds or bowls” because who the fuck am I that I would have tiny bowls laying around, honestly, but it did taste good. I think if Janice Poon ever reads this, and then later on she meets me one day, she will slap me in the face. I literally ate chips and salsa and raw cookie dough for dinner last night. That Shiitake-Infused Scotch sounds very interesting, but I have Kool-aid packets I haven’t used up.
I do not want my complete and utter lack of ability to cook anything that doesn’t come out of a can to reflect badly on this book. Feeding Hannibal is for people who, if they don’t eat fancy all the time, are at least not averse to getting ambitious for a dinner party every once in a while. They are also for people who don’t get squeamish about touching raw meat. I am not the one. I. Am. Not. The. One.
My sophisticated evil twin would make the fuck out of some “Mobius Fish in Aspic” (“the most mocked meal I ever made for Hannibal”), but tastes-of-a-five-year-old, canned-soup-for-dinner me will just have to admire it from afar. And admire it I will: the photos in Feeding Hannibal are gorgeous enough to make me feel some stirrings of culinary ambition if I weren’t so fucking lazy. Even if you’re a shit cook, and even if you know some of the anecdotes in this book already, Feeding Hannibal is a fun read, and it’s pretty enough and weird enough that it would make a damn fine coffee table book with which to freak out the in-laws.