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The Gallery of Regrettable Food Hardcover – September 11, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le
"100 Million Years of Food" by Stephen Le
A fascinating tour through the evolution of the human diet, and how we can improve our health by understanding our complicated history with food. Learn more

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Ketchup Pistachio Cake. Meat Pie with Meat Crust. Baked Peppers with Creamy Marshmallow Sauce. Daring readers will come face to face with these and worse in this excellent book that's bursting with photographs, recipes, and bits of text and "tips" taken from mainstream American cookbooks of the 1940s-70s, when "the only spice permitted in excess [was] fat." Fascinating and valuable in their own right as cultural artifacts of the era, the entries are irresistible when accompanied by Lileks's hilarious running commentary. Jell-O gets its own chapter, and deservedly so; other sections include "Horrors from the Briny Deep" and "Cooking for a MAN: Tested Recipes to Please HIM!" YAs already familiar with the author's popular Web site "The Institute of Official Cheer" (www.lileks.com) will be thrilled to see that the book is just as wonderfully designed as the site. Those encountering Lileks for the first time are in for an even bigger treat than the "foamy prune whip with cherry gel" found within.

Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Lileks pokes fun at food advertising and promotional ideas from the '50s nascent food industry. Making sport of the assumptions that underlay American cookery at mid-century is an easy target. The reigning belief that anything technological or manufactured was by definition superior to nature's bounty today appears naive at best. Add to that the mindless nutritional opinions of the era, and there's plenty of laughter to be found in these ads. A vibrantly rendered shot of a thick, untrimmed porterhouse steak slathered with ketchup and then topped with sliced hard-boiled eggs looks ready to clot every coronary artery, not to mention its complete void of fresh flavors. Most hilarious are advertisements showing pretentious "French" chefs promoting their favorite ways to use marshmallows. How a dish of scrambled eggs topped with cheese, ketchup, and cream of mushroom soup earned the moniker "Eggs Oriental" goes beyond the inscrutable. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishers; 1 edition (September 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609607820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609607824
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While most of the material in this volume can be found on the Lileks Web site, this book is just too good to pass up! Mr. Lileks passion for rehashing some of the worst of mid-century pop culture results in brilliant humour. Though I grew up in the 70's, I recall seeing cookbooks very similar to these in our family library, and I thank God my parents did not use them.
The sheer volume of the material presented (and the cookbooks are just the tip of the iceberg on the Lileks website) would lead one to believe that people in the 30's - 60's had absolutely no (or bad) taste and were motivated by an entirely commercial culture. While the Gallery of Regrettable Food is funny in the extreme, once you've finished reading it and brushed the tears of laughter from your cheeks it's also interesting to contrast the (perhaps unjust) impression of an advertisement driven mid-20th century to the reality of today's highly commercialized society.
Even if you are already familiar with Lileks' Web site, I recommend this book because it will look great on your coffee table, and it may be the only way your Web-challenged friends (read: your parents) will be able to enjoy this outstanding brand of humour.
Comment 63 of 65 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This is not a cookbook. If you cook from this book you should be shot, for indeed, that would be more merciful than eating the meal. But the truth is, thousands of moms in the 1950s and 1960s *did* cook from the cookbooks that James Lileks so hilariously skewers in "The Gallery of Regrettable Food," and if you ever remember your mom proudly plopping down a new recipe that had dad and the kids staring at each other in disbelief, then this book is for you.
"The Gallery of Regrettable Food" does for the cookbooks of yesteryear what the robots from "Mystery Science Theater 3000" do for bad movies. And hoo boy, is this *bad* food...bloated with lard, tasteless, shiny, and topped with some kind of sauce that you swear must be made from radioactive by-products. These "classic" dishes are shown in photos from the original cookbook, photographed in their various original shades of gray, mauve, and pink--just looking at this requires a strong stomach, and Lileks is to be commended for having the nerve to page through them all.
But most of all, Lileks is hilarious--his caustic commentary pulls no punches ("This is a meal. It is also a scene from "The Andromeda Strain." "Satan himself could not invent so fiendish a dish.") and he spares no sarcasm in his horror and contempt for the way America was "supposed" to cook. ("This is some of the most tortured, attenuated garnish a steak has ever had; it looks as if El Greco had attempted to paint the mask from the "Scream" movies.") and most of all, the bizarre and disturbing oddities of "classic" cookbooks (Why the Sam Hill is that cartoon chicken FRYING UP A CHICKEN LEG?!?!).
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Format: Hardcover
When James Lileks unearthed an old recipe pamphlet from the back of his Mom's closet and viewed the culinary nightmares within, he made it his life's work to discover other such cookbooks and food company ads from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The results of his tireless research are now brought together for your amusement and indigestion in "The Gallery of Regrettable Food."
Through photos and witty commentary, Lileks displays some of the most unappealing foods and recipes I have ever seen, and he does it with flair. Whether using the recipe names from the original cookbooks, with such labels as "pepper pups" and "liver spoon cakes," or providing his own descriptive phrases like "cross section of the Swamp Thing's brain" or "grubworms and lawnmower clippings," he kept me laughing. He presents a parade of incompatible foods thrown together into gastronomic horrors, such as peppers baked and stuffed with creamy marshmallow sauce, frankfurters in aspic, or tongue mousse. The photos illustrate a parade of dishes that are unidentifiable at best and nauseating at worst. There are pictures of gray, fat-shrouded mystery meats, objects drowned in cream sauce, and gelatin molds with bizarre foods suspended within. The pamphlets produced by food companies urge us to cook everything using their products, whether 7UP or ketchup - and I mean everything! I could go on and on about the gems here, but I don't want to spoil your appetite for dinner.
This book also provides a look at the days when advertisers depicted homemakers in dresses, pearls, and frilly aprons when serving meals to the family. This was the era when cholesterol and sodium were not yet flagged as health hazards, and where salmon usually came out of a can.
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Format: Hardcover
In this book, James Lileks takes his readers back to a time when moms looked like June Cleaver and meals of creamed brains on toast were perfectly acceptable. Really - he's got the pictures to prove it!
Lileks was inspired to create The Gallery of Regrettable Food after a trip back to his parents' home in Fargo, North Dakota. That's where he found Specialties of the House, a cookbook that his mom had gotten from the Welcome Wagon when they moved into the house in the early 60s. The book contained all kinds of horrifying pictures that looked very little like edible dishes - but a lot like something out of a horror film. Lileks then began creating the Gallery online... and eventually turned it into a big, disturbing book.
The Gallery of Regrettable Food is 200 pages of absolutely disgusting pictures (taken straight from the cookbooks of the 30s through the 70s) - along with Lileks's crude commentary. It definitely makes me want to take a closer look at my mom's cookbook collection.
This book is absolutely pants-wetting-ly hilarious. Every once in a while, I'd read it during the evening, and I'd start making a sound that can best be described as a mix between laughing and gagging - and my husband would continually ask if I was okay.
I have a few tips for reading this book, though. First, don't read it all at once. I believe it could do permanent damage. Second, don't read it anywhere near mealtime. Read it before you eat, and you'll lose your appetite (note: it could, however, be used as a diet aid). Read it after you eat, and, well... never mind. Third, don't read it before bed. It will create nightmares unlike anything you've ever experienced. And, finally, whatever you do, don't try this at home!
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