TRUE BLOOD DRINKS AND BITES (Book Review)
I have to admit this first: I have been cold toward the HBO show TRUE BLOOD ever since they had the nerve to kill off Christopher Meloni’s character, Roman, mid-freakin-season this past year. As time heals all wounds, I’ve been debating whether I should get back into the show and finish off the second half of this past season, finally catching up before the new season starts on June 16th. As luck would have it, here I find myself reviewing a cookbook that is designed around the show.
TRUE BLOOD DRINKS AND BITES by show producers Gianna Sobol, Alan Ball and writer Benjamin Hayes (out June 11th from Chronicle Books), is exactly what some people might expect from a cookbook based on a TV show, complete with corny double entendre names for their recipes and pictures of various characters and quotations from seasons past. While I do admit that this cookbook feels like a “jump-the-shark” moment for the series, and is a little too heavy-handed with its naming conventions, it does manage to pull out a few good ideas for elaborate drinks and appetizers that will more than satisfy your taste buds and get your blood going (it must be contagious).
I am not what people consider a ‘chef’ or a person who makes things that people want to eat. However, for the sake of my review being just and fair, I gave it the old college try. I decided to try two different recipes for this review, one drink and one appetizer. For the drink, I chose the mix they called “True Death”, which is the term on the show for a vampire dying, usually via stake through the heart, by someone of authority within the vampire nation. Let me not stray off course here. The drink consists of tequila, orange juice, lime wedges, grenadine and something called crème de cassis, which is a sweet liqueur that has the dark red color that this drink was obviously going for. After doing a moderate job of mixing and following the directions in the cookbook, I tried the concoction and found it to be not entirely bad. It had the punch of the tequila but the grenadine and crème de cassis was a nice off-set to the stronger part of the drink and created a delectable treat. This can come off as too sweet to the traditional drinker, so be warned. On a side note, the creators of the book have also decided to include a small section for liquor-free drinks in case you want to keep your vampire party free of drunks and possible bad decisions.
As for the appetizer, I chose to make the “Ragin’ Cajun Popcorn”, which is a reference to the psychopathic vampire hater and human killer Rene from season one. This is a particularly elaborate mixing of spices and seasoning to ordinary run of the mill popcorn that just appealed to me, since I am a sucker for caramel popcorn and even cracker jacks. The ingredients consist of paprika, cayenne, brown sugar, onion powder, thyme, garlic powder and black pepper. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but for some reason after it all comes together, it doesn’t turn out so bad. Since this involves no actual cooking with heat (it is all done in a bowl), the result depends on how well you mix it. Most of the popcorn I had was evenly mixed with all the ingredients and turned out well, while there were a few that lacked certain items due to uneven distribution and the taste suffered as a result, which is not a slam against the recipe as much as my shaky mixing skills.
Ultimately I feel that such cash grabs are not good for a TV show trying to prove itself among the legion of available options. They come across as cheap and very corny, to say the least, and can sometimes completely turn people off the show, even die-hard fans who have watched since the very beginning. After trying two of the recipes and getting past the sometimes painful names for the drinks and eats, however, I found it to be a pleasant surprise that didn’t totally induce gagging. The drinks and food may not be for everyone, but I think this could find its audience if properly marketed. As for the show, however, I still hold a grudge about Mr. Meloni, but maybe we can kiss and make up (me and the show, not Meloni…)