Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Ad Astra Cooking Project

I recently acquired Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook, a collection of recipes from members of the Science Fiction Writers of America edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde. As with all things, I intend to review it, but reviewing a cookbook poses a challenge that most other books do not: There is really no way to accurately review the book based upon reading it. Cookbooks are interactive - you can only appreciate them if you cook the recipes and eat them. So that is exactly what I am going to do.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred recipes in the book, so I'm not going to make them all at once, or even in the near future. I'm planning on making, trying, and reviewing about one recipe a week for as long as there are untried recipes in the book, starting with the first one and going through them in order. As I review the recipes, I'll post links to them here, adding to the list on an ongoing basis. I'm saying that I'm planning on doing that, but it is unlikely to be a hard and fast schedule: Some weeks I might review more than one recipe, in some weeks I might not be able to review any, but that's the plan.

The book was created to raise funds for the SFWA Legal Fund to support writers in need. The overall theme of the recipes in the book is supposed to be "party", working on the theory that writers know how to throw a party. A lot of the recipes were solicited for this work, but some were originally collected by Astrid and Greg Bear for a cookbook that was never published. The introductory material includes Connie Willis passing on some excellent cooking advice from Charles Brown, and Carrie Vaughn explaining how to create a cocktail laboratory, including a couple of recipes for some classic cocktails to try. Larry Niven contributes a chapter on how to serve hundreds of cups of Irish Coffee to eager convention-attendees, an essay that is clearly informed by lots of experience.

Jennifer Stevenson describes how to throw a pig roast, which is an involved process that should only be attempted by those with lots of room, sufficient handyman skills to do a lot of nuts and bolts work as part of their cooking, and lots of time to cook. The end result does seem like it would be delicious. Ken Schneyer and Janice Okoomian give a detailed account of how they hold a Prancing Pony party ever year in late September to commemorate Frodo's arrival in Bree, complete with three recipes. These recipes, like the cocktails in Vaughn and Niven's chapters, aren't listed in the table of contents, but I'll get to them and try them anyway.

Esther Friesner gives some opinions on cake, mostly extolling its virtues. Ricia Mainhardt gives just over a dozen recipes for sweets for one, designed to be cooked in a mug in a microwave. I don't actually have a microwave, so trying these out will have to wait until I do, but as I estimate that it will probably take me something on the order of four years to work through all of these recipes, I figure I have plenty of time to get one. The final introductory piece is by Michael J. Martinez, and discusses the joys of home brewing beer, with some loose instructions on how to go about it. Just as I don't have a microwave, I don't really have space to let a five gallon bucket sit for two to four weeks at a time fermenting beer, but there's a decent chance I will at some point in the future, so I might be able to give home brewing a try.

That's all the introductory material. Here are the recipes. There will only be a few at first. I'll be adding to this list as I get to each one in turn:

Savory Snacks
Ajvar from K.V. Johansen
Anouchka's Grandmother's Salmon Pâté by Cat Sparks
Bastilla by Erin M. Hartshorn
Big Bang Brussel Sprouts by Sean Williams

Sweet Snacks and Desserts
Apple Crumble by Chet Gottfried
Pudding Course: Apple Fritters by Gail Carriger
Apricot Mascarpone Poppers by Julie Jansen

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