There are two ways to think about this: what’s the nerdiest thing you can think of OR what’s the most in-jokey vanity project you can think of? Either way, the answer is MLA Members Cook!
This is a cookbook supposedly created by collecting recipes from members of the MLA; yes that MLA, as in the formatting and citation style your English teachers and professors made you use. I said ‘supposedly’ created because based on what this supposed book is presented as, a cookbook by members of one of the largest humanities academic organizations in the US, I would think that it would have more than 23 recipes, 2 of which are by “MLA staff”. Either no one responded to the request for recipes, or whoever was in charge of this project didn’t bother actually considering any of the submissions. I said ‘supposed’ a second time. This book is as much literary goofiness to the point of idiocy as it is recipe book; that is, the literary explanations for the inspiration are as long or longer than the actual recipes. It’s like someones were too clever for his and her own good.
Some things make sense, like research into children’s literature inspiring a recipe for frobscottle (from Ronald Dahl’s Even More Revolting Recipes). Others are eye-rolls but respectable geekiness, like the cocktail “pear-enthetical citation”. Side note- if this part of the book is to be believed, there is a lot of gin drinking in literature or by literary academics. A few recipes are actually interesting, like dongpo soup, adapted from an early medieval Chinese literary source. Several are either vegan or vegetarian, “Word Salad” (minus 5 points for the cringe bad joke) “Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake” (actually a historical reference to the poet’s apparent favorite thing to bake for entertaining), and some are only there for the literary cleverness-and no, it doesn’t work most of the time. The main offenders are “Neruda Inspired Hasselback Potatoes” which “draws it’s inspiration from Pablo Neruda’s ‘Oda a las Papas’ or ‘Ode to French Fries’” (10), and “Walt Whitman’s Cranberry Sauce” which the introduction explains was discovered as a long lost Whitman manuscript promptly eaten by the discoverer’s dog, but only after he’d found time to transcribe it. The recipe itself is about 100 words; the “Song of My Sauce” poem that accompanies it is a cranberry and baseball inflected remake of the “I sing the body electric” bit of Song of Myself. I make no judgement here on the author of this piece as a person (I’ve never actually met him), but this segment come off like someone trying too hard to be funny or someone trying to twist an assignment to suit their own interests (note to students- this virtually never ends well for anyone involved).
Overall, this is a silly little book which will make a fine souvenir from the MLA convention which is why I actually paid $10 for it (and, no I don’t regret it). I may even try one or two of the recipes. “Much Ado about Gnocchi” along with one of the interchangeable gin based cocktails (seriously, 3 different recipes, that are practically identical) actually sounds pretty good.