September 21, 2002

The Gallery of Regrettable Food, by James Lileks

This is simply the funniest thing I've encountered in years. I tried--tried--to read bits of it to Jane at the bookstore and nearly busted a gut. I literally had to stop and lean on the the bookshelves and catch my breath.

As the story goes, in 1962 Lileks' mom was given a cookbook entitled Specialties of the House; it was a product of the North Dakota State Durum Wheat Commission. His mom wisely consigned it to a remote closet where Lileks himself found it 1996 and was astounded by the nauseating pictures and absurd recipes. The Gallery of Regrettable Food is the result.

It's not, as you might think, a compendium of food which was once popular and is now frowned on; rather, it's about food which was never appetizing at any time, and recipes that no one with any sense ever made. It's a collection of photographs, graphics, and copy from cookbooks of the last century, along with Lilek's own snide (and often distressingly funny) remarks.

Learn how Spry shortening makes everything better, and how to use 7-Up to brighten up your casseroles. Read about the dark side of jello molds and appetizers and the Man who Hated His Spinach. But perhaps not just before dinner.

You can get some highlights of the book at

Posted by Will Duquette at September 21, 2002 04:46 PM