TV of­fers hearty help­ing of cook­book tie-ins

The Washington Times Daily - - Television -

Andy Grif­fith al­ways saved room for Aunt Bee’s rhubarb pie. The Brady bunch couldn’t wait for Alice’s meat­loaf. It’s not Sun­day in Tony So­prano’s house with­out gravy. And ev­ery­one knows that Don Draper en­joys an Old-fash­ioned now and then.

What you prob­a­bly didn’t know is just how ro­bust an in­dus­try has been cooked up around help­ing fans eat like their fa­vorite TV char­ac­ters.

Be­cause for about as long as view­ers have been sucked into the lives of the Bradys, the So­pra­nos, and the will-they-won’t-they ups and downs of Rachel and Ross, a sur­pris­ing num­ber of them also have han­kered for the char­ac­ters’ on-screen eats. And cook­book pub­lish­ers have been happy to oblige.

Fans have re­sponded. Ken Beck’s 1991 “Aunt Bee’s May­berry Cook­book” has sold 900,000 copies. Michele Sci­colone says her 2002 book, “The So­pra­nos Fam­ily Cook­book,” has sold 10 times as many copies as her other cook­books. Pub­lisher John Wi­ley and Sons’ 2007 Sesame Street branded “C is for Cook­ing” flew off the shelves.

For con­text, pub­lish­ers to­day of­ten con­sider a cook­book mod­estly suc­cess­ful if it sells 20,000 to 30,000 copies.

“Those books do re­ally well for us, es­pe­cially dur­ing hol­i­day sea­son,” said Jes­sica Good­man, as­so­ci­ate pub­lisher at Wi­ley, which of­fers sev­eral TV tie-ins, in­clud­ing “Spongebob’s Kitchen Mis­sion” and “Dora and Diego Let’s Cook.”

The genre of tele­vi­sion-in­spired cook­books likely traces it­self back to movies. Tie-in books have been around at least since the Pe­beco Tooth­paste com­pany pub­lished the “Gone With the Wind Cook Book” in 1940.

Some Tv-in­spired cook­books fea­ture well-thought-out recipes cre­ated by ex­pe­ri­enced culi­nary pro­fes­sion­als, such as Miss Sci­colone (who is bet­ter known for cook­books ded­i­cated to Ital­ian home cook­ing). Oth­ers are es­sen­tially com­mu­nity cook­books that are untested or barely tested. But none of that seems to mat­ter to fans.

“A lot of good peo­ple are brought on to pro­duce them from time to time, but peo­ple buy them be­cause it’s a lark,” said Matt Sartwell, man­ager of the New York cook­book store Kitchen Arts and Let­ters. “Most of the time peo­ple don’t even think about the recipes. Most peo­ple un­der­stand we’re talk­ing about fic­tional char­ac­ters.” Some of the books, such as the re­cently re­leased “The Un­of­fi­cial Mad Men Cook­book,” bor­der on culi­nary an­thro­pol­ogy. Just in time for the long-awaited start of the show’s fifth sea­son (March 25), the cook­book of­fers an ex­haus­tive his­tory of New York din­ing in the 1960s, right down to the ac­tual recipes used in Draper haunts such as Sardi’s and the Grand Cen­tral Oys­ter Bar.

Other books are in­tended pri­mar­ily as fan doc­u­ments.

“We were just fans of the ‘Andy Grif­fith Show,’ ” said Mr. Beck, who wrote “Aunt Bee’s May­berry Cook­book” with Jim Clark. “We knew how we loved the show and we knew how fans felt. We filled it with pho­tos and di­a­logue from scenes around food. We gave all the recipes names based on May­berry char­ac­ters.”



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