Fifty Shades Of Chicken: A Parody In A Cookbook, by FL Fowler
This book is, unfortunately, unclean in a variety of ways. Now, there are certainly ways this could have been a compelling cookbook. The book is designed to fulfill at least a couple of goals. One of those goals, a bit obvious from title, is to parody Fifty Shades Of Gray through the use of a cookbook with a naive chicken who finds itself cut and bound in various tasty ways, and the other is to provide a worthwhile chicken cookbook. The first goal is, I think, very well done. There are a lot inside jokes here to Julia Child and her approach to cooking as being inspirational for the pseudonymous chef, as being this older woman the hen feels jealous of, but it is as a cookbook that this book falls somewhat short. The book also, perhaps unintentionally, points to the “love” story of Fifty Shades as being predatory in nature by looking at the frankly predatory nature of a cook looking to cook a chicken in creative ways. It is more interesting to think about what this book is saying about its source material and about the predatory nature of cooking and eating than it is as a cookbook, which is a bit unfortunate.
This book contains roughly 50 recipes divided into three parts. After an introduction, the book begins with a look at the novice bird, with recipes like roast chicken with brandy-vanilla butter, roasted chicken with cherries and herbs, roasted bone-in breast with olive oil, lemon, and rosemary, roasted chicken with bacon and sweet paprika, baked chicken with apricot jam, sage, and lemon zest, jerk chicken with spices, rum, chiles, and lime, chicken chili, roasted chicken with tangerine and sage, roasted chicken legs with mole sauce, roasted chicken with harissa, preserved lemons, chickpeas, and mint, roasted chicken with mustard, fresh basil, and garlic, crispy fried chicken, crisp baked chicken with honey mustard and lime, chicken fricasse with proscuitto, tomatoes, and sweet peppers, and so on. The second part of the book focuses on chicken parts and bits, with a standout dish in chicken breast strips with balsamic and rosemary and chicken fingers with brown sugar and bourbon as well as stir-fried chicken with spinach and peanuts and chicken hash with sweet potatoes and roasted chicken thighs with apples and cinnamon. The third part of the book then includes advanced techniques such as roasted chicken with truffle butter, butterflied roasted chicken with herb and almond pesto, crunchy chicken parmesan croquettes, creamy chicken pot pie, slow roasted chicken, and grilled chicken with tandoori spices, as well as classic roast chicken with herb butter. There is also a short epilogue that includes side dishes like crispy roasted potatoes with garlic and thyme, bittersweet chocolate sabayon, and a bourbon with rosemary syrup and lemon, as well as acknowledgements and an index.
Whether or not you enjoy this book will depend on how many layers one appreciates in it. There is at least some appeal in the way that the book makes fun of Fifty Shades Of Gray. Admittedly, though, that is an easy target and low-hanging fruit. This book could have been a really good one, but it falls short of true greatness because the author neglects what it is that makes a chicken cookbook good, and that is the chicken itself. This is not to say that the book is worthless, but rather that it could have been so much better than it was. And that is what makes reading a book like this so frustrating. As someone who really loves eating chicken it is a bit distressing when a book focuses on chicken but manages to screw it up by adding so much unclean food in addition, as if one could not eat chicken without ham and bacon as well. Chicken doesn’t need that sort of thing to taste wonderful, and a book that is already unclean because of its focus on the double entendre manages to find itself more unclean than it would otherwise be.