A Hunger Games cookbook may sound like a contradiction in terms. It’s not.
I don’t know if it’s true that there are no atheists in foxholes, but I am pretty sure there won’t be any vegetarians in a society like Suzanne Collins describes in The Hunger Games.
Let’s be honest: Hungry people will eat anything, especially in rural areas where items we don’t currently think of primarily as foods are abundant. Like, say: squirrel, raccoon, dove, Bambi.
That’s the beauty of Emily Ansara Baines’s The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookebook: From Lamb Stew to “Goosling” — More than 150 Recipes Inspired by the Hunger Games Trilogy. It’s more than a clever keepsake for fans of the series salivating over the movie adaptation not due until March(!).
It actually enlarges our view into Katniss’s world by supplying dishes we can make at home!
Entertainment Weekly is mistaken in calling the cookbook “a fun but not quite practical treat” for fans.
“While many of the recipes allow you to replicate the rich, sumptuous dishes from Capitol banquet scenes (“Super Sweet Potato Rolls”),” EW opines, “others require ingredients you’d have to kill in the woods with your own bow and arrow.”
I hate to break it to you, EW, living in New York or LA and all like you do, but that’s not a problem for Americans in most of the heartland.
Growing up in the sparsely populated mountains of western Virginia, only one generation removed from the Great Depression (as opposed to the Really Lousy Depression we’re living through now), I am well acquainted with squirrels and other game foods, as well as the tools (bow and arrow? Check!) required to get them.
Suzanne Collins’s refusal to pretty up what life in a decaying and oppressed American landscape would actually be like greatly enhances The Hunger Games for a reader like me. And I’m happy to say the filmmakers seem to be paying similar attention to detail.
Look at that picture of Jennifer Lawrence drawing back her bow — everything about it is authentic: her posture, the angle of her elbow, the finger grip on the bow string, the way she’s sighting over the arrow with both eyes.
Besides, even if you don’t live in the country or otherwise have access to genuine critters (for, say, “Small Critter Casserole”), you can always substitute chicken. You’ll miss out on the wonderful tang of wild game, but it’ll still be next door to authentic.
Reading this recipe takes me back to childhood, watching my Mom dredge pieces of rabbit or squirrel through flower before plopping them into the pork fat sizzling in the frying pan.
Or you could stir up one of those “sumptuous dishes from the Capitol,” ingredients for which should be available at any grocery stores — even though those recipes, especially their names, put me in mind of the kind of repast Chaucer might have eaten on his way to Canterbury.
To give you a vicarious sample, here’s one recipe.
Small Critter Casserole (rats, squirrels, etc.)
2 pounds small game meat, cut into 2″ chunks
1 cup seasoned flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms
1 and 1/2 cups artichoke hearts, chopped
8-10 green onions, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 12-ounce can cream of celery soup
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Juice of one fresh lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Dredge meat in seasoned flour and brown in skillet with 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Brown in two separate batches so the pan is not overcrowded. Add more oil if needed.
2. Return all browned meat to the skillet. Add broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, green onions, chicken stock, and celery soup. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it just comes to a boil, about 12-15 minutes. Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until meat is tender. Add thyme and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Serve from the pot or transfer to a pretty serving bowl to serve family-style at the dinner table.
I love that “rats, squirrels, etc.”
Other dishes include President Snow’s Sauteed Dove Breasts in Bacon Drippings, Wild Raccoon Sauteed in Bacon Drippings, Fightin’ Fried Squirrel, Grilled Tree Rat With Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce, and Hazelle Beaver Stew With Rosemary Potatoes.
Baines takes the time to explain just where each recipe originates in the novels. “[I]t’s amazing to see just how many significant or weird food references the Hunger Games trilogy contains,” notes EW.
For the less adventurous, here’s another savory dish, one more likely to appeal to city dwellers:
Katniss’s Favorite Lamb Stew
- 5 pounds lamb fillet, shoulder or leg, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- ½ cup water
- 4 cups beef stock
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 3 teaspoons brown sugar
- 3 cups diced carrots
- 1 cup diced zucchini
- 1½ cups diced celery
- 2 large onions, diced
- 3 potatoes, cubed
- 5 cups dried plums
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 bay leaves
1 cup ginger ale
- Place lamb, salt, pepper, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Toss to coat meat evenly.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan and brown the meat, working in batches if you have to.
- Remove lamb to a side plate. Pour off fat, leaving ¼ cup in the pan. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onion becomes golden. Deglaze frying pan with the ½ cup water, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan to stir up all of the tasty bits of meat and onion. Cook to reduce liquid slightly, then remove from heat.
- Place the lamb and garlic-onion mixture in a large stockpot. Add beef stock and sugar, stirring until sugars are dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours.
- Add the vegetables, dried plums, herbs, and ginger ale to the pot. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until meat and vegetables pierce easily with a fork.
Serves 8-10. Mmm-mmm!