Recently, I was contacted by one of the authors of this book, Clint Marsh (co-written by Karima Cammell). The book, The Troll Cookbook: A Taste of Something Different: Simple Foods Any Troll Can Make IS definitely different as it says right in the sub-title. Let me just say that from the get-go. When the author contacted me (to see if I’d accept a copy and write about it) he explained a bit about the book. I wasn’t sure that I was the right “market” for the book. I don’t can or preserve foods. I don’t forage for nettles. And I don’t identify in any way with trolls. But he persevered and insisted that I just might be the ideal candidate for reading the book.
Now, I realize, calling this a Troll cookbook is a little bit tongue in cheek – well, that is if you don’t believe in trolls. I do not. But if you’re of the bent that there are trolls out and about, that little wild beasties lurk everywhere, especially at night, then this book might be exactly down your alley! Note, if you can see it, in the bottom right of the cover’s art, there’s a sweet little hedgehog. I think it’s wise they didn’t put any art renderings of trolls on the cover. There are, however, many colorplates in the book, of all types of trolls, mostly sitting around fires or in kitchens, or foraging for things. Which is how the authors bridge the gap between trolls and humans. In the book, they say:
“ . . . Fire – and more specifically the cookfire of the kitchen – is the link which connects trolls and humans. Unlike humans, the trolls have not been led astray by the lure of expedience, nor have they been dazzled by the bright lights of modern technology. . . . they continue to live as they always have, in touch with the realities of the natural world and the rhythms of the year. They practice their magic every day through gathering, combining, and preparing ingredients in intuitive proportions and serving them with appreciation.”
The book contains a myriad of “recipes,” divided up by seasons, and includes such things as making a composting mixture (I suppose that could be called a recipe?), that are perhaps on the fringes of the cookbook world. But interspersed between such things as stone soup, how to make vinegar and to can capers, prepare dandelion rootbeer, there are other more standard things like coffee can cake, scrapple (my DH loved scrapple, a staple in and around Philadelphia – not me, no thanks), rhubarb bread, garden raid stew, stuffed dates, quince paste, rose hip jam, and dozens and dozens of others. Even bathtub gin. Oh my.
If my DH were still here, he would repeat for me a legendary story about his father, who owned a ship chandlery in Bivalve, New Jersey, during the depression (and during prohibition). This was a man who had his required 2 Manhattans per evening, and that was it but not during those years when no one could actually BUY alcohol. But there were sources, I guess. . . I don’t want to know about that part.
There were any number of derelicts that frequented the streets (near the store) during that time. Many were sort of acquaintances who were down on their luck. Life was difficult, money was nearly non-existent. The details elude me, but I recall that my DHs father made a “deal” with the derelicts, that if they’d do a whole lot of work around the store (sweeping, cleaning, scrubbing, washing sidewalks and scrubbing the old bathtub at the back of the store until it shone) he’d cook up a batch of bathtub gin for them. Meanwhile, he went home to procure some of the perfume from his wife’s dresser, and it was used to “perfume” the bathtub gin. As my DH told the story, they worked like crazy, he made the gin with the little tiny squirt of perfume; they drank. Since this was during prohibition, bathtub gin was a real novelty and quite a treasure. As the story goes, one of the derelicts had a car, and the next morning he left the store when they’d drunk themselves into somewhat oblivion, and he barfed out the driver’s window. When next he appeared at the old stomping ground on main street, where the barf had dripped down the door, it had completely taken off the paint. No wonder it did something to everyone’s stomach!
So, here, for your reading pleasure, is a recipe – a troll’s recipe – for bathtub gin:
ONE GALLON BATHTUB GIN
Half a gallon of water
1 1/2 ounces sugar
Half a gallon of grain alcohol
1/3 spoonful of juniper oil
Combine and simmer the sugar and 1/2 cup of the water, stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Stir juniper oil into the alcohol in a large cookpot or a [CLEAN, CLEAN] bathtub, then add the rest of the water and the syrup, stirring to combine. If you’re a troll, it’s suggested you can vary the mixture with peppercorns, citrus peels or crushed cardamom pods. Or in my F-I-L’s case, a drop or two of his wife’s perfume.
If any of you are interested in this book, the first person who lives here in the continental U.S. and contacts me and will send me $5 to ship it, I’ll mail it to you. It’s brand new, obviously.