Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook by Janice Poon | Published: October 2016 | Publisher: Titan Books
Rarely have I seen excitement for a cookbook light up my timeline like for Feeding Hannibal. For gastronomes and Fannibals alike, Feeding Hannibal is the ultimate in conversational coffee table must-haves. A sizable but not intimidating hardback, the dramatic cover lures its readers to be tempted, amazed, and perhaps terrified, including a disclaimer on the back that one should not eat their friends. In the Forward, Mads Mikkelsen recounts first meeting author, chef, and Hannibal food stylist Janice Poon at her flat to learn proper technique and wondering if he’d walked into a Hannibal-style trap. Next, a cheeky but thoroughly informative section on tools, techniques, and basic sauces.
The body of the book is comprised of Hannibal episode stills, glossy food photos, breakfast-to-dessert recipes, amusing filming anecdotes, and, my favorite element, Poon’s original sketches as she envisioned the dishes to suit both the story and screen. The recipes themselves range from simple, like the creamy, comforting challah-bun “High Life Eggs” for Abigail Hobbs; to exotic, like “Bedelia’s Bellybuttons with Absinthe Cream;” the slightly stomach-turning “Sanguinaccio Dolce with Biscuits” (chocolate blood pudding); and the stunning “Prosciutto Melon Peacock Tail,” using leftover feathered Murder Heart for dinner with Sogliato. I find myself on this page again and again.
The oysters and snails that fattened Hannibal’s guests/victims have their own section, as well as his favorite ham and organ meats, photos peppered casually with a few severed hands. Along with the serious pieces are tongue-in-cheek recipes like “Tomato Brain Barquettes” (little puff pastries stuffed with tomato innards), “Kibbeh Tongues” (almost too realistic), and “Beverly Steak and Kidney Pie” featuring a pie-crust Hannibal Lecter bite mask. Then there are the stunning series-pinnacle moments captured with “Rack of Sacrificial Lamb” and the finale stinger “Bedelia’s Kalua Roasted Loin,” a scene seared into my memory. Poon originally detailed the table spread in her blog, recalling discussions over whether it was roughly equivalent to Gillian Anderson’s actual thigh.
Black-skinned Silkie chicken. Hand-chipped Punch Romaine. Beer made from people… Wait, what? Yes, there even is a short essay on the historical recipe for Cock Ale, a restorative beverage made from chicken bones, inspiration for the more sinister ale brewed in Hannibal’s basement for Alana Bloom.
In the conclusion, the author reveals the challenges of finding food-grade blood and giant cuts of meat (even once for a whimsical moment wondering if a dead giraffe might be handy), her experiences on set with exotic animal handlers, and her keys to entering the mindset of her murderous subject. She finishes the book with garnishes like tomato roses and bone candlesticks, flourishes that defined Hannibal’s exquisite presentations.
From start to finish, Feeding Hannibal is darkly beautiful, charming, and inspiring, well worth the cover price. I expected to find inaccessible gourmet recipes, but surprisingly at least half are very doable for a reasonably-skilled-and-supplied home cook. Although I am normally not one for behind-the-scenes tales since they occasionally ruin the magic, her intriguing anecdotes explain the critical points of each dish’s conception and creation in just the right doses. In fact, knowing that the feasts were even more complicated than they appeared on screen is in itself quite tantalizing. Hannibal is a fantastically rich TV experience, in no small part to Janice Poon’s meticulous designs, and Feeding Hannibal undoubtedly adds a valuable piece to the story’s continued unfolding. Whether you’ve been missing the series or are looking for a unique holiday gift, I encourage you to take a look. Eat the rude!*
*Not really. Don’t sue me.
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook is available on Amazon.
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook