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Nanny Ogg's Cookbook
Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs & Tina Hannan, illustrated by Paul Kidby
Doubleday, 176 pages

Paul Kidby
Nanny Ogg's Cookbook
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

SF Site Reading List: Terry Pratchett
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SF Site Review: The Truth
SF Site Review: City Watch Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
SF Site Review: Jingo
SF Site Review: Feet of Clay
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Hank Luttrell

When I first learned of this book I had a number of questions. If you are a fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, I'm sure you do too. For instance, is this a real Discworld book?

Well, the subtitle reads: "A useful and improving Almanack of Information including Astonishing Recipes from Terry Pratchett's Discworld." The byline (a little hard to find, on the back cover) says that Pratchett is the senior author. As for the other names, Stephen Briggs is a frequent collaborator with Pratchett and adapter of his Discworld works. I suspect that Tina Hannan might have helped the recipes make sense, and Paul Kidby is, of course, the (wonderful) artist.

My theory is that Briggs and Hannan organized and roughed out the book, and Pratchett then revised, polished and added jokes. This makes efficient use of Pratchett's time. We all want that, since we are all waiting for the next novel. On its own, this book actually is a very good and funny addition to the Discworld library.

Another of my thoughts about the book was that I didn't really recall that much stuff in the books about food. But then, we all have to eat -- even characters in books. Most of the larger cookbook section is organized like a community or church group cookbook, with recipes contributed by various well-known personalities, and in this case, Discworld characters we will all recognize. The recipes are based on the characterizations in the novels, and frequently make use of plot details. As well-remembered character after character steps forward with a recipe, it becomes clear that food really does show up a lot in the Discworld books. Lord Vetinari contributes a recipe on avoiding poisoning. Mrs. Colon has a curry, but because of Sergeant Colon's dislike of anything "foreign" in this recipe, curry powder is optional. Mention is made of another Colon favourite, fried sushi. Sergeant Angua's Vegetable Stew is a testament to the trials of being a vegetarian werewolf. The first thing I thought of when I considered Discworld recipes was Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler's Sausage Inna Bun. Here it is noted that "It is not good etiquette to look at one of his sausages and say 'woof woof!' or 'neighhh!'"

There is a section about etiquette. Nanny Ogg says etiquette is what happens between people after you have enough to eat. Here, too, there are details from the novels and extrapolations of cultural, historical and political mores from Discworld society. There is a lot of detail about dealing with witches, since Ogg is one -- mostly that it just makes sense to keep them bribed and happy.

The last and most basic question about this attractive hardcover, of course, is how can you get it? If you are living in Canada or the United Kingdom, the answer is easy, since this edition was published for you. If you are in the USA, the answer is more difficult.

HarperCollins owns the US Discworld license (not Doubleday/Random), and HarperCollins might think this book would be too, well, difficult for USA readers. They may have never heard of some of the ingredients used here. The exotic Discworld ingredients have mostly been replaced with British near-equivalents, not only because they would be more readily available, but also less inedible or poisonous. But even these might seem odd in Peoria. "Swede" is to be used in one recipe, and all I can think of is Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show. I think I was able to arrive at a general idea about what chervil and sultanas are, but this is still the sort of charming confusion that the American editors might worry about. All the measures are metric. This might seem trivial, but frankly I'd be surprised to see a US printing. Try a mail order or internet-based Canadian or British bookseller.

Copyright © 2001 Hank Luttrell

Hank Luttrell has reviewed science fiction for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo Award and is currently a bookseller in Madison, Wisconsin.

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