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All booked for the holidays
As confused cries of “Merry Chanukah!” and “Feliz Christmas!” ring out across the land, the season of gift-giving is upon us. Thankfully, two magical offerings will make the season a festive one, regardless of whether it’s for the silent night, eight crazy nights, or seven days for seven principles.
For the first, let us examine the holiday cookbook to end all holiday cookbooks. Seriously, nobody needs another recipe for fruitcake.
Frank DeCaro’s Dead Celebrity Cookbook was a hit--funny, informative, bitchy, and gayer than Martha Stewart, RuPaul and Ellen DeGeneres singing “It’s Raining Men.” (In my mind’s eye, Ellen is looking upward in terror, RuPaul is behaving completely normally, and Martha is grinning salaciously.) Fantastic recipes mixed with film history and gossip is a winning package.
That begged the question, what should the talented Mr. DeCaro do for a follow-up? Obviously, a holiday version, hence The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown (HCI, $14.95, trade paperback), a look a holiday favorite movies and television shows, with recipes from many of the actors who appeared in them. It’s a Wonderful Life provides the theme for the chapter “It’s a Wonderful Lunch,” for instance, with recipes from Beulah Bondi, Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore and Donna Reed, while “Miracle Whip on 34th Street” needs no explanation.
DeCaro is not content to leave it with the big-named Christmas films, though. He also has a couple chapters dealing with holiday cartoons, from How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. How else, pray tell, would you get a Boris Karloff recipe in a Christmas-themed cookbook?
One might think that this would only be appropriate as a Christmas gift; what, you might ask, about those requiring a Chanukah present, or a book for Kwanzaa? Well, despite mentioning a slew of African American actors and singers, only two have recipes in the book: Eartha Kitt and Nat King Cole, in the chapter on Christmas songs. However, there are Jews aplenty, as might be expected in a book about Hollywood, from Thelma Ritter and Danny Kaye to Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman; the latter two are in there for their appearance in the Star Wars Holiday Special.
While it would be hard to compete with the sheer . . . gayness of Christmas in Tinseltown, Justin Hall’s No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics (Fantagraphics, $35, hardcover) might be one of the few books that can.
“I set out to make No Straight Lines the definitive anthology of queer comics. In the most profound sense, I failed,” Hall writes in the editor’s note that opens the book. “The world of LGBTQ cartooning is even richer and deeper than I could have imagined at the beginning of the long process it took to produce this book. The more I dig into this material, the more I continue to uncover.”
It might not be definitive, but it is definitely a magnum opus. Considering that he, for the most part, did not excerpt pieces from larger narratives, left out the straight-up porn comics and only deals with the West, it still clocks in at 300 pages of awesomeness. He limited his selections to those with historical, artistic and representational merit, and broke it up into epochs. Obviously, some artists exist in more than one era; Roberta Gregory, for instance, is in the first chapter, “Comics Come Out,” as well as in the second, “File Under Queer,” which deals with the 1980s and ’90s.
Everyone gets fair representation, and many writers get more than one piece; Alison Bechdel’s selections could go on forever, but Hall limited her to three strips.
The final chapter, “A New Millennium,” deals with a lot of transgender issues and has a good number of webcomics, reflecting the changing face of the LGBTQ community and the technology available.
It is, quite simply, a fantastic anthology, and the fact that it was released by one of the biggest names in independent comics is worthy of note. Fantagraphics is definitely one of the three most notable publishers of indie comics, perhaps the most notable, and they have proven again that they support the LGBT community, and not just in the holiday season.
Garland’s Ham Casserole
4 cups ground cooked ham
2 cups cooked rice
½ cup heavy cream
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons diced green pepper
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup sherry wine
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon paprika
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the ham, rice, cream, eggs, tomatoes, peppers, onion, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and sherry.
Mix well and transfer to a greased two-quart casserole dish.
Mix the bread crumbs, melted butter, and paprika, and sprinkle on top of the ham mixture.
Bake 45 minutes.
--from The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown by Frank DeCaro.