Words: Shamim de Brún
The Simpson’s is the longest-running animated sitcom in the world, with the show gearing up to air season 34 this month. Now there’s even a Simpson’s Cookbook.
The Simpson’s have a much documented special place in Irish hearts. I’m sure no RTE exec ever expected that putting the satirical cartoon after the news every day would change the face of Ireland, but it did. We can credit the internet and, more specifically, Irish Simpson’s Fanpage on Facebook for exposing how deeply ingrained the Simpson’s is in Irish culture. Especially millennial Irish culture.
The founder of ISF, Jack Leahy, worked for the Union of Students in Ireland when he posted a joke in a British Simpson’s group about establishing Irish sovereignty through the setting up and Irish version. From there, he found other USI mates to set it up, and it grew.
What it exposed in us was that we have spent most of our lives looking at current affairs through the prism of Simpson’s references without even noticing it. Yet, we as a nation knew we could count on The Simpson’s to provide a solid thirty minutes of truth, righteous anger, hypocrisies deflated, injustices revealed, belly laughter and food.
“Ireland as a whole has that same love for the show as I did,” said Laurel Randolph, author of Joy of Cooking Milhouse: The Unofficial Simpson’s Cookbook, which had its European publication celebration with a pop-up in Hen’s Teeth.
Since the show first aired in 1987, The Simpson’s have concocted its recognisable food brands, ranging from Krusty Burgers, to Marge’s Happy Cracker Snack Platter, to Apu’s Squishees from the Kwik-E-Mart.
Apart from politics, food is one of the most common themes in the Simpson’s. There are many characters motivated by food, Homer being the most obvious. While there are many books written about the political impact of the Simpson’s, this is, as far as I’m aware, the first cookbook: The Unofficial Simpson’s Cookbook.
Named for the cookbook Edna Krabappel owns when the teachers of Springfield Elementary School start eating their students, the premise of Laurel Randolph is simple: the show contains countless dishes, recipes, and general foodstuffs, and Laurel does her best to recreate some of them. She picks a classic episode and cooks up a featured food item, sometimes making an edible/drinkable version if the original is “super gross”. I’m looking at you, Moon Waffles.
This imaginative cookbook gives the reader all the tools to recreate Marge’s pork chops, a Flaming Homer (not a Flaming Moe), the Cookie Colossus macadamia cookie and more.
We sat with the author Laurel Randolph ahead of the Hen’s Teeth pop-up last weekend to talk about the book itself and all things Simpson’s. Laurel is a writer, recipe developer, editor, and crafty person. She writes and edits for many different publications and clients, has written four cookbooks, and makes recipe zines. But she is most well known for her Instagram, JoyofCookingMilhouse, from which this book takes its name.
For two glorious years, she wrote a monthly column for Paste Magazine called Cooking The Simpson’s. Each article featured a recipe from a classic Simpson’s episode. The idea for the column that became a blog before evolving into its final book form, though, came much earlier.
After Laurel wrote her first cookbook in 2016, she nabbed an agent who asked her what her dream project would look like? “And the dream project was doing a Simpson’s cookbook” because she, like us, had “watched the show as a kid when the early seasons aired, every day on TV, and kept watching it” throughout her life.
Once she and her agent were in a position to pitch it as a book, they met with Disney publishing. Disney, as we know, bought Fox and bought the Simpson’s. While everyone at Disney was charming to Laurel, they couldn’t make it happen. So her agent and I went to Simon and Schuster, who had done some unofficial books, and they were game. Laurel describes this as “really awesome” because it meant she “had a lot more freedom” to make the book she wanted. As origin stories go, it’s got a great ark.
The book is as much a joy to read as watching the Simpson’s or reading ISF posts. It appeals to any Simpson fans’ sense of self and nostalgia. Laurel has received much positive feedback from fans in Ireland and further afield.
The book is such a perfect thing for a real fan of the show. Laurel wrote it as a fan. “It’s very much from a place of love, and all their inside jokes are there”. Between that and the food she picked, it’s just it’s really just for fans.
Considering this was a fan book, it has a great tone of voice that is very clearly Laurels. She is still as enamoured with the Simpson’s as she was before embarking on this journey. She hedges her bets when you try to pull a favourite from her. Because favourites change depending on your mood when you love all your concoctions equally.
When pressed, though, she picks two. Bart’s Manhattan; because “it’s a perfect Manhattan”. And The Big Pile of Brownies because she is particularly “proud of that brownie recipe. It’s just really solid, and it makes like thirty brownies, which is ridiculous. But really great for a party”.
Choosing the ins and outs from a world that so includes food was supremely difficult. Laurel confesses she had “this gigantic spreadsheet. That’s just through season 12. It doesn’t even go that far. Of like rejects that didn’t make it in the book”. She says she doesn’t get a ton of complaints about things that didn’t make it in. But every once in a while, people will come up with a “Why is this not in there?”. And the truth of it is she had to cut it off somewhere.
A recipe she wishes she could have included is Pinchy the Lobster. “It would have just been a boiled lobster which is not that interesting… It would have been a fun reference. But I can’t see anybody actually making this going and buying a lobster, befriending it for a week and then cooking it. So”
On the other end of the scale, some of the show’s foods were just plain unincludable; “Although it is pretty iconic and there’s no crab juice, obviously. Because that’s just gross”. That you can’t argue with.
The book features recipes for Bart’s America Balls, Lisa’s Chocolate-Cherry Experiment Cupcakes, Forbidden Doughnuts (as seen in episode ‘Treehouse of Horror IV’ in season five), Hot Fudge Sundaes with Tequila Ice Cream, and even Flanders’s Planter’s Punch. Each recipe you find in the compact cookbook illicit an “ohmigod, remember that episode”.
As a cookbook, it’s technically very clear. The language is approachable, and the tone is relatable. It’s a great book to lean into cooking with. But it also has some more advanced recipes for the keen cooks among us. As an experience cooking your way through this book is something very few cookbooks on the scene can rival.
The Simpson’s cookbook is retailing for twenty euros and is available from Hen’s Teeth in-store or online.
Elsewhere on CHAR: Mustard is better than ketchup. Fact.