Make no bones about it. Food is a central theme of "The Hunger Games."
Whether it's Greasy Sae's beef (cough, dog) stew or a basket of District Four's little seaweed bread rolls, there's always some dish up for discussion in the series.
Wisely, Emily Ansara Baines recently released "The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook," which is packed with 150 or so recipes all inspired by some part of "The Hunger Games," with little guides for each to explain the story connection. These recipes range from the expected — like Katniss' favorite Capitol offering, Lamb Stew — to the absolutely bizarre, as with "Grilled Tree Rat with Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce." Chances are, this is the first and last time several of these recipes will ever meet print.
Steering clear of some of the more off-kilter offerings, I decided to try my hand at a few of these. The results were definitely mixed.
First, I attempted the orange chicken recipe, which harkens back to a scene where Cinna encourages Katniss to eat before the Games. For one reason or another, the dish started out okay but went south rather quickly. The call for heavy cream and corn starch made the sauce curdle, and the excessive orange extract yielded far too tangy chicken. Sure, it was edible, but no, it was not good.
I moved on to an easier (or so I thought) staple for attempt two – bread. Tackling "District 11's Crescent Moon Roll with Sesame Seeds," which you may recall from the meadow scene with Rue, seemed like a simple prospect. Again, not so much. Despite our best efforts, the bread was dry and swollen.
Thankfully, dish three turned out pretty well. This was the "Breaded Italian Pork Chops for the Brave" recipe, inspired by the scene in when Haymitch chows down on a pork chop after Katniss recounts her little pig shooting incident with the Gamemakers. The Parmesan and fresh herb rub for the chops hit the spot. As an added touch, they were served with goat cheese smashed potatoes - a little wink to Prim and her goat, Lady.
Finally, no "Hunger Games" cooking experience would be complete without some Peeta cookies. Remember the scene when Peeta's father showed up to wish Katniss goodbye with some butter cookies? Well, I tried the book's recipe for them, and they came out light and tasty. I can just picture Katniss nibbling on these cautiously, wondering what strings came along with the buttery, crisp little treats. For fun, we gave frosting them, District 14-style, a shot.
Hit the gallery above for all the images from my epicurean adventures.
After all of this, I do think "The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook" could be a handy tool for any "Hunger Games"-themed event, but encourage users to approach the orange chicken with caution ... and skip that whole tree rat section altogether.
Amanda Bell is a young adult book-to-film enthusiast and has made a name for herself as a fan-friendly, informative and dependable source. In addition to being the District 14 columnist for NextMovie, she runs the popular Twilight Examiner column. Keep tabs on her on Twitter.