OP: The Gay Cookbook
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Bell, 1965. Hardcover. Very Good in Good jacket.
The early 1960s in the United States saw a loosening of obscenity laws which quickly impacted the visibility of queerness both in public spheres and in media. However, the Stonewall riots, which in many ways marked the beginning of gay civil rights movement, had not yet forced the country into a conversation where the community could be regarded as anything other than anathema and aberrant.
With this context in mind, Lou Rand Hogan (1910–1976; pen name for Louis Randall) was quite revolutionary to produce a cookbook, one not only aimed at gay men, but one that depicted them as happy, domestic, and unabashedly camp. The Gay Cookbook (1965) has since developed serious collector status for its significant place in American history, as well as its humorous nature.
Gay luminaries and contemporaries of Hogan, like James Beard and Craig Claiborne, were shaping food culture in monumental ways, but their sexuality remained an open secret. Beard’s biographer, John Birdsall, makes a point of calling out the many outdoor and grilling cookbooks attributed to the author as a means of making his kitchen prowess as masculine as possible.
Hogan, alternatively, minces no words and swings hard in the other direction. Some chapter titles include: Soup…That Juicy Stuff; The Shell Game: Oysters, Lobsters, Shrimp, and What to Do With Crabs; and What to Do With a Tough Piece of Meat. Throughout, he addresses his audience generically as “ladies,” or more specifically—Mary, Myrtle, Maude. Illustrator David Costain’s recurring character, a slender man, sporting a floral apron and ascot, hip cocked to the side, fortifies the tone. But, to be clear, the recipes are serious and establish a genuine desire to teach and to normalize queer domesticity.
Hogan’s start as a cook on cruise ships might explain the range of cuisines and the bent for fine cooking. You’ll find homey fare like buttermilk fried chicken, spaghetti, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and shortbread, in addition to the showier likes of trout meunière, Spanish hare pie, and flambéed desserts. Helpful—if not cheeky—advice on techniques and ingredients abounds.It is with great pleasure that we offer a copy of this scarce, iconoclastic book. Originally published by small California press Sherbourn, it was taken over by Bell during the same year of publication. Ours is the second Bell printing, Very Good Plus, clean and unmarked, minimally shelfworn, and foxing slightly along the top and fore edges. The illustrated jacket, printed on fairly flimsy stock, is heavily chipped along the flap folds. They remain attached, but we have placed it in a mylar sleeve to prevent further deterioration.