Cookbooks written by big cheeses are hardly new. Vincent Price, an avid world traveler, penned "A Treasury of Great Recipes" with his wife, Mary, in 1965. It could pass for a coffee-table book, with gold-edged pages, eye-popping photos, menus from across the globe and a boatload of wonderful recipes.
But the releases were a mere trickle until the early 1990s, when baby-boomer nostalgia fueled a cottage industry of cookbooks pegged to old TV shows and movies. Sarah Key produced books themed to "I Love Lucy," "Some Like It Hot," "The Wizard of Oz" and others. Particularly popular were books based on Southern icons such as Elvis Presley ("Are You Hungry Tonight?" and "All Cooked Up," the latter by cousin Donna Presley) and Andy Griffith (no fewer than four books -- by two authors -- with character Aunt Bee on their covers, with recipes such as Gomer's Banana Bread Pyle).
Occasionally such releases were written by actors who appeared in the series: Kasey Rogers (Louise Tate from "Bewitched"), Ann B. Davis (Alice on "The Brady Bunch") and Ethan Phillips (Neelix on "Star Trek: Voyager"). Klingon Skull Stew With Tripe, anyone?
The late 1990s brought the onset of the cookbook-cum-memoir from Sophia Loren and Naomi Judd; that remains a preferred format for the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Mo'Nique. Meanwhile, former sitcom stars Suzanne Somers and Marilu Henner wrote well-received health-themed cookbooks.
Men soon entered the field, with Al Roker's pre-gastric-bypass "Al Roker's Big Bad Book of Barbecue" and Ted Nugent's "Kill It and Grill It."
The inevitable result: "Cookin' With Coolio," which sublimates none of the rapper's misogynist stage persona, with a segment titled "Pimpin' the Poultry" and "dime bags" substituted for teaspoons as a measurement.
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643