If you, like many food-minded people, spend an inordinate amount of time reading the quarterly food journal Lucky Peach, the devoutly on-trend publication launched in 2011 by Momofuku’s David Chang, Peter Meehan and Chris Ying, then you probably know about the cookbooks that the editors of that journal began giving us last year. If not, you now have something to spatter while you slurp spicy cold noodles at your favorite lunch joint.
The latest cookbook, published a few months ago, is “The Wurst of Lucky Peach” — a cultural cacophony of a read with the slightly Victorian subtitle “a treasury of encased meat.” The book is about sausages, by the way — as “wurst” is both German for sausage as well as the obvious self-referential joke — and it joins the first Lucky Peach cookbook, “101 Easy Asian Recipes,” which came out last fall. (Same publisher; different editor on point.)
Next up, because you’re now likely scoping space on your shelf next to all those Chez Panisse cookbooks, is “Power Vegetables!” (because this comes after a book devoted to sausage? Maybe so!), on sale in mid-October. The fourth in the series is “All About Eggs,” due in April. If this pace seems frenetic, so does the journal, as well as pretty much everything about Lucky Peach; they are reassuringly consistent.
So: The sausage cookbook is silly and learned and hilarious, which shouldn’t surprise you, especially if you binge-read what these folks routinely come up with. The subject is primarily fresh sausages, rather than cured, and the book is simultaneously a miscellany, a highly curated recipe box, a meat survey and a collection of wiener jokes. Which means that, yes, it’s an actual cookbook, with things like Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin’s recipe for duck crépinettes and Australian chef Dan Hong’s mother’s recipe for nem nướng.
There are things like an account of Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson’s unlikely ski-town hot-dog stand and not a few of Ying’s rants — about homemade ketchup (no) and beans in chili (NO). There are also many brief essays, about the mysteries of the Taylor Pork Roll and the pathos of klub, a sausage from the Upper Midwest via Norway, which is described like this: “And then blood klub happened. I just can’t warm up to blood klub.”
If your idea of fun is making merguez from scratch while you read what Noma chef Rene Redzepi thinks about Copenhagen hot dog stands, this is the book for you. It is both highly informative and highly entertaining, with enough inside baseball and pop culture references to keep you on your toes. It’s also irreverent, occasionally self-indulgent and a little profane, but given how boring most cookbooks are, that’s just fine.
Cookbook of the Week: “The Wurst of Lucky Peach” by Chris Ying and the editors of Lucky Peach (Clarkson Potter, $26).