It’s been very quiet on this blog lately. I have been swamped in work and, seeing as I just got promoted this month, I will probably continue this way until I’ve settled into the new job. This leaves little time for reading, but I did manage to squeeze this gem of Discworld fun into my busy schedule. Oh, Nanny Ogg, how much poorer the world would be without you.
Published by: Corgi, 2001 (1999)
Hardcover: 175 pages
Series: Discworld Companions (after #18)
My rating: 7,5/10
First sentence: We have received another manuscript from Mrs Ogg.
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach which just goes to show they’re as confused about anatomy as they gen’rally are about everything else, unless they’re talking about instructions on how to stab him, in which case a better way is up and under the ribcage. Anyway, we do not live in a perfect world and it is foresighted and useful for a young woman to become proficient in those arts which will keep a weak-willed man from straying. Learning to cook is also useful.
Nanny Ogg, one of Discworld’s most famous witches, here passes on some of her huge collection of tasty and interesting recipes. In addition to such dishes as Nobby’s Mum’s Distressed Pudding, Mrs. Ogg imparts her thoughts on such matters as life, death, and courtship, all in a refined style that should not offend the most delicate of sensibilities. Well, not much. Most of the recipes have been tried out on people who are still alive.
I had known about Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook for a while, being surrounded by Terry Pratchett fans in my internet bookosphere. But until I read Maskerade, I never quite saw the appeal in reading a book of recipes written by a fictional character. Once I had that little background knowledge (and got to know Nanny Ogg in all her glory), this became a must-buy. I found a second hand hardback copy and began reading the day it arrived.
The format allows for quick reading and it doesn’t matter if you only manage to read one recipe on the train or one chapter about etiquette before bed. There is no plot you have to keep in mind, this is just Nanny Ogg’s wisdom as she shares it with the world, complete with misspelled words and her translations of words in “foreign”. The editor’s notes, shown as little post-its, remind us that grammar has been fixed, whenever necessary, and – to my chagrin – all the potentially dirty bits were left out.
The book is divided into two larger parts. The first is Nanny’s collection of recipes, including submissions from friends and famous Discoworld characters. My personal favorite was the Librarian’s recipe for Bananas which goes “Ook.” (and translates to “Take one banana.”). But Lord Vetinari, Rincewind, Sergeant Angua and many more also submitted their favorite meals, and Nanny Ogg – being a woman of the world – dedicates an entire section to dwarf cookery.
My greatest surprise was probably that most of the recipes could actually be made without poisoning anybody. They are, so to speak, Roundworld-friendly. Some recipes, such as the one submitted by the president of the Assassins’ Guild, or anything made for dwarfs, should probably stay in Discworld and only be eaten by someone whose digestive system can process gravel (or arsenic)…
That said, some of the more mundane recipes almost bordered on being boring, if only because of their juxtaposition to hilarious ones. And despite the editor’s best efforts, some innuendoes were left in the book and are easily spotted by those with a slightly filthy mind.
The real joy came in two parts. One is the wonderful illustrations that accompany you throughout the book. Each of these is intricate and lovingly drawn. But they are not just pictures slapped in the margins to show Nanny in her kitchen, they all tell you something about the characters and amused me greatly, even without reading the text.
My second favorite part were Nanny’s lessons about etiquette. She distinguishes between Discworld in general and Lancre culture specifically. Whereas somebody may be knighted in Lancre for managing to make the castle less draughty, in Ankh-Morpork, other rules apply. Nanny mostly gets by with her confidence and warm heart, or in case that doesn’t work, with a nice jug of something alcoholic.
The entire book is infused with her wonderful sense of humour and her love for food and friends and family. There is even an entire section about etiquette with Granny Weatherwax, seeing as she is a rather special person, even for a witch. I particularly enjoyed Nanny’s take on weddings, funerals (“If you go to other people’s funerals they’ll be sure to come to yours.”), and courtship. I swear to the Small Gods that when I grow old, I want to be as cool as Nanny Ogg.
The companion book may not be a must-read, even for Discworld fans, but its design and illustrations are definitely worth looking at. I am very happy to have Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook on my shelf, next to the other Discworld books, and I may even try out one or two of her recipes. If you never hear from me again, you’ll know it was either the blowfish or the one with arsenic…
THE GOOD: Hilarious recipes and advice, fantastic illustrations, Nanny Ogg as she lives and breathes.
THE BAD: I’m a bit mad at the Discworld editors for cutting the interesting bits out.
THE VERDICT: Recommended to Discworld fans and fans of the Witches in particular. If Nanny Ogg doesn’t make you laugh, I don’t think anybody will.
RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good