I am an enormous fan of the sketch comedy “Portlandia,” so I knew when I saw the cook book that I had to snap it up. As a comedy book, which, if you’ve been reading for awhile, you know I love, it knocks it out of the park. As a cookbook, well, it’s just okay.
As with almost any themed cookbook, I would only recommend this book to Portlandia fans (or maybe even superfans, but in my experience, you either love the show or you hate it). Fans will delight in the illustrations and inside jokes scattered throughout the book (the “fart patio this way” sign pictured on a page with online reviews by Malcolm and Kris is one of my personal favorites). The Portlandia aficionado will also notice their favorite characters’ photographs on almost every page (again, interjecting my personal favorites here: I had to wait all the way until the last section to see Candace and Toni from Women and Women First Bookstore, but it was worth the wait). If you love Portlandia, you will love this book.
So on first flip through, I was so happy to relive the show’s glory on each page. But on second flip through, I began to try to read the book as I would any other cook book, and I noticed that the recipes were less than fabulous. There were a few recipes that sounded good (like the chicken tortilla soup), but for all of them I marked, I already had an almost identical recipe in my repertoire. Also, as I’ve acknowledged in other cookbook reviews, I’m a pretty low-maintenance cook, so even recipes that might be great but are high prep, like the borscht with pickles, eggs and horseradish cream, get a solid “no” from me.
So as I realized that the cookbook wasn’t a great fit for me in the kitchen, I was pretty disappointed because I really wanted to review this book for you all, dear readers, but I felt strange reviewing a cookbook without actually trying one of the recipes. But then I reasoned that this book actually really does work for me, but just not as a cookbook. For me, the experience of reading The Portlandia Cookbook was almost like flipping through a catalog, but for comedy instead of Ikea stuff. It was enjoyable, easy and fast. I’ll definitely keep it around – just probably not in my kitchen.