The latest Peanuts cookbook, Peanuts Lunch Bag Cookbook, is another hardcover from the same folks who brought us the Peanuts Family Cookbook, and as with that one, this is a physically lovely item. Dozens of recipes with sometimes goofily Peanuts-y names, each accompanied with a relevant daily strip. On the facing page from each recipe is a larger Peanuts image – sometimes a Sunday page, sometimes a very enlarged art from a panel of the strip, sometimes some non-Schulz art. Some of the non-Schulz art is original to the this book, while other pieces are swiped from places like covers to the Kaboom! comic books, again showing that there is now a healthy set of post-Schulz art to select from. (There’s one Schulz illo that was originally in the program for one of Bing Crosby’s Pro-Am golf tournaments, for a somewhat deep cut… although we’ve seen it in Peanuts books before.)
One thing this aesthetic doesn’t allow, however, is pictures of the food. This is less than optimum for a cookbook, since sometimes a good photo of the end result can help you understand what you’re making. For things like Charlie Brown’s Fruit Kites, where you’re supposed to cut them into a particular shape, this is a genuine shortcoming.
Now, the timing on this book is bad. Its focus is “packable snacks, sandwiches, & tasty treats”, and it arrives at a time when so many fewer people will be away from home at lunchtime. Many kids (mine included) are remote schooling from home (as are my kids, I’m glad to say); many adults are working remotely (as is my wife, I’m also glad to say…. but between everything, i do miss having the house to myself during the days.)
For items designed to make something to bring along, it doesn’t aim that much at simplicity. It’s not that the recipes look difficult to construct (I’ve not tried making any of ’em), but the effort can still look substantial. When there’s a requirement for 17 ingredients, as one recipes has, just rounding them up and measuring them out will take a significant amount of time. And some of the items are things that…. well, I won’t speak for you, but I know for me I’m not apt to have chutney or black forest ham on hand.
One thing that made me happy: remember back in January, when I noted an appearance in the strip of a character who looked a lot like Dolores, the Latina character who was created for the film strip? (Of course you do! You memorize my every word! Right? Right??) Well, that strip appears on page 24 of the book, accompanying the recipe for “Playground Sliders” – and on the facing page is an original Robert Pope drawing featuring the characters from that strip. Proto-Dolores lives again!
I appreciate efforts to include representation of a diverse society in Peanuts diverse while still staying ground in Schulz’s work. (Further toward that end, José Peterson gets a new full page image on page 42, as do Milo and the rest of the Goose Eggs on page 90! And there’s another strip with an unnamed dark-skinned lass on page 82.)
An odd touch: a recipe for “Marcie’s Very Healthy™ Cheese & Sprouts Sandwich”. Yes, Marcie does describe her own lunch as “very healthy” in the Sunday strip that appears on the acing page, but one use does not a trademark make. (Also, I question how “very healthy” any sandwich with two ounces of a soft cheese really is!)
All in all, it’s a lovely book, and while it may not be things that are all quick to throw together as the name may suggest, it nonetheless looks like stuff that you could make together with an older child, and some of it sounds quite yummy! (You know, they really should send me free review copies of their books… accompanied by samples from several key recipes. Yes, that would be a good idea indeed!)
Peanuts Lunch Bag Cookbook is available for immediate shipping.