The Gastronomicon is somewhat unconventional as anthologies go. Whilst Australia is rapidly becoming famous for the quality of the Speculative Fiction it exports, you could be excused for being surprised at the emergence of a cook book not based around barbeques. Nevertheless the Gastronomicon is exactly that.
Well, not quite, it is a cookbook, but it is a Spec-fic anthology too. A production of the Canberra Spec-fic Guild edited by Stuart J Barrow, it contains twenty two recipes and twenty stories. As an enthusiastic cook as well as a prolific reader I was excited by the prospect of this book. The first recipe in all honesty did not seem particularly challenging, and this held true for the majority of the others. One or two catch the imagination, such as Li Kao’s adversity dumplings by Zara Baxter and Jenny and Stuart Barrow’s Kali Dahl but one or two seem to be there just to fill the pages. A recipe for Absinthe and Water? The stories are on the other hand more intriguing.
It is safe to say that the CSFG represents a huge range of talent – which this book demonstrates clearly. The stories are short, all less than 1000 words and they range from the traditional “Kali Dahl” to the downright odd “The Glass Woman”, from the whimsical “A Man Needs Meat” to the serious “Dead Gods”. With almost no exceptions this is a collection of well polished stories by authors who obviously know their trade well. They made me laugh, they made me think and more importantly bearing in mind the name of the book they made me hungry. I’m not sure if it is reflective of Speculative Fiction in Australia but there was a definite flavour of the Orient about a lot of the stories, perhaps it just reflects the taste in food of the group? A number of the authors will I’m sure be around for some time to come and I have a feeling I’m going to be stealing one or two of the recipes. All in all a very worthwhile if somewhat strange collection.
The Gastronomicon is available from the CSFG website – http://www.csfg.org.au/gastronomicon