The Real Reason You're Seeing So Many Pop Culture Cookbooks

The cookbook section of your local bookstore, in many ways, resembles a who's who of Hollywood. Everywhere you cast your gaze, you are likely to spot a recipe collection based on a motion picture, popular TV series, or video game. The selection is mind-blowing. Fans of animation will enjoy offerings related to "The Simpsons" or "Bob's Burgers;" gamers will likely enjoy those inspired by World of Warcraft or Destiny; and sitcom addicts will gravitate towards books memorializing "Friends," "Frasier," and one designed for "Schitt's Creek" fans. But wait! Don't finish your shopping list yet. There's more. 

Movie lovers will enjoy cookbooks from "The Godfather," "Back to the Future," "Harry Potter" and "Star Trek." Does anyone actually know what the Romulan eat? Hypable claims that Tim Burton aficionados will be thrilled about "The Nightmare Before Dinner," a highly collectible book that features recipes related to "Beetlejuice," "James and the Giant Peach," and more. And Variety recommends one inspired by "Alien" that includes recipes for "avocado Zenomorph eggs and chicken facehugger cordon bleu" — two dishes that every chef should have in their repertoire, of course. 

Why are so many cookbook publishers deciding to dabble in the pop culture realm, investing time and money in offerings that would appear to have a more limited fan base than ones dedicated to broad topics like meat or pasta? It turns out these publishing houses have several good reasons for opting for these movie and television-centric titles, some of which may surprise you. 

Pop culture cookbooks help people escape

Why are pop culture-inspired cookbook joining the leagues of standards by Julia Child, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Irma S. Rombauer? One reason is that the world is becoming an increasingly scary and stressful place, prompting many to develop methods of "escape." Renowned pop culture cookbook author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel told The New York Times that these offerings provide fans with "a big way, a new and tangible way, of connecting with a world that they love," making them a viable way to temporarily abandon this reality and delve into a preferred one. Who hasn't dreamt of hanging out in "The Golden Girls" kitchen or with the folk downstairs from "Downton Abbey?" 

Thanks to the pandemic and stay-home mandates, the cookbook industry experienced a 42% increase in sales (via The Takeout). Everyone was cooking at home much more than before and they were watching a lot more TV and movies. When someone truly falls in love with a show, its world, and its characters, a cookbook is a perfect way to revisit it in a whole new way. Yes, not only will you be able to see Jerry Seinfeld's apartment and listen to the characters interact, but you will also be able to taste the Big Salad or the Black & White cookie. Like The New York Times says, cookbooks delve deeply into the world of the movie, game, or show, which enables fans to further immerse themselves in a fictional realm.  

The pop culture cookbook is becoming a robust genre

For another possible explanation, we need to look at the Millennials. Hypable explains that when this generation finds a show, movie, or video game that they love, they will try to make it a part of their lives in a myriad of ways, including through pop culture cookbooks. These books are more than just collectibles: They are a way for fans to connect more deeply with something they enjoy. 

There are those, admittedly, who will simply buy the book because they are collectors of certain memorabilia. A Senior Editor from Insight Editions shares with The New York Times that some pop culture cookbook buyers will make the purchase to host a themed viewing party. 

One fact remains. With publishing companies dedicated specifically to this book genre and large publishing houses creating pop culture cookbook-oriented divisions, fans will see more and more offerings hitting shelves. Yes, it's an exciting time to be both a pop culture addict and a foodie. With a new Seinfeld-based cookbook set to launch this fall, an upcoming one dedicated to "Emily In Paris," and the recent release of a "Parks and Recreation" collection, there promises to be a pop culture culinary how-to for every fan coming to bookstore near you.