March 30th, 2010


Book Review: The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals

by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

Tachyon Publications (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-89239-192-6

I was extremely excited when I first heard about this book and even more excited when I received a review copy in the mail. I've already raved about the book on our podcast (Galactica Suburbia, Episode 2).  You see, it's a book that I felt desperately needed to be written - if we are to have more Jews in fantasy, we *must* be able to know what foods we can serve them at great celebratory banquets and during quick stops at random inns along the long journey of schlepping to go get the thing from the ganif (thief). Additionally, this book will serve as a really useful guide for my friends when they are planning to invite me to a dinner where they plan to cook an imaginary animal. No more worrying about whether or not I will eat the, uh ...slow roasted manticore or spicy phoenix curry or bbq dragon spare ribs.  What's more, there is no better time to review this book than at Pesach - a time when Jews traditionally are obsessed with what foods they can and can't eat.

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals
is a pocket-sized book cataloguing a variety of imaginary creatures and uses dialogue between Ann and Jeff's evil alter ego, The Evil Monkey, to discuss which animals would be kosher. These discussion are nostalgically reminiscent of various conversations I might have participated in in religious class at school and are also a nod to the kind of rabbinical debates that lead to schools of thought on Jewish laws (like, but in tongue and cheek).

It's a really fun book and made me laugh a lot. I especially enjoyed bits that stretched the concept to include questions like, "can I marry a mermaid?" Sadly though, there is no entry for unicorn - the first creature I of course looked up (my guess is that unicorns would not be kosher, for obvious reasons). But you know, as per the blurb on the front from Bubbe “What use is this? If ever I were to cook one of these, you know you wouldn’t eat it anyway.” Which, is actually true because I'm a vegetarian.

And right now, to mark the release of the book, Tachyon Publications is asking for your kosher cryptozoological recipes:

Do you make a mean chupacabra challah? Are you renowned for your Loch Ness latkes? We want your recipes!
Of course we won’t take your recipes and give you nothing in return. We’ve got prizes, bubala. On April 30 We’ll select the five best recipes and send their authors signed copies of The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals.
When you’re ready, send your recipe to
Visit to learn more about the book and how to submit your recipe.

Chag Sameach

Last night we had our first night seder. This year was kinda tough - a few of us had been to a funeral that day and I personally did not feel all that joyous. Other bad news had also hit the family. So our seder was subdued. And my sister goes into hospital for an operation tomorrow. It's been a tough week.

But our family from Melbourne had flown over and it was lovely to see them. We recounted the Exodus from Egypt. We told the same jokes as we always do and laughed at them because it's *tradition*. And my uncle got annoyed again at the Haggadah that we use - in like 1978, my grandfather went to Israel and whilst he was there, bought the whole family a set of the same Haggadot (this is the book that we use to retell the story and run the seder). And ... well, this book has hilarious typos, bad quality printing so some words are hard to read and it uses ye olde English. So we have a ball using this text. And so my uncle wants to get us a *proper, serious* set to use in the future. My cousins and I, and my sister would have if she'd be in the room and not settling the baby, have sworn a pledge to ALWAYS use this set of Haggadot. No Matter What. It's TRADITION! We have agreed to go rogue and to hold our own underground seder, if that is what it takes! We will not be moved!

The other momentous occasion was that it was my niece's very first seder. That brought us great joy - the object of the seder is to retell the story, specifically for the children, and when there aren't any at the table ... well ... it's just less fun, I reckon. My cousin was glad because soon he will no longer be the youngest and won't have to sing Manishtana anymore. The youngest at the table asks the 4 Questions - Why is this night different from all other nights? And the explanation, as is traditional when you ask a Jew a question, is the the 1 - 2 hour retelling of the story. So our bubby started the seder at the table. And she had a gorgeous bib that said "My first seder" on it and it had 3 matzot on it. It was hilarious!

And that was our seder I guess. Thoughts elsewhere, hearts saddened. But comforted by family.

Wishing everyone a Chag Sameach and/or a Happy Easter.