Cookbooks make holiday great gifts, especially if they're selected with the personality of the recipient in mind. A Food Network cookbook can appeal to anyone, and is hence, a lousy gift, while something like The Official Three Stooges Cookbook or The Ethnic Vegetarian will win you major thoughtfulness points. Here are a few hand-picked goodies -- perhaps one will be perfect for the oddball in your life.
For the historical re-enactor:
Festive Feasts Cookbook by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson
Everything you need to craft ten themed period dinner parties, including a meal at the court of Lucrezia Borgia, a banquet with the Mughal Emperor, or dinner with Queen Elizabeth I. Published by the British Museum, the illustrations are exquisite.
For the surrealist:
The Futurist Cookbook by F.T. Marinetti
At once a manifesto and an epic joke, the meals formulated by "Futurist Aeropoet" Marinetti lean more towards revolutionizing pre-Fascist Italy than the table. At least 2/3 of the introduction is a rant against pasta, but the menus themselves are something to see: the Extremist Banquet, the Heroic Winter Dinner, and the Declaration of Love Dinner, in which the courses are named for the stages of a seduction. Hot stuff.
For the lover of kitsch:
Liberace Cooks!: Hundreds of Delicious Recipes for You from His Seven Dining Rooms as told to Carol Truax
When Carol Truax asked Liberace, "What do you do with seven dining rooms?" Liberace replied, "Come to Hollywood, and I'll show you." The book is divided into sections, each including recipes that would be appropriately served in one of Lee's dining rooms: the club room, the terrace, the formal dining room, or even in the television room. The recipes will make you wish you could have been a fly on the serving dish at one of Liberace's cookouts on the loggia or heaping a plate at one of his Vegas-style buffet dinners. However, my favorite is the "Do It Yourself and Eat It Yourself" chapter, which is bachelor cooking at its most refined. We mere mortals would consider these dishes the makings of a fine brunch, while Liberace probably just whipped them up for himself and ate them over the stove.
Bon appetit! More to follow...