The Darkover Cookbook

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Title: The Darkover Cookbook
Publisher: Thendara House (it is labeled "Thendara House Publication # 1," the 1979 revision is "1-b")
Editor(s): Marion Zimmer Bradley "with the assistance and interest of Bjo Trimble, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Devra Langsam," and Friends of Darkover
Date(s): July 1977, last revised in May 1979
Medium: print
Fandom: Darkover
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
cover by Diana L. Paxson

The Darkover Cookbook was the second publication of Thendara House.

The original edition contains 19 pages. The May 1979 edition contains 25 pages and more content.

The first ads mentioned Tracy Blackstone as the main compiler of this zine, but this name is left off of the actual cookbook, which lists Marion Zimmer Bradley with the assistance of Bjo Trimble, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Devra Langsam, and Walter Breen. From the introduction: "Most of these recipes I worked out for myself; every one of them has been tested and cooked, either by me, or by someone whose intelligence I trust (Thank you, Bjo and Devra.) Therefore, I invite you to try them for yourself. It is taken for granted that all ingredients have been converted into Terran equivalents; blackfruit, or the hindquarters of a rabbithorn, are not commonly available on Terra in the 20th century."

The front cover and interior illustrations are by Diana L. Paxson.

From a later flyer: "These recipes have all been tested using the nearest Terran equivalent to the foods of Darkover, and even if you don't like to cook, the chat ABOUT food is entertaining to anyone who loves to eat. (And don't we all!)"

Table of Contents: Original Edition

  • Introduction by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1)
  • Breads (Amazon Festival Cake; Winter Festival Spicebread; Darkovan Nut Muffins; Digger Bread) (4)
  • Porridges and How to Serve Them (8)
  • Sauces for Grains and Porridges (9)
  • Meats and Main Dishes (Heart and Marrowbones of the Chervine, a reindeer like milk animal also used for riding; the oudhraki and makes good soup. Terrans, however, should substitute beef heart (sliced) and beef marrow bones. Fried Fowl, Vegetable Stew, Jaco) (10)
  • Beverages for a Cold Day on Darkover (14)
  • Dissertation on Darkovan Cooking by Bjo Trimble (15)
  • Disquistion of Darkovan Foods Available and Otherwise by Devra Langsam (17)
  • Some Special Recipes for High Festivals by Devra Langsam and Walter Breen (18)

Table of Contents: Revised Edition

  • Introduction, Marion Zimmer Bradley (1)
  • Breads, etc (4)
  • Porridges and Sauces 11 Meats and Main Dishes (13)
  • Beverages for a Cold Day on Darkover (18)
  • Dissertation on Darkovan Cooking, Bjo Trimble (20)
  • Disquisition of Darkovan foods available and otherwise, Devra Langsam (22)
  • Some Special Recipes for High Festivals, Devra Langsam, Walter Breen (23)

Individual Recipe Contents: Revised Edition

  • Darkovan Daily Bread by Marion Zimmer Bradley (4)
  • Nevarsin Monastery Bread, created by Bradley's brother Don ("...My brother Don, a Darkover fan, and a notable cook in his own right, discovered this bread by accident one day when he forgot a bowl of rye-dough sponge that he had put to rise. It is tender when thinly sliced, and has a wonderful "primitive" taste and feel.") (5)
  • Digger Bread, submitted by John and Bjo Trimble ("...served freely to all comers at the early Be-ins in Berkeley by the "Diggers", a commune given to such corporal works: of mercy, during the 1967 overflow of Flower Children and Street People, as feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Later it was served at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire (this was the year when the Society for Creative Anachronism had a booth there) and the recipe was widely given out...") (5)
  • Amazon Festival Cake by Marion Zimmer Bradley ("This recipe is a favorite; it is my own invention, and I have served it many times at meetings of the Thendara Council. I suspect this recipe began its life as a variant of Irish soda-bread, which probably originated in Scotland anyway, and is therefore quite workable for descendants of the New Hebrides Commune.") (6)
  • Winter Festival Spicebread, no attribution (7)
  • Darkovan Nut Muffins, no attribution (7)
  • No-Knead Oatmeal Bread, Suzanne Townes (8)
  • Spinach Bread, Adrienne Barnes (8)
  • Raw Apple Bread, Vernette Williams (9)
  • Knakebrod, Vernette Williams (9)
  • Brewbread, Lee Newman Roberts (9)
  • Fungus Cakes, Gwen Nichols (9)
  • Yeast Rye Bread, Suzanne Townes (10)
  • Wheat & Grit Hi-Protein Bread, Lynn Gibbs (10)
  • New Skye Staple, Frank Lee Linne (10)
  • a long narrative recipe for a variety of grain porridges, Marion Zimmer Bradley (11)
  • Vegetable Sauce, no attribution (12)
  • "Sharpe" Sauce, no attribution (12)
  • Boiled Grains and Sauce, Daphne Ann Hamilton ("This must be well-cooked and well-chewed.") (13)
  • a long, narrative recipe for homemade soup, appears to be by Bradley, who expresses her dislike of canned Campbell's soup (14)
  • Fried Fowl, Bradley ("Sometimes at a party I get large numbers of drumsticks and wings -- or if I am serving large numbers of children, all of whom want the drumstick!") (15)
  • Vegetable Stew, , no attribution but assumably by Bradley, includes frozen hash brown potatoes, canned tomato juice or V-8 juice, lentils, and cinnamon (15)
  • Stew Simplicissimus, "The Easiest of All Stews," no attribution (15)
  • some other un-named stew recipes, one of them a"a good old Depression-days stew which is cheap and extremely edible, but it needs wither artful seasoning or hunger sauce... is is great on a day when the cupboard is almost bare and you have three hundred firefighters (or, to be more realistic, a half dozen fans coming to collate a fanzine) dropping in and you have to feed than.) (15-16)
  • Fish Dinner, Bradley ("Since no fish had been served in any Darkovan novel so far, I was forced to resort to proverbial expressions to prove the existence of fish in Darkovan diet.") [1] (16)
  • Sausage Meat Pie, Adrienne Barnes (17)
  • Barley Soup, Suzanne Townes (17)
  • Jaco, not attributed, but assumably Bradley (1 teaspoon instant coffee, 2 teaspoons powdered cocoa mix, add hot water, some rum if it's a cold night) (18)
  • Winter Punch, Frank Lee Linne (19)
  • Trin Tea (Lipton's lemon-flavored instant tea, "Tang" (powdered orange drink), and cinnamon) (19)
  • a "hot beer" recipe that someone has speculated was drunk in Left Hand of Darkness: boiling water, tea bags, frozen raspberries, lemons, a lot of sugar, some red wine -- it is emphasized that both the wine and the tea should be as cheap as possible) (21)
  • some commentary on bark tea, and how to alter store-bought teas to taste more Darkovan (21)
  • Bjo Trimble has a short essay on imagined Darkovan foods, and includes a recipe for sauerkraut salad (21)
  • . an extensive list of foods that could be or not be grown on Darkover, Devra Langsam (22)
  • Borscht, Devra Langsam (23)
  • Rich Cheese Cake, Devra Langsam (23)
  • Charosis, Devra Langsam (23)
  • Roast Rainbird with Stuffing, Walter Breen (24)
  • Rabbithorn With Mushrooms, Walter Breen ("Skin rabbit horn and remove fangs, poison gland under tail...") (24)
  • substitute ingredients for white sugar, Suzanne Townes (25)
  • Nevarsin Freeze, Martin Dennison (25)
  • Drytown Sherbit, Devra Langsam (This is a cold drink with vinegar, like a shrub -- not a frozen thing) (25)
  • A Caudele Almaude, Devra Langsam (25)

The Cookbook's Introduction

From the May 1979 edition:

Those who have special interests are likely to see all of human history in terms of their own specialties. My husband Walter Breen, who is one of America's most renowned numismatists, once told me that the history of what humans used for money accurately reflected and detailed the level of culture that particular civilization had reached; and I remember once sitting with Adrienne Martine while she wrote a speech purporting to prove (and, for all I know, really proving) that one could index the level of a civilization by the materials, construction and style of the clothing worn within that culture. (It was this theory which prompted our first publication, the booklet by Diana L. Paxson, COSTUME AND CLOTHING AS A CULTURAL INDEX ON DARKOVER.) [2]

I imagine an introspective plumber — if there are any; so far I've never met one who could see very far over the rim of a stopped-up sink — could make an excellent case for the notion that a civilization's plumbing adequately indexes its level of culture. Scientists define civilization by the level of technology which a culture has rectched —in fact, there are those who identify civilization as eqgivalent to technology, though I would not call these people scientists, but technocrats — and it was such a theory, on the lips of Lester Del Rey, which I was attempting to expose, and perhaps refute, in my novel DARKOVER LANDFALL

[snipped: quotes Rex Stout, expands on ideas about world building and food, Ursula Le Guin and food in the book Left Hand of Darkness, availability of food and protein.]

But I did not begin seriously thinking about Darkovan foods and cooking until one year —I think it was 1973— when we were living in an itty-bitty rented house, which forced us to put half our furniture and most of our books in storage, and we simply COULD NOT find room for an office for both Walter and myself. As a result, I rented a basement room for an office down on McGee Street in Berkeley, went there as soon as the kids went off to school in the morning, and stayed there until school was out. There were no cooking or refrigeration facilities, and I therefore kept my favorite snacks (the healthy kind, not the party-munchie kind) in the office for lunches, rather than going out to a local Greasy Spoon or sandwich shop. I usually wound up lunching off a small sack of nuts/seeds/ dried fruits/raisins, or macrobiotic rice cakes with Deaf Smith peanut butter (that's the real peanut butter, with no crisco in it, just peanuts and salt) with, sometimes, a carton of yogurt on the side. At the time I was writing SPELL SWORD, and it occurred to me that some variety of hardtack, with nut butter of some sort, would be an ideal food for storage in bad weather as emergency rations, and I promptly wrote it into the book.


In general, however, my guidelines for Darkovan food (After 1968 or so I say nothing about what I may have suggested in the early books, which, whatever their print dates^ were largely juvenilia) were quite single; What would grow in a cold climate of this kind? My usual test for whether or not it could be served on Darkover has been; would it grow in, say, Scandinavia, Russia or the Scottish Highlands? If so, I assume it would grow in the Domains, if not in the farthest part of the Hellers. Thus wheat is quite possible, as is buckwheat (the source for kasha) since the Ukraine is the breadbasket of all the Russias; also the hardier triticale, developed for the shorter growing season of Northern Canada.


I never claimed that the Darkover books were hard-line scienc;e fiction, and if Frank Herbert can endow his Fremen on Arrakis with a passion for coffee (a plant of tropical rainforests) we can postulate some native spices even on the chilly mountain slopes of Darkover. We'll call it artistic license.


And I offer no excuse for the fact that jaco, the traditional Darkovan beverage served near the spaceport, tastes like coffee and chocolate mixed. In my artistic innocence, when, as a girl just out of my teens, living in Texas (a gourmet's nightmare) I invented this "exotic beverage," I did so in blissful ignorance that a nvunber of variations had already been invented on the basic theme of mocha; since moving to the West Coast and discovering coffeehouses which serve these brews, I drink them with a naive and secret pleasure — akin, I suppose, to the mathematician in rural India who independently rediscovered logarithms—as if I were ordering my own personal Darkovan brew...

Childish? Of course. Why not? There is something of the kid, I suppose, in every writer, and most readers of science fiction —unless, that is, he or she is writing works of Serious Social Significance. But where, outside of Science Fiction, can I invent my own world, and get someone to live in it with me for a while? I'm too old to go out in the barn, as I did with my friend Nancy when I was a kid, and dress up as imaginary characters out of our own books, and "pretend." But —SFWA members ignore this if they wish —I still wish, sometimes, that I wasn't too old to do just that! And this is the best way I can do it now. So I invite you to cook, and to eat, some of these recipes. And if you want to pretend you're on Darkover while you eat them — well, I won't tell!

Long Time in the Making, In the Waiting

It was first offered for sale in March 1976 in the first issue of Darkover Newsletter. Fans who sent their money in at that time had to wait over a year to get this publication, as it wasn't published until over a year later.

From a March 1976 ad:

Our second publication, the DARKOVER COOK BOOK, will consist of every food mentioned in the first ten Darkover novels, with recipes to match, compiled by Tracy Blackstone, MZB, and others. We are marketing this one together with Marion Bradley's THE WHITE KNIGHT'S COOK BOOK, a collection of recipes guaranteed to be the strangest you have ever seen. They will be a dollar apiece after publication, but before May 1st can be ordered for $1.50 for the two cook books. Send money to the Friends of Darkover, Box 472, Berkeley CA 94701.

Some August 1976 comments by MZB:

The cookbooks are really finished now, and camera ready copy is beind typed/illustrations prepared RIGHT NOW, as you read this. The illustrations to THE WHITE KNIGHT"S COOK BOOK are being done by Diana Paxson, who did our "Costume and Clothing" leaflet. If you have ordered these books and don't recieve them soon, (say by Christmas) please write to remind us. Orders, if you have't already ordered these, are $1.50 for WHITE KNIGHT"S COOKBOOK and $2.00 for the DARKOVER COOKBOOK, which is bigger. [3]

Not so quick: January 1977 comments in Darkover Newsletter:

Yes, despite rumors to the contrary, there IS still a production problem on the cookbooks. Two things kept them from being mailed by Christmas; first, we hesitated to trust them to the Christmas Rush, and second, Diana Paxson, who is doing the graphics, found herself too enmeshed in other projects to complete them. But the camera-ready copy IS being completed, and it's possible that some of you may even receive your cookbooks in the same mail as this newsletter. Or, at least, the White Knight's Cookbook. To whet your appetite -- at a recent get-together of the Thendara Council attended by MZB, Jon de Cles, Walter Breen, Diana Paxson and Tracy Blackstone, MZB brought a Winter Festival Cake prepared by an old Amazon Guild-House recipe, and the unanimous verdict was that it was delicious. This recipe will be in the Darkover Cookbook —but if you still have a Darkovan recipe on your mind, there might still be time to get that one in before the final copy is made up. (Copy is closed on the White Knight's Cookbook.) [4]

Finally? From August 1977, a blurb from Darkover Newsletter, giving those who waited to order it an advantage: Bradley's autograph:

Our first formal publication is the DARKOVER COOKBOOK. All pre-publication orders have already been mailed out, such orders being honored at whatever you paid forth including a couple of early orders at 50¢. If you have not received this COOKBOOK by the time you are reading this Newsletter, write us immediately and MZB will check her records and send you one if you are entitled to it. If you did NOT order and pay for the COOKBOOK in advance of publication, copies are available at $1.50 post paid. (If you want it autographed, you must ask; If you don't ask, your copy will be mailed without autograph.) [5]

But! More waiting, and blame on the post office, in late 1978:

We are (temporarily) sold out of Cook Books, but we have already taken them to the printer and the new print run will be delivered on January 3; we are holding all orders till then. If you have not yet received the Darkover Cook Book you ordered, write us-- the Post Awful may have chewed up your order, or your copy, in its insatiable maw. (I should be more polite about the Postal Service --how could we do business without them? Come to think of it, how in Zandru's nine hells do we manage to do business WITH them?) [added in parenthesis in handwriting by Walter Breen]: "WB answers "Not very well."


  1. ^ The same logic could be applied to including any food in this cookbook.
  2. ^ Most sources list Costume and Clothing as a Cultural Index on Darkover as the second publication of Thendara House, and the cookbook as the first. Perhaps there is confusion regarding this due to a) how long it took to publish the cookbook, b) these comments by Bradley were in the revised cookbook edition, and she is confused. In any case, the cookbook clearly denotes it as "Thendara House Publication #1."
  3. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #2
  4. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #3
  5. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #6