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The Food Stamp Gourmet: For the Coin-Conscious Connoisseur. By William Brown. Illustrated by Greg Irons, Gilbert Shelton, and David Sheridan. San Francisco: Bellerophon Books, 1971. 48p. n.p.


Adults, teens, kids

Although this isn't a graphic novel per se, it has a comix pedigree. Possessed of a decidedly alternative-culture air (for 1971), The Food Stamp Gourmet was written for people with champagne tastes and a beer budget, to borrow a cliche. Brown, a poet by education, "travelled widely and eated [sic] gluttonously around the world" and worked on the Time-Life "Foods of the World" cookbook series. He begins the book with practical discussions of eating cheap, food stamps, utensils to use, definitions of some terms, spices, and how to go shopping.

There are 30 recipes, all meat-based except for one omelette, separated into three sections: one-meal dishes (four servings), two-meal dishes (eight servings), and three-meal dishes (figure it out). There are a couple of fish recipes, but the rest of the recipes deal with beef, chicken, lamb, liver, sausage, and/or pork. The dishes are mostly of French, German, and Italian influence, ranging from coq au vin, French Hamburgers I and II, and Osso Bucco to Pot au Feu, Sauerbraten, Cassoulet, and Lasagna alla Bolognese. A few are the author's original creations, such as "GI's Hungry Visitors' Chicken Breasts," which he created while in the Army ("Yes, I made that mistake") and stationed in a German town with "wretched" food, and "Starving Poets' Pork Chops."

Every recipe is broken into chunks for easy preparation. Each chunk includes a list of the ingredients necessary for that step. All recipes were tested by novices, and according to Brown even the hardest recipes resulted in successful food. Each recipe ends with the per-serving cost, which has probably trebled since 1971 but is still quite low. For example, I estimated the cost of French Hamburgers II (in 1971 prices about 56 cents/burger) to be around $1.50 for a burger these days, not counting buns or side dishes, which is still quite impressively inexpensive--cheaper, tastier, and more substantial than something from your local fast food joint!

The recipes are chatty; this is a fun book to read. What makes me review it here, however, are the illustrations. Three notable comix artists contributed cartoons to every page, as well as the covers. Greg Irons, who did most of the art, was known for such titles as Skull Comix and Slow Death Comics. Gilbert Shelton is famous for the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Wonder Wart-Hog, and Fat Freddy's Cat. I'm not sure what David Sheridan did, but he's described as "an ingenious comic-book illustrator."

The Food Stamp Gourmet was a minor classic of its kind thirty years ago. Today, it's quite out of print. What a shame--the recipes are tasty and varied, the tone is both practical and amusing, and the pictures are wonderful. The book is also a bit of a window into early 1970s counterculture, with its mild "screw the Man" attitude, hippie-type illustrations, and hip low-cost publisher. (If you haven't seen the Bellerophon coloring books, you've missed something special; go check them out at That they're still in business after all these years says a lot for the quality of their product.) Yet the book was embraced by such square publications as Brides Magazine and Women's Wear Daily.

The illustrations are unfailingly whimsical:



 From Pot au Feu.

From Spaghetti alla Carbonara:
the "Maserati-driving
Roman businessman"

Copyright 1971 by Bellerophon Books

Search for it; visit the Bellerophon site and suggest that they reprint it. It's a delightful book. I saw a copy on eBay for $2.99; there must be others out there.

Copyright 2001, D. Aviva Rothschild


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