Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review: Manifold Destiny

Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine! by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller. Simon and Schuster, 2008, 147 pages, $14.00 US.

A guest review by my wife!

Brief overview of content:

Let’s say that your children behave atrociously in restaurants, but you’d still like a hot meal now and then during a long day on the road. Or, let’s say that the zombie apocalypse has come, and restaurants are death traps, but you still have access to a car and gasoline (a la Zombieland). In either of those cases, Manifold Destiny may have the answer for you. This book teaches you how to cook using the heat from your car’s manifold. Yes, under the hood.

Author overview:

From the back of the book: “Nearly twenty years ago, Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller opened the world’s eyes to the beauty of car-engine gastronomy in the original Manifold Destiny.”

“Maynard and Scheller are pioneers in the utilization of alternative fuel sources. Writing about their car-cookery twenty years ago for People magazine jump-started my food-writing career.” - Alan Richman, food and wine critic.


1. Read cover to cover vs. consult as needed.

This is readable cover to cover, since it’s a very short book - but you can certainly get the idea from reading the intro and the recipes that sound intriguing to you.

2. Readability.

The book is intended to be both humorous and practical. The authors have a fine sense of the ridiculous nature of their topic. For instance, the book contains many drawings of how to wrap food in foil and wedge it into your engine. In these drawings not only are the engine components labeled (fuel-injector housing, etc) but so are the hands that are tucking the food into the engine. The book also contains recipes “customized” for various cars and driving locations - mainly providing the authors an opportunity to add various regional and automotive jokes.

3. Helpful to a parent?

If you want to warm up hot dogs while on a tour of Yellowstone, this book can tell you how. However, if the very idea of wedging foil-wrapped anything under the hood of your car causes your blood pressure to rise, then you’ll want to take a pass.

4. Did we use it?

Although our little zombie overlords are very poorly behaved in restaurants, we must confess that we are not comfortable with the chance that we’ll destroy our car’s engine with a poorly placed foil package of couscous. How could we possibly confess our sin to our mechanic? However, our zombie grandparents have tried this technique and report that they enjoyed an excellent fish and rice dinner in an I-95 rest stop.

Sample text

“Consider the phantom 1920s Rolls-Royce, a car we heard about from a curbside well-wisher in Manitou Springs, Colorado, when we stopped for lunch during the big rally. This guy was watching us conduct a fuel-injector-housing foil-cone test (while at lunch, plan for dinner), and told us that he had heard of a Jazz Age Rolls that had had a little oven cast right into the engine block. A special touring model, he said it was. Did this wonderful car ever exist? And if it did, was it one of a kind or an extremely limited-production model? Why wouldn’t the PR people at Rolls talk with us when we called them? Why, if what they were trying to come up with was a Toyota-style bun warmer, didn’t they call this edition a Buns-Royce? Why would they do that, when “Buns-Royce” sounds like a dancer at Chippendales? Why is there being rather than nothingness? Ask questions. It’s the only way you’ll learn anything.” [p. 24-25]

Don't wind up like Mad Max, eating dog food from a can! What a terrible way to spend the zombie apocalypse:

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