The food of Harry Potter with cookbook author Dinah Bucholz

The food of Harry Potter with cookbook author Dinah Bucholz

Cooking like the wizards do, from treacle tarts to Butterbeer—uh, we mean Butterscotch Brew.

With The Deathly Hallows Part 2 out, there’s a pervasive feeling that this is the end of an era. But while it may be true that the majority of the future of the Harry Potter series is J.K. Rowling making obscene amounts of money off digital distribution, any Potterhead can tell you a series that’s spawned seven books, eight movies, an amusement park, a musical, a musical genre, a sport, and whole new levels of slash fanfic doesn’t ever really end—the people who love it won’t let it.

Just ask Philly-based Dinah Bucholz, author of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. The former English teacher, self-taught cook, and mother of four has a passion for Potter that compelled her to compile over 150 recipes based on the British fare in the books, from sweets like pumpkin pasties to character specialties like Mrs. Weasley’s meat pies. Her just-released Unofficial Harry Potter Sweet Shoppe Kit includes a recipe for Butterscotch Brew, among other creatively renamed dishes that allow Dinah to maneuver around tricky copyright laws. The A.V. Club spoke with Bucholz about food, fantasy, and... copyright law.

The A.V. Club: Have you always been a big fan of fantasy books?

Dinah Bucholz: Yes, indeed! Some of my all-time favorites have been The Lord Of The Rings and The Chronicles Of Narnia, which forms the basis for my next cookbook, The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook. When I was younger, I used to love such British classics as Five Children And It, by E. Nesbit. The British are just really good at fantasy.

AVC: What were some ways you worked around copyright issues [namely, that things like Butterbeer that came directly from Rowling’s imagination are legally off limits] in the Sweet Shoppe?

DB: I renamed the dishes. I changed Butterbeer to Butterscotch Brew, Cockroach Clusters to Crunchy Roaches, and Chocolate Cauldrons to Chocolate Love Potions. I wish I had thought of this before I finished work on the first cookbook.

AVC: What role do you see food playing in literature?

DB: I think it all depends on the type of literature, but my favorite books as a kid (and even now as an adult) usually include cozy scenes with flickering hearth fires and hot chocolate. In the sense that food can provide comfort, warmth, and relief and contribute to the setting—hard stale bread in a prison or roasted peacocks in a castle’s great hall. It’s almost its own character.

AVC: What has your experience with the Harry Potter fan community been like?

DB: The first thing I discovered is that I’m not nearly as huge a fan as I thought I was, despite having obsessively re-read the books and discussing the series incessantly. I had never attended Harry Potter events or joined the fan community online. At signings and events I attended, I met the really dedicated Harry Potter fans, who dress in Harry Potter regalia and attend Harry Potter events without the excuse of needing to promote a book. But the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive; it’s a thrill to see how much joy the cookbook has brought the devotees.

AVC: If you were throwing a three-course Harry Potter-themed dinner for two, what would your choice be for appetizer, entrée, and dessert? 

DB: I would start with canapés, which are very quick to throw together and are best eaten fresh. My favorite entrée is Cornish pasties—if you use store-bought pie or puff-pastry dough, I won’t tell, and it will be a snap to make. Same with pumpkin pasties. If you’re willing to put in a little more effort, I would go for Harry’s favorite, treacle tarts. A word of warning—none of these recipes make just two servings, with the possible exception of the canapés.

AVC: Does the focus on desserts come from your own sweet tooth, or are there just more of them in the books?

DB: I do have a sweet tooth, but it’s just coincidental. There’s a major focus on sweets in Harry Potter, no doubt because it’s a children’s series.