Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are Dragons Kosher?

The just-released Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals aims to do for kosher food what Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials did for animal guides, and what The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy did for...well, the galaxy -- it aims to apply real-world logic to the most unreal, to create an objective guide to the most non-objective things our creative imagination can conceive of.

And the thing is: it really does the job.

imaginary kosher animals

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer are both science fiction writers, both married (to each other, not coincidentally), and both armed with a smattering of Jewish knowledge and Jewish texts. In 2007, on a whim, they knocked out a blog post arguing which imaginary animals are kosher. Some of the animals came from different cultural mythologies -- there's Bigfoot, chupacabras, and the abumi-guchi, a furry creature in Japanese mythology that's essentially an animated, live horse stirrup. (Yes, a horse stirrup.)

Mermaids, the Vandermeers decide, are not kosher. Likewise, the jackalope of midwest American folklore. The collection of animals that the Vandermeers summon isn't exhaustive, but it's entertaining, and the hard-line pencil illustrations really make you feel like you're reading one of those medieval demon reference guides that the gang always seems to reference on Buffy. (And, by the way, how do they always look through the right book? Even when they're on the wrong page, they're never like, "Oh, it's in Volume MLXII, not Volume MLXIII." It's always a few flips away. Sorry. Tangent.)

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