The Bard’s characters are always swigging something — Othello’s wine, Falstaff’s sack, Juliet’s poison. The volume “Shakespeare, Not Stirred” isn’t about that. Rather, it’s a compendium of recipes for spirits and snacks created by professors Caroline Bicks (Boston College) and Michelle Ephraim (Worcester Polytechnic Institute). Each recipe is inspired by a Shakespearean character, sonnet, or biographical connection, and informed by two lifetimes of scholarship and socializing. The longtime friends, who blog at Everydayshakespeare.com, spent three years toiling and troubling over this book, in which the play on words is the thing. The sly, often racy allusions and groan-inducing puns pile up like dead relatives in “Richard III.”
“This is not geared toward students,” says Bicks.
“Definitely for the 25-and-up crowd,” says Ephraim.
Modernize a troubled teenage girl and you get “Julie’s Emoji-to” — with, of course, cherries. “Lady Macbeth’s G-Spot” is mostly Scotch, with pomegranate seeds for the “damned spot(s).” Shylock’s daughter, who spurns her Jewish father, is honored with over-the-top “Totally Un-Kosher Bites” — bacon, shrimp, and goat cheese. (Ephraim keeps kosher, so that recipe was all Bicks.) “Kate’s Shrew-Driver” adds some untamed bitter lemon to the classic vodka-and-orange juice cocktail. “The Motley Ful” honors Touchstone of “As You Like It” with a multi-layered, though unfunny, ful mudammas.
The recipes are interspersed with “Mini-Bard” essays that snarkily analyze the works and characters being punned upon. Their labor of love included “long text chains of puns,” says Ephraim, as well as “a lot of tasting events” for family and friends.
The book wasn’t all cakes and ale. They agonized over puns that might cross the line, they worried about settling on character interpretations, when each can be endlessly unpacked, though they didn’t worry about being dismissed as frivolous by their peers. “Shakespeareans have a real sense of humor,” says Ephraim. “Shakespeare, Not Stirred” is available at bookstores. JIM CHIAVELLI