NEW ORLEANS – "True Blood" fans can soon concoct their own blood-red beet bisque, crimson sweet tea and other Cajun delicacies inspired by the hit HBO vampire drama and compiled in a new cookbook.
"True Blood" is filmed partly in Louisiana and is set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps. The state's cuisine is often referenced in the series, where vampires and mortals mingle over bowls of okra gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice.
The cookbook, "True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps," was compiled by Cajun chef Marcelle Bienvenu and is being released in bookstores on Wednesday, shortly after Sunday's broadcast of the show's fifth-season finale.
"I'm going to be honest with you, I had never seen the show before they asked me to do this cookbook," said Bienvenu, a chef from the Cajun town of St. Martinville, La., who lived in New Orleans for several years and now teaches culinary arts at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.
"I sat down and watched it with my notebook, and I was amazed how much food was mentioned in the series," she said. "It was fun making the recipes come to life. I think people are still mystified by south Louisiana food. There's still such a mystique about the food and culture here."
"True Blood" stars real-life husband and wife actors Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer. Paquin plays the show's beloved heroine Sookie Stackhouse, a mostly human waitress who falls for vampire Bill Compton, a Confederate veteran turned into a bloodsucker played by Moyer.
In the cookbook, recipes are accompanied with pictures and excerpts from the series. For instance, a recipe for creamy crawfish dip is displayed among pictures from a scene in which Stackhouse drives to Shreveport, La., to see a werewolf but is instead greeted at the door by Debbie Pelt, a character who has twice tried to kill her.
In the scene, Debbie offers Sookie a helping of crawfish dip.
Besides food, the cookbook includes nearly two-dozen drink recipes with names like Tequila Moonrise, Lovin' in the Coven and Moonshine Rising.
"The drinks were a lot of fun to make," said Bienvenu, who consulted a bartender friend from Thibodaux, La., to create the mixtures. She also used her students at Nicholls State University to test her food recipes, she said.
Bienvenu said that while the recipes have been given names inspired by the series, "these are real recipes for food we here in Louisiana eat all the time. I think people are really going to enjoy them."
Bienvenu said "True Blood," which is shown in some 50 countries worldwide, has been a great way to showcase Louisiana's unique cuisine — eats like gumbo, jambalaya and etouffee and ingredients like tasso, Andouille sausage, okra, cayenne pepper, yams and mirlitons.
The show's season five finale is Sunday, and the network announced earlier this year that "True Blood" will be returning for a sixth season next year.
James Costos, vice president of licensing and retail for HBO, said the cookbook was a natural extension for the show, which already has a fragrance and beauty product line.
"The senses play a huge part in 'True Blood,'" Costos said. The cookbook is another way to tap into "the carnal desires that are played out on screen."
This isn't the first time HBO has merged a show with a cookbook. The network released a collection of recipes from the tables of Italian mob families in the long-running hit drama "The Sopranos," and there's a cookbook due out next year based on the New Orleans-shot HBO series "Treme."
"We work with so many amazing chefs on 'Treme,' and the concept of combining their experiences with those of our characters as they navigate the culinary landscape of New Orleans was very intriguing," said Nina Noble, one of the show's producers.
"Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans" is due out next spring.