The cookbook in question, which is much more than a cookbook, is called I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, and is written by Amy Sedaris. Amy Sedaris, in addition to being the sister of my idol David Sedaris, is an actress best known for her role in “Strangers with Candy.” She is unnaturally funny, has a keen grasp of pop culture past and present, and even if one does not cook, this book is worth reading just for the “helpful suggestions,” the photographs and the illustrations. In the first chapter, “what a Party Means to Me,” Sedaris gives the following pointers for being a “Self-Realized” person:
-Be unique in a way that is pleasing to everybody.
-Accentuate the positives - medicate the negatives.
-Have a hairstyle that is flattering to some and offensive to few.
-Have access to money.
-Never cry yourself to sleep in front of others.
The entire book has a retro sensibility that will be immediately familiar to any 40-something who read books like The Seventeen Guide for Girls, or Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook. (There is even a picture of a bean mosaic - that standby of 1970s summer day camp). This is emphatically NOT, however, a book to give to your young children, your friend who believes that “American Beauty” glorifies pedophilia, or anyone that you don’t know very, very well. There is, for example, a recipe for “Three Way Cake” with “cupcakes as sloppy seconds,” and directions for a “Ladies Night” party including (hilarious) directions for vaginal self-examination. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In addition to a very smart and funny read, Amy Sedaris gives us a lot of seriously great recipes, because she really can, and does cook. Many of the recipes are Greek, and every one I have tried (and I’ve tried a lot of them) has been excellent. Her Pastitsio is one of my standard dinner party dishes, served with her Greek Beans and a salad. Her Zucchini Fritters are to die for, her Lil Smoky Cheese Ball is fabulous. You need to buy the book. No, wait: you need to buy the book if you are an adult, not easily offended, and you have looked at it in the bookstore so you won’t be shocked when you get home.
Ann Graham Nichols cooks and writes the Forest Street Kitchen blog in East Lansing, Michigan where she lives in a 1912 house with her husband, her son and an improbable number of animals.