Cookbooks comprise a decent segment of my large book collection. I don’t have an entire bookcase full of cookbooks like my friend Dana, but the titles I do have are invaluable to me. Whether the book is a bible of staples, like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, or a personally-unrealistic tome like Vegan with a Vengeance (I once prepared one recipe in that book and it took me all day…literally!), the cookbooks I’ve chosen to keep around are there for a reason. The Joy of Cooking has a creepy chapter about preparing and cooking game meats that I avoid even laying eyes on, but in exchange it has some great baking selections.
Similarly, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris has a lot of recipes with meat in them. What would you expect, with an entire chapter on how to entertain lumberjacks? Including “Crosscut Stump Stew” and “Chip Chop Chicken Pot Pie,” every single lumberjack dish contains at least one type of meat. So obviously, recipes in that chapter are fairly useless to me.
Vegetarian selections in the book that get my seal of approval include the lentil soup, Spanish rice, spanikopita (Amy is of Greek descent), and pineapple upside-down cake. They’re simple, delicious, and don’t require organic arugula flown in from southern Italy. In fact, tonight I’m planning on making her Spanish rice (“eat it rapido, RAPIDO!”) for dinner.
I didn’t buy this book because of the recipes though–discovering that so many of them are so wonderful was just an added bonus.
The real reason this book has a particularly special place in my heart is that it is also completely hilarious, written by a woman whose off-kilter sense of humor makes her one of my favorite comedic actors ever.
There’s the three-spread introduction which features Amy transforming from a perky 1970s-era Martha Stewart into a sleepy lazeabout. Instructions for ladies on vaginal cleansing and how to get the bloodstains out of one’s underwear. A chapter called “Entertaining the Elderly,” which of course features comically large print. Approximately 15 craft ideas involving pantyhose are contained in the book. Insider jokes sprinkled throughout for those of us familiar with Amy’s or her brother David’s work, such as the recipe and adjacent illustration for “Jerri’s Hot Fruit” or handwritten instructions for the “Fuck-It Bucket.” Then when you discover the secret poster, you’ll be rolling on the floor.
And the photos! Amy and her designer friend Todd Oldham did all the photography inside her Christopher Street apartment in New York City using Amy’s collections of vintage dishware, squirrels, and an assortment of offbeat props such as fake prostheses, rabbit clothes, vintage knick-knacks, and more. The burnt orange and dirty yellow feel of the 1970s reigns here, with many of the foods photograph displaying a sickly sheen due to the hot weather when Todd and Amy were shooting.
Amy did a book tour right after this book was released in Fall 2006. My friend Clinton and I were lucky enough to see her in person, where she showed up in a 1950s-era dress and heels (like on the cover of the book), demonstrated a couple of craft projects, and answered many questions from the packed audience. Afterward, she did a book signing, filling in the “This Sturdy Book Belonged to: _______” page. In addition to filling in our names, she wrote “Good times!” in mine, and “Drinking Kills Feelings” in Clinton’s book–both references to her cult television show “Strangers with Candy.”
In closing, if you enjoy photos of googly-eyed peanuts, there’s no book I would recommend more than I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. Or if you’re planning on having a group of rabbits over to dinner. Or if you need to make a salt map of Alaska. Or if you need gift ideas for gypsies. Or if you’re grieving. But mostly if you need some chuckles and good eats.