Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dear Amy Sedaris: A Love Letter (I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence)

Year of Publication: 2006
Recipes: Yes
Grade: A+

This is the best cookbook I have ever read.

Look, The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking are excellent books; they are well written and have excellent recipes and are even humorous at times. I'm not trying to discount the efforts of Mrs. Rombauer or Mrs. Child. I'm not ignoring James Beard or Diana Kennedy or Mimi Sheraton or Marcella Hazan or Betty frickin Crocker. These people (with the exception of Crocker, who is a mascot) have all made significant contributions to the American culinary library. OK. None of them have accomplished what Sedaris has.

I Like You
is, of course, funny. It's well designed. I'm going to be honest. I haven't tried out any of the recipes, but they look all right to me. The advice is good. None of this is new in cookbooks. All of it makes me happy, but none of it is revolutionary. Fine.

What makes my heart sing (oh, yes, I'm going there), what makes this book art, is that Sedaris captures an attitude towards cooking and entertaining that I have never seen in print before. It's how I treat cooking, it's how my friends who cook treat cooking, it's how the coworkers I've had that I respect treat cooking, but I've never, ever seen it presented in a public space before. It's fun! It's funny! It involves drinking and (gasp!) drugs! It's old fashioned and kitschy and yeah it's awesome that you can get all sorts of fancy new vegetables at the grocery store now-a-days, but isn't it also awesome that you can make dip out of that holy trinity of equal parts mayonnaise, cream cheese, and sour cream? Sedaris is channeling Bourdain for the home kitchen, except she doesn't take herself as seriously. This book is a cultural epiphany! It's not twee or pretentious or gourmand-y! It doesn't try to reinvent the wheel! It is more modern than anything I have ever seen before and IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

Amy Sedaris, I have only considered writing a fan letter once before in my life, and that was to Joshua Jackson. I didn't actually do it. I read the entirety of your book in one day. I wish I had written it. I want to send you a copy of my cookbook but I'm afraid I'm not cool enough. If you're ever in Austin I'll make you some lasagna. I'm blushing as I type this. I think you are really, really cool.

So Embarrassed,


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