"For most people the word 'party' conjures up an image that is so intimidating, so terrifying that they just want to skip the whole thing—it's just too much pressure. A party doesn't necessarily have to be a big extravagant to-do. A party can be as simple as a few poeple getting together for conversation and snacks. As my guests leave even my most simplest parties, I consistently hear the same thing: 'That was the best time I ever had,' and it's always me saying it" (17).
How can you not like someone capable of writing that? Amy Sedaris's I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence is in part a serious cookbook and in part a send-up of the notion of the etiquette book or cookbook. It's also got some awesomely weird photo essays. The photographs of Sedaris are hysterical, especially, to my mind, the ones in which she is putting on pantyhose, and it's hard to explain exactly why other than that they immediately invoke such pain and understanding in me. Anyway, she poses as a debauched, glamorous lady of the 1970s; a lush; a freshly scrubbed clueless Southern mother; and a pantyhose aficionado or fetishist—I can't figure it out. There's more, too, but I'm not sure I can make it cohere, because, in part, it just doesn't. Anyway, for the most part, the Sedaris photos, some of them taken, I see, by Todd Oldham, are just funny in and of themselves. Weirdly, the food photographs are not as effective for me; they fail often to make the food look as good as I know it is, because I've made a few of the recipes from this book, and they're all really good (about which more later).
The other focus of the book is to talk about hospitality and having parties. These pieces are often sharp and funny, though sometimes vulgar (on purpose, and in that tough "you-can-take-it way" that I always fail at), but they are usually always interesting and amusing. The book opens with a hysterical multipart letter about hospitality (juxtaposed with photos of Amy Sedaris looking suave and then passing out), then moves along to discussing various theme parties or dinners one might have, complete with meal plans and recipes. Some of this—the gypsy stuff, for example—I found not funny at all; the old people dinner made me laugh, however.
The best part of the book, in my opinion, is the recipes themselves. I love Southern food and I love Greek food and I don't know how to cook either style that well—this book focuses on these two things. Thanks to this book, I've finally made Pastitsio, and I plan to take on Spanakopita soon. Also, there's a heavenly killer chocolate cake with whipped-cream frosting recipe in there, which I also tried and made with no problem at all (there's not a temperature for the chocolate cake recipe, but you can figure it out by looking at a recipe for another cake, and it's always going to be somewhere around 375 anyway, right?). So anyway: the recipes are easy to follow, and there are many of them. You will get a good introduction to some classic Southern cooking dishes and some Greek dishes, and probably laugh, too, while reading the book. There's no bad there.