I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
In the first of this book's three increasingly loopy introductions, Amy Sedaris writes, "This is not a joke cookbook. I don't like joke cookbooks because I can't take them seriously." This is at once true and not true of I Like You. Turn to any page in this book, and you're sure to encounter an image or a line that makes you shoot Scotch out of your nose*. But at the same time, almost every recipe, craft idea, or entertaining tip that appears here is pure gold.
The food sections contain an appealing mix of traditional Greek cooking, comfort food, and accessible haute cuisine, as well as a collection of recipes from Sedaris's lucrative side job -- selling cupcakes and cheese balls out of her apartment. I've got a zillion index cards sticking out of the book right now, and two dishes on the menu for this week (Brady's making Dimpleton's Pan-Fried Steak and I'm making the simply-named, but delicious-sounding Chicken on the Stove).
But more than that, this is a book that will make you want to throw a dinner party. I've always been a better party guest than host**, but after reading this book, I feel that the deepest, mistiest secrets of throwing a good party have been made known to me, and that I could maybe pull it off.
Reading this book also made me think about the great dinner parties I've been to, and how, while the basic tenets of hospitality were the same, it was the unique quirks in party-hosting styles that made things memorable and reflected the hosts' personalities. That said, if you ever find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin for an extended period of time, you should make it a point to endear yourselves to Nathan and Abby, and get asked to their house. Hosts with the most, 'nuff said.
* for example, the sheet cake with "Come Home Dad" written in chocolate sprinkles or the instructions for making a cat toy our of a tampon
** Mary's Tips for Being a Good Party Guest (and Getting Asked Back)
1. Bring booze or a pumpkin log.
2. Take your turn engaging the party guest who a) has had too many drinks and wants to talk at great length about Pancho Villa, b) has not had a conversation with anyone except their children in a month, or c) is smoking outside, alone.
3. If the host leaves the party to do dishes, relieve him/her of these duties, or at least help clear and scrape plates.
4. Use a coaster.
5. Always stay one drink behind the host.
6. Know when to leave, and say 'thank you.'