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Let them eat cake and french fry pizza

Why aren't there more queer cookbooks?

Sometimes it is important to ask yourself why it is you are bestowed with certain gifts when the gift-giving time comes around. I remember attending the birthday party of a good friend of mine one year. Everyone bought her cosmetics: lip glosses, blush and fancy bubble bath.

“Do I smell?” she asked. “Is this a hint I need to perk up and pull myself together?”

Of course, I noted, the other way to interpret a plethora of cosmetic gifts is as a sign that your friends believe that your looks are important to you. That’s not a bad thing. If your looks aren’t important to you, you’re a candidate to be a guest on one of those horrible TLC shows where they throw out all your clothes and make fun of you.

This past birthday I got a lot of books, which is good, because I really like books. One of the best books I got, from my friend Abi, was Amy Sedaris’ I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (Grand Central Publishing). What this book says about me could not be summarized in a single article. Needless to say, I loved it. Like so much of Sedaris’ work in film and TV, this book is strange. It’s essentially a collage of strange crafts, fabulous photography and illustration, overall dark humour, and recipes. I found it almost impossible to read I Like You straight through because the weird DIY projects were constantly distracting me — every five minutes or so I’d find myself running down to my craft room to gather supplies. My favorite project in the book is “The Tea Bell,” a distress bell for the sick and injured for use while laid up in bed. As soon as I lose or find a tooth, I’m making me a tea bell!

Reading this book made me wonder why all cookbooks aren’t written this way, and whether or not there could be such category as queer hospitality books, or queer cookbooks. Sedaris’ book is pretty queer by nature of the fact that it’s a lovely bastardization of what a hospitality book is typically thought to be, a list of hoity-toity ways to appear perfect. This book is a disruption and ode to the empires of house and home moguls like Martha Stewart. Sedaris even looks a bit like Stewart, only cooler.

As I sat in my kitchen, cookies in oven, considering the connection between queers and cookbooks, it occurred to me that, according to stereotype, there should be a lot of gay hospitality and lesbian cookbooks out there. Surprisingly, the first place I called in my pursuit of a “gay” cookbook, Toronto’s Glad Day Bookstore, didn’t really have much to offer.

“What’s gay about cooking?”

Not much I suppose. They did, however, suggest and sell PJ Gray’s Bear Cookin’ and the sequel, More Bear Cookin’ (Haworth Press), a cookbook that combines tips and recipes for the bear with an appetite. Apparently there’s a French Fry Pizza Pie recipe in there that’s to die for. Call me if you try it and survive your first stroke.

On the other end of the spectrum, when I asked the friendly staff at Toronto’s Women’s Bookstore if they could recommend anything for a happy, possibly political, savvy queer looking for a cookbook, staff person Teresa Cheng recommended Jae Steele’s Get It Ripe, published by Arsenal Pulp. Jae Steele is a Canadian wonder currently revolutionizing, or attempting to, the way we eat (that is, trying to make us all a little more food conscious and healthy). The TWB’s cookbook recommend won’t kill you, but if you switch over to only raw, it will severely limit potato chip social participation. Something to think about.

A couple of other books were suggested to me, when I asked some friends about “queer” and “cookbook,” but all of them centred around a certain Food Network celeb I don’t especially like, so I’m not listing them here.

Toronto’s Cookbook Store wasn’t open when I called, and they had an odd message on their answering machine. If you happen to talk to someone who works there, you can ask them if they sell any queer cookbooks. Make sure they know when you’re asking that it’s for non making-fun-of purposes.

For more information on the books mentioned above, check out the following websites:

Jae Steele’s blog at domesticaffair.blogspot.com.
Bear Cookin’
Amy Sedaris at www.amysedarisrocks.com.

Happy feasting, everyone. And happy birthday to all my Aquarius friends!