Amy Sedaris’ how to book on hospitality is negotiating the boundaries of traditions. It’s taking a realistic approach to standards and criteria that we have as a society accepted as norms. She is asking us to take a real look at who we are and why we do what we do by providing us with who she is and what she does. She invites us to enter into her world, chaotic and imperfect, and see that our chaotic and imperfect worlds are “okay,” too. She gives us the opportunity to truly examine our actions and determine whether or not we do them for the presentation of how they “should” look or do we present as it “does” look.
For example, Amy’s recipe for “Baked Butternut or Acorn Squash” calls for the optional addition of brown sugar. Except Amy does not phrase it as, “Optional Ingredient: Brown Sugar.” She gives you the “go ahead” on adding brown sugar by saying, “You can add brown sugar, but I don’t,” (244). In this way, Amy is approving and accepting of adding brown sugar to a recipe, even though she does not add it to her Baked Butternut or Acorn Squash. She demonstrates her ability to not utilize the superiority model while simultaneously making you feel comfortable about adding brown sugar by continuing with the recipe. She does not divulge into why she doesn’t use brown sugar or the various reasons why brown sugar can be added but not regular sugar. Amy allows for the reader or cook to feel comfortable in making the decision for his or her self, which she also does throughout the book. This is a difficult feeling to facilitate in a recipe section when I often feel that cooking is one the easiest areas to feel superior. There are constant variations of recipes or ways to cook meals, and most likely there will be disagreements if there are too many cooks in the kitchen. But with Amy, it appears that if there are too many cooks in the kitchen, we’ll be eating a collaborative effort of everyone’s best ideas.
Amy also calls the attention to donating to a good cause. She sees the importance of serving those less fortunate than ourselves, but realizes that it is not always a comfortable situation for everyone. She understands that face-to-face service may not be the easiest for some people and that others may not have the time to donate to that kind of service. She does not chastise you for it nor does she excuse it as a reason to not serve. Instead, she provides us with a way to do some type of giving. She says to “Call Social Services and get the name of a needy family. If you are too busy or scared to go into poor peoples’ neighborhoods, pay someone braver than you to deliver it,” (191). In this example, Amy makes light of a realistic situation. She does not make anyone feel inferior about his or her other commitments or being uncomfortable with the materially poor, but uses humor to alleviate the pressure. She gives you an out or a release by giving you the permission to let someone else do part of the service.
Amy constantly examines the bigger picture. She looks at our traditions and how we observe or disregard them. She understands that there are imperfections, but those imperfections are acceptable, if not better than the original way. She appreciates the imperfections and uses them as positives. Amy plays upon her strengths and encourages her readers to do the same through her sarcasm and direct approach to the material.