Cookbooks are not the first place one turns to for humor. Funny cookbooks do exist: Peg Bracken’s classic The I Hate to Cook Book (1960) is one; Amy Sedaris’ more recent — and terrific — I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (2006) is another. But most cookbooks assume people can’t handle too much humor with their how-to. Fair enough.
Cookbooks for rank beginners, however, make up a well-established subgenre that plays by its own set of rules. Rule #1: Keep ‘em laughing. Cookbooks for novices specialize in a very specific form of comic hyperbole, playing up the presumed ignorance of their target reader (usually a recent graduate or a bachelor) who is posited as either starving or idiotic, or both a hapless sloven who has just barely mastered the arts of chewing and swallowing. These books are easy to recognize by their titles: The Bachelor’s Guide to Ward Off Starvation, Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen, and my personal favorite, Your Shirt Is Not an Oven Mitt! (All three, I’m proud to say, have a home in the Food Network Library.)