As a private chef for more years than I’m willing to divulge right now, I’ve encountered (and possess) an excessive number of cookbooks, from scholarly tomes about baking and breakfast to frivolous offerings about cult recipes and playing with your food. But up until now, I had never sat hunched over a cookbook, chortling, chuckling, and basically laughing my ass off. Presenting A Cookbook For Millennials by Caleb Couturie.
Let me say right up front, A Cookbook For Millennials is not intended for the experienced cook—or for anyone who is easily offended by profanity. And if you’re a Millennial lacking a self-deprecating sense of humor, you’ll want to move along, nothing to see here.
Actually, that would be a perfect description of the author—an almost savagely self-deprecating member of a generation that he describes as “the avocado-toast-eating, labradoodle-toting, sensitive, succulent-loving radicals of the world… working sixty-hour shifts at unpaid internships and dealing with the constant dread of being handed a planet in a political-economic-social-climate sh*tstorm…” (though he eschews the asterisk, lol).
A Cookbook For Millennials is as much a comedic riff on popular culture as it is a culinary instruction manual, with a few choice nuggets of socio-political commentary lurking here and there. Like this pointed footnote from a burger recipe: “It’s a free** country / **Technically it’s a country catered toward the privileged, primarily based on racial and economic status, but sure, lol, let’s go with ‘free’.” Or this not-so-subtle subtitle for the Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe — “A classic, like the beach at sunset, or decades of institutional racism and misogyny.”
Lest you be dismayed that A Cookbook For Millennials might devolve into a solemn and annoyingly self-righteous screed, let me hasten to assure you that the semi-serious nuggets of social snark are carelessly scattered throughout a text that reads more like a frat boy’s fever-dream of comfort food than a culinary commentary on cultural mores.
And yes, A Cookbook For Millennials actually offers some useful info for the time-challenged and kitchen-intimidated among us. There are 32 recipes that guide the novice through the creation of mostly familiar favorites with a snicker and a wink, like a recipe for cereal (“Please tell me you don’t actually need directions for how to make cereal”).
Right about now, you’re probably wondering about the genesis of such an off-the-wall concept. It’s simple, really. According to Caleb, “My sister got married … and I wanted to give her something special as a wedding gift, so I landed on the idea of a handwritten cookbook. My sister can’t cook for shit, and I figured it would be something nice she could keep forever. I gave it to her and she loved it.”
And so did everyone else who saw it. Thus was born an original convergence of convenience and comedy, with Caleb’s quirky talents front and center. “This isn’t a cookbook meant to challenge chefs. My hope is that those who struggle to cook can learn some fun and simple basics and that those who know how to cook can at least learn one new recipe, and have some laughs along the way.”
The Bottom Line
A Cookbook For Millennials definitely isn’t intended for the easily offended or politically correct. Witness the descriptor for the Best Deli Sandwich Ever: “It’ll be just like that sandwich chain, but without the creepy spokesperson who touches kids.” And if the f-word offends you, this will not be your cup of tea. I asked Caleb if his Mom knew that he cursed in print; he replied, “She taught me how, hah. And she’s very proud.”
Nor is this a guide for the fanatically health-conscious who wouldn’t dream of self-indulgence. Yes, there are several healthy basics that would fit into any Paleo or Keto regimen, like roast chicken and grilled steak. But many of the recipes are intended for your cheat days, like the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, “The thing you eat when you’re sick. Or when you’re feeling nostalgic. Or on a Tuesday at 10:23 p.m.” Or the Cinnamon Roll French Toast, “If you like sugar and napping at 11 a.m., this is the one for you.”
And let us not forget the contributions of the creatively demented gentleman who did the line drawings littered throughout the text, Benj Zeller. From sub sandwich spaceships spurting flames to a grinning steak on a balance beam, his off-kilter illustrations happily add to the inspired insanity.
“If you want a cookbook with an illustration of a snowboarding chicken, mine is the only option as far as I’m aware.” — Caleb Couturie
With its straightforward recipes, anything-but-straightforward commentary, vivid graphics, and deliciously twisted point of view, A Cookbook For Millennials would make a perfect gift for the distracted millennial in your life, or indeed for anyone who could use a little basic guidance in the kitchen and a crazy good laugh. Or you might just want to acquire it for yourself, if witty self-aware snark is your jam.
And that’s just what Caleb had in mind. “I wanted to make something that would be shared. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone laugh at a joke in the book, then go to show that joke to someone else. If you’re looking to make the best food you can, there’s a lot of cookbooks that can help you do that. If you want a cookbook with an illustration of a snowboarding chicken, though, mine is the only option as far as I’m aware.”