Mention to someone that you watched a YouTube video about a young woman getting drunk and failing to make a grilled cheese sandwich, and watch their headgears groan to a full stop as they fall back on one or two nasty preconceptions based on the words “young woman,” “drunk,” and “fail” (and maybe “grilled cheese” depending on their diet). Those preconceptions would be wrong, of course.
I remember exactly where I was when I watched my first Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen video, “Episode 1: Butter Yo Sh*t” on YouTube: alone, in my drafty, firetrap of an apartment in undergraduate-infested Allston, Massachusetts. I had just displaced my entire life 2,000 miles to a latitude farther north than my Southern sensibilities could handle. The walls had drafts; the windows had bars. The warmest room in my pad was the hallway closet. The only light was emitted by one unnatural, flickering flourescent bulb in the kitchen. Well, I say “kitchen,” what I really mean is a four-foot tiled extension of the living room with a stove (which I never opened because it would disturb the family of mice that lived in there). The fridge didn’t open. The water smelled (and tasted) of sulphur. The cabinets had mealworms. The basement had rats. My neighbors had loud and frequent amorous pursuits.
I was attending to my graduate studies and, after a year of school, my best friend in Boston remained my backburner husband (that poor, patient man). None of the furniture we carted 2,000 miles fit through the door. I couldn’t afford to fly home to visit my friends and family. My best friend lived 11,000 miles away in Fukuoka, Japan. My non-educational activities included: drinking and culinary avoidance-coping. I understood why people get cats. I was crazy lonely.
The Web became my best friend. I leapfrogged from vlogger to vlogger: from Hank Green’s SciShow to his Vlogbrothers channel with his brother John Green (now one of my favorite YA authors), John’s Crash Course History and Crash Course Literature series; to Grace Helbig, Tyler Oakley, WheezyWaiter, Nerdist, Mamrie Hart, Zoella, Anita Sarkeesian, The Brain Scoop, PBS Idea Channel, Nostalgia Chick, Obscurus Lupa, Cinema Snob. I parked my underemployed, insomniac eyeballs in front of nearly all 72 hours of the 2011 Project 4 Awesome livestream. I spend a lot of time on the Web.
And then I came to Hannah Hart. Instead of the preconceived, potential catastrophe of what it looks like to get drunk and fail to make a grilled cheese sandwich because you forgot the second of the only two ingredients, Hart butters her viewers with life lessons: “This is a show about making sure you don’t puke your guts out.” (The lessons get better.) And she peppers her first book, My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going With Your Gut with life lessons as well. She even recalls similar failures to her debut video (page 53: “Saltine Nachos”) because you can still aim to do your best. How we react to our failures says probably more about us than how we react to our successes. Accepting your failure (page 31: “Things In A Blanket”) is a form of success.
MDK (as her fans–Hartosexuals–prefer to call it) is a perfect companion to the popular vlog series–and it features all new recipes (well, more like things Hart was probably thinking about while typing). These recipes are easy for the inebriated (and not inebriated but kitchen-challenged) to make. I have personally eaten over fifty PB&J&PC sandwiches (page 29) since I opened this book. The downside: my husband dreads the nights when it’s my turn to cook. “What do you mean string cheese isn’t dinner? I saw it in a cookbook! What do you mean that’s not a cookbook?” (page 131: “String [Cheese] Theory”).
But he’s right. MDK isn’t really a cookbook. It seems like a cookbook. It has chapter titles like “Kitchen Basics” (my favorite recipes are “Layzagna,” page 21; “Fruit Cocktail,” page 27; and “Scotch Egg,” page 35) and
“Family and the Holidays” (favorite recipes: “Stir Fries,” page 179 and “Enmeshed Potatoes,” page 201). But it also has titles like “Adultolescence” (favorite recipes: “Pizza Cake,” page 65; “Hashtag,” page 85; and “Adult Lunchables,” page 111) and “So This Is Love” (favorite recipes: “Heart-Beet Salad,” page 145 and “Sad Thai,” page 165). But it’s so much more. I think MDK can easily find a home in nearly every bookstore section. (Maybe not historical fiction. Or Latin American studies. Or Ancient Mystical Civilizations. Or Cooking.) But it would happily sit at home in Verbal Humor, Self Improvement, Relationships, Sex (yes!). Or maybe that’s just me wanting to see customers picking it up and flipping through it everywhere I look.
In their #NoFilter comedy show, Hannah’s costars Mamrie Hart and Grace Helbig joke that Hannah’s book is so full of wisdom that it’s practically a fortune cookie–more like fortune bookie, am I right?–(page 99: “Fortune Rolls”): you can literally open the book to any page, pick out a sentence, and that is your fortune. My fortune for this catalog is…
“One time my sister and I washed a turkey in a bathtub.”
Often, folks consider our time on the Web as individualistic, antisocial, anonymous, potentially problematic. But Hannah has succeeded in building a community of people. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of Hartosexuals I meet on a nearly daily basis. And they have the perfect name for themselves. It’s not about sexuality, it’s about identity. Hannah and her contemporary communities are not mutually exclusive, either. I’m a proud Hartosexual, Nerdfighter, and Beardlover. Hart dedicates her book to the “Reckless Optimists” I am not a reckless optimist (more like a paranoid neurotic), and I can’t imagine the Reckless Optimists needing the Paranoid Neurotics like we need them to constantly remind us that life is more.
I keep MDK in my kitchen to prove to myself that failure is not ultimate, that a good attitude is just as nourishing as a good meal, and that the kitchen can be a fun place. No more culinary avoidance-coping for me!
I deserve a drink!
You can pick up a copy of My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking and Going with Your Gut by Hannah Hart at your local independent bookseller or library right now! Here’s one!
I love mine!