The How Not to Cookbook: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, the Anti-Cookbook


As part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, visual artist Aleksandra Mir has produced a book that is nearly the total opposite of a traditional cookbook. The How Not to Cookbook: Lessons Learned the Hard Way is a compilation of kitchen catastrophes submitted by 1,000 people from all over the world.

Inspired by the human capacity to learn by trial and error, Mir decided to explore the idea of public admission of error as an art form. The work also explores the communal aspect of cooking, be it successful or otherwise. The limited edition work is accompanied by an installation at the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh, including the creation of a giant omelet, in which each guest is invited to add an egg to the mix, and a community potluck.

Mir's book is refreshing, humorous, and messy in a world saturated with immaculate food porn, toothy television chefs, and glossy coffee table cookbooks. The book is a list of confessions arranged artfully on the page, and loosely grouped into chapters ("Pets," "Explosions," "Drugs"). The submissions explore our superstitions, our backgrounds, our prejudices, and our shortcomings. It reminds us that sometimes we learn the most through spectacular mistakes rather than achieving perfection.

Sample submissions from the cookbook's official website include:

Do not microwave one leaf of kale on "high" for five minutes in order to experiment. It will catch fire, break the microwave glass rotating plate, scorch the inside of the microwave permanently and fill the kitchen with smoke.


When popcorn stuffing a turkey, do not assume unpopped popcorn kernels will just pop inside the turkey, they won't, and your Thanksgiving guests will break their teeth. Use popped popcorn if you must.

On sale now at the Collective gallery for £30 or you can email them to order a copy.

—Paula Forbes

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