Actress, writer and comedian Amy Sedaris is a woman of many talents. With her own unique approach to entertaining, Sedaris single-handedly brought back the retro cheese ball and conjured the best idea I have ever heard of for nosy guests -- just fill the medicine cabinet with marbles. From salt igloos to knit sausages, Sedaris shares culinary crafts from her book Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. [Ed. note: Read an excerpt here. You can also find a preview of the book as well as some crafts on Sedaris' site.]
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: You had to have had the most fun doing this book.
Amy Sedaris: I did have the most fun doing this book. It was a riot. It was ambitious; we did a lot in very little time. We shot it all in my apartment and I fed people. I had a Crock-Pot going 24 hours a day full of canned chicken soup with a stack of white saltine crackers next to it.
LRK: You are so true to your traditions. Have you always crafted?
AS: I have. I still make the same things I made when I was 5, when I was in Girl Scouts. Nothing has changed. I'm very limited, but I know who can craft well, I know where to find them and I know what I want. The things in the book that I made are pretty obvious -- they're the ones falling apart.
LRK: What are some of your favorite culinary crafts?
AS: There's a salt igloo in the book. It's beautiful. A friend of mine made it. I just think it's lovely, and that's something that you could put out if you're cooking. To have that around in your kitchen or on a table display, it'll get a lot of attention, so I like that.
LRK: Do you chip at it to season food, or do you leave it solely as a centerpiece?
AS: I didn't think about chipping at it. I would say I'd leave it out -- it could be seasonal. Then you can put it away and bring it back out. It's not going to go away.
LRK: That's true. It's salt -- it doesn't really go anywhere. What else?
AS: This time what I did in the craft book is I made a lot of food and used it to put around the craft project.
I'd make this huge cake, a drumstick cake, which is just a white cake. I used those peppermint sticks so it looked like a drum. Then I might put that in the background and just say it's about a knit cap with bangs attached to it. So I used food to put next to the crafts this time. The food looked like it was being the scene-stealer, but it was really behind the scenes.
LRK: You also make wool sausages don't you?
AS: Yes, a friend of mine knitted some sausages. I wanted a whole chapter on sausage making because originally I wanted to make a wig out of real sausages, sausage links. I thought it'd be funny.
But instead I ended up building a log cabin out of the sausage links. There's a chef from a restaurant in New York who gave me all the sausage recipes except for the sausage cookie, which I had at a wedding when I was in the mountains in North Carolina. I swear to God, it was like a chocolate chip cookie but without the chocolate chips. Instead they used sausage. It was really kind of nasty.
LRK: I don't think there's anything wrong with that. That makes perfect sense.
AS: They were good at the time. On top of a mountain, it's just what I wanted to eat.
LRK: I can imagine.
AS: But then I found this girl and she knitted those sausages. They're beautiful.
LRK: They also are going to last longer than the real sausages.
AS: Yes, they're going to last longer and you can put them around your neck like a neck brace. The chorizo neck warmer.
Then I have hot dogs on a rake, where it's a poor man's hot dog-roasting thing. I take a big rake, I would force hot dogs onto it and stick them in my fireplace. Nasty, but it works.
LRK: You can also feed a crowd that way. You don't have to do them one at a time.
AS: Right, fun, yay! Kid's parties: "Do it again! Do it again!"
LRK: You did a whole chapter on confectionery.
AS: Yes, I wanted to have a sweet chapter because I was doing a movie with Neil Patrick Harris -- his mother sent him these Ooey Gooey Bars, and they were just fantastic. That's where I got the idea to do a whole chapter and just ask people -- their mothers -- if they had any old recipes. I just filled the chapter with recipes from mothers.
Except there's a clubhouse cookie that involves marijuana -- keeping it green. It's a great recipe, all organic. It's really good. You need that if you're going to do a craft book, trust me.
LRK: I understand. We're just going to let that go. What homemade gifts are you making this year?
AS: The only thing that I make to give away are those potholders where you buy the plastic loom and you use those cotton loops. I know people have been making those since they were 5 years old, but I didn't discover that kit until I was in my early 40s. I can make those potholders -- I make them very well -- and I sell them. I've already sold out, but I usually sell them on the book tour.
That's what I'll give out, but normally I don't like to give away crafts because nobody wants them. It's just crap nobody wants. Nobody wants it. There's a great fudge recipe in the book. Giving food for presents is a really nice idea I think. Coffee cake. I'm for giving food away, but crafting, no. It's just going to end up in the garbage.
LRK: That's awfully sad, isn't it?
AS: Unless you're a really good crafter. If you're a really good crafter, you're going to sell those things, you're not really going to give them away.
See also: Amy Sedaris plays Stump the Cook.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.