Aleksandra Mir

The How Not To Cookbook

By Rebecca
quirkycooking.com, London, August 2009

Aleksandra Mir’s How Not to CookBook (Lessons learned the hard way) is a cross between art project and anti-cookbook. It’s packed with 1000 tips on what not to do in the kitchen, contributed by people from around the world and collated by Aleksandra.

Most people are bound to have experienced kitchen disasters at some point in their lives. We’ve all been there and we’ve all got a story – a grilled cake, a horrible burn or sliced finger, attempting to put frozen pizza in a toaster, cooking pasta in a kettle etc etc.

It’s this process of learning through trial and error that captured Aleksandra’s interest, viewing the publication of these culinary failures as a form of subversive art.

The book is a limited edition art project, produced through funding from The National Lottery. It’s priced at £30 and available to buy only from the Collective, an art gallery in Edinburgh’s old town.

Example tips include:

"Do not cut vegetables with a very sharp knife when talking to people or answering stupid questions."

"Never stop stirring a risotto, no matter how boring it gets, or it will not get creamy. Waiting time can only be cut out on TV shows, not in real life."

"Do not take out a very hot pie from the oven with a wet cloth. It hurts!"

"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."

"Never start cooking before you’ve had a glass of wine but do not start cooking after you’ve had your second glass."

"If holding a squid’s eyes firmly while you cut off the tentacles just beneath disgusts you, you can hold onto the tentacles instead while you cut off the head, but since they are very slippery, the chance to cut your fingers increases radically."

"Do not choke the chicken having chopped hot peppers."

"Just because you have managed to master a recipe doesn’t mean it will turn out great every time. Variability always exists. Ingredients are fresher or less fresh, harvested near or far, and factors such as the happiness of plants and animals are unpredictable and wild. Accept this."