Food, Musing

thoughts on cookbooks

(Fall really is the best time of year in Minnesota, hands down.)

Just gonna put it out there: If you do not know how to cook, I assume that in a situation where neither your friend, sibling, parent, nor friendly local food worker were around, you would be unable to feed yourself. Think about that for a second. So when someone says they don’t feel the need to learn how to cook, the only thing I hear is “I am incapable of being self-reliant in times of absolute biological need.” Generally, we (as I type from Minneapolis) don’t live in a culture where most people eat street food, so you’re not off the hook. Sorry.

(Side note: This is more of a peer address. Ye who work two/three day jobs with children, I salute you.)

I’m happy to see that over the years, cooking has become something embraced by typical American males compared to their forefathers. It still irks me sometimes to see the gender inequality of top chefs (mostly male), when compared to the fact that every day, around the US, women are still doing most of the cooking. Anyways, the point of this isn’t an anti-male rant, but rather the observation that, while not averse to cooking, a large proportion of males remain relatively uninformed about it. Shopping, planning, cooking…a lot of men learn these skills once they’re out of college, with no mom or dining hall in sight. And, to be honest, the typical Midwestern family doesn’t necessarily facilitate the education of males in the kitchen. Which is unfortunate. All right people, so you may not have grown up in the kitchen, but now that you’re an adult, food ignorance just does not fly. It would behoove you to catch up on some culinary skillz, because there is a great world of food out there. And no, unless your significant other has promised they will cook you food for the rest of your life, the phrase “I just don’t really like doing it” is silly. I don’t like cleaning or vacuuming or changing car oil, but…

In true marketing form, I’d love to send a survey out to college and post-college people about cooking. Most guys I know genuinely want to learn how to cook better. We’ve talked about it a little bit, but I can’t find anything directed towards guys that doesn’t try to be some slightly milder version of Epic Meal Time. I’ve seen many a well-intentioned book for guys in college that basically  A) tries to make food exciting in a guy, collegy way (30 FOODS TO COOK WITH BEER, MOTHAF***KAHS) or B) treats dudes like they are complete idiots (15 MICROWAVE MEALS, IDIOTS GUIDE TO COOKING) or C) contains some of the nastiest, unhealthiest crap ever. (FAMILY FAVE MEAT PIES, MAC’N’CHEESE, CURD SANDWICH) Being healthy is not un-manly! Hell, even eating vegetarian is not un-manly! Redefine yourself, men. Step outside of your boxes. These cookbooks make you look like a dumb, sloppy-joe caveman and I don’t mean in the cool, fad Paleo diet kinda way.

I know there are some good starter cookbooks out there, and Mark Bittman has published a few. But I think there needs to be more pictures, some diagrams, and bright photography. While there may be some good cookbooks out there, I’ve never actually seen any owned by college/post-college guys.

So what should be in a starter, possibly male-oriented cookbook? My ideas so far…

  1. Overview section of common vegetables & fruits, including how to prepare, how to cut, and how to shop for them
  2. Same with grains, including some alternative ones
  3. Overview section of spices and flavor pairings
  4. Nutritional information, such as what a healthy diet should be aiming for (read: not all hamburger meat all the time)
  5. Helpful information on how to plan meals that incorporate vegetables, grains, and protein
  6. Recipes! Recipes for different occasions, from different cultures, fun recipes, indulgent recipes, but mostly healthy and delicious recipes.
  7. An example of a meal-planning chart for grocery shopping. Huge!

Tone of said cookbook: straight-forward, maybe a little funny, smart. A friendly manual. A friendly manual that doesn’t try to make up for it’s page size with an overly macho title, a friendly manual that you can read while you cook, a friendly manual that will help you unlock all of the secrets of the kitchen. And from there it just gets easier – for everyone. It is cool to know how to cook. It is also cool to know how to eat in a way that is personally healthy as well as sustainable.

What do you think should be in an accessible cookbook that makes beginner young people want to cook?


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