Cookbook Review: Everything a Man Needs to Know About Cooking But Was Afraid to Ask
Real men love to cook.
There are a number of cookbooks out there catering to male sensibilities. Daniel Duane's How to Cook Like a Man is part memoir, part instruction manual. Then there's simply Cook Like A Man: The Ultimate Cookbook for the Modern Gentleman, Esquire Magazine's Eat Like a Man, The Stag Cook Book and even the world's saddest cookbook, Microwave Cooking for One, which, in spite of the smiling female on the cover, seems designed for single dudes.
And now there's a new tome to add to the collection of testosterone-fueled culinary how-tos: Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys, by Steven Raichlen. The voluminous guide (640 pages) to everything a man would need to know in the kitchen is part recipe book, part technical guide and part introduction to the world of cooking. The good news is it appears to be a useful book even for those who might be a little more experienced in the kitchen. Need to know how to butterfly a pork loin or shop for knives? That's all here, along with a glossary of cooking terms and bartending how-tos.
The only thing the book doesn't explain is how long it'll take to cook your way through the entire thing.
Recipes or food porn: Unlike most of the cookbooks we review, this one isn't very photo-heavy. Most of the recipes are not accompanied by images of the completed dish. Photos are primarily used to demonstrate techniques step-by-step like, for instance, how to spatchcock a chicken. In addition to recipes, the book contains lengthy (it's 640 pages, remember) but useful guides to everything from stocking a pantry to making an omelette, as well as interviews with "Food Dudes" like Michael Pollan. This cookbook definitely falls on the side of knowledge over aesthetics.
Ease of use: The book is a little overwhelming due to the sheer volume of information contained within it. The contents page at the front lists 17 categories of recipes (soups and salads are two distinct categories from starters, and every meat is a separate chapter), as well as conversion tables, a glossary and an index. Though the contents page and index are helpful, the book isn't immediately intuitive. If you want to find a specific interview with a "Food Dude" or, for instance, a guide to peeling garlic (in the soup section for some reason), you'll have to consult the index.
Other than the organizational puzzles, though, the cookbook is very straightforward. The recipes give a lot of detail without adding anything extraneous, so even inexperienced cooks can follow along and prepare complicated dishes.
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Difficulty of finding ingredients: Most of the dishes featured in the cookbook are the type one might find at an upscale Americana chain. There are a few ethnic dishes like Oaxacan pork fajitas or Peruvian ceviche, but every ingredient in every dish should be available at a well-stocked grocery store. Some meats and seafoods might need to be acquired from a special purveyor, but if that's not something you feel like tackling, there are plenty of other recipes to choose from.
Production value: At $24.95, this massive book is a great value. You'd be hard-pressed to find another cookbook with this much information for that price. It's a soft-cover book, but the pages are glossy, and what photos there are are very well done.
Recipes I want to try: I'm a little overwhelmed by the number of recipes, but a few that stick out are Eisenhower's Trout (crusted with cornmeal and fried in bacon fat) and cauliflower steaks (Sicilian style with capers, currants and pine nuts). There's also a recipe for Belgian beer brownies that sounds rich and decadent.
Verdict: This is a great replacement for the typical graduation gift books like Microwave Cooking for One or A Man, A Can, A Plan, because it's more a serious guide and less a tongue-in-cheek look at cooking from a man's perspective. Good for young guys living on their own, men who are just getting interested in cooking or men who need a little extra push to get going in the kitchen.
Stats: Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys Steven Raichlen Photographs by Lucy Schaeffer 640 pages $24.95
Extra! The author, Steven Raichlen, a frequent barbecue contributor to Esquire and GQ, will be at Jasper's Restaurant in The Woodlands on May 23 at 6:30 p.m. The dinner is $85 per person and features recipes from the cookbook, as well as wine pairings. Each ticket also comes with a free signed copy of the cookbook. Contact Jasper's for more information.
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