Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys
Cookbooks and cultural conversation starters top our summer reading list
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., May 23, 2014
Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guysby Steven Raichlen
Workman Publishing, 640 pp., $22.95
It's because Steven Raichlen is the savant who wrote The Barbecue! Bible and hosts PBS' Primal Grill and has already won five James Beard Awards for his cookbooks: That's why you can roll your eyes, if necessary, at the gender-specific bias of his new Man Made Meals book that's marketed to men – who are previously ignorant of kitchen skills due, it seems, to their possession of a Y chromosome (or, perhaps the rationalization would run, due to the typical parental and societal bullshit resultant therefrom). You can roll your eyes, and then you can do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Man Made Meals anyway.
Seriously. Because, in spite of the goofiness of occasional statements like "As for cupcakes, they really aren't guy food," Raichlen is no strident masculinist here or elsewhere; his affable, conversational tone focuses on the business at hand. He's like a longtime buddy who has a couple of libraries' worth of knowledge, the experience to back that knowledge up, and a rightfully acclaimed ability to share that knowledge. Man Made Meals is an introduction to cooking (and an exploration of several of the more "guy-centric" possibilities of cooking) that is so well-presented and so enjoyably informative, it's just as well that it's targeting a specific niche: General cookbooks couldn't bear competition like this.
Raichlen smartly shows you how best to navigate and stock a kitchen and how to make use of the trade's necessary tools; he lays out the basics that a person needs to know about cooking, and then he presents recipe after recipe of mouthwatering goodness for every daypart you don't sleep through. Each presentation is an extension of the man's conversational vibe, now revealing in simple, practical steps how to commit each recipe, including hints and tips gleaned from his decades of cooking, and prefaced with brief, sometimes anecdotal bits that provide welcome context for what you're about to prepare. Brioche French toast. BLT salad. Thai bar snacks. Lemon soy London broil. Pork chops paprikas. Bourbon-brined roast turkey. Bacon-wrapped scallops. Mexican chocolate pudding. The list goes on, the recipes enlighten, and eventually your kitchen smells like heaven.
Bonus: numerous full-color photo spreads of prep methods, showing exactly what you need to do. Bonus: a section on cocktails near the end of the gorgeous, oversize paperback volume. Bonus: between-chapters profiles/interviews with a small crowd of famous "Food Dudes" – Michael Pollan, Stanley Tucci, Thomas Keller, and more.
Conclusion: Steven Raichlen's Man Made Meals is such a great basic cookbook, I'm getting a second copy – for my daughter.