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Cookbook review: 'Man Made Meals' aims to guide guys in the kitchen

Published: Tuesday, May 13 2014 4:40 p.m. MDT

Steven Raichlen understands men and how they tend to cook. He speaks the lingo.

So in his newest book, "Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook For Guys" (Workman Publishing, $24.95), he's articulate, helpful and funny. (Just check the chapter heads: "Hog," "Steer," "Birds and a Rabbit.")

He freely acknowledges that men "need to know how to drag the meat back to the cave" and cook it.

He recognizes that most men, while they enjoy cooking, will want to make a much bigger production of a meal than women. "Flames. Smoke. Sharp implements. Blowtorches. High-tech gear and power tools. … We guys love this stuff," he said.

He reminds his readers to read the recipe start to finish, to assemble and prepare ingredients, to clean up as they go and to season incrementally, adding salt and pepper gradually along the process.

He offers good advice: "Taste, taste, taste." "Buy the best you can afford." "Use high heat to achieve a dark brown color just shy of burnt."

Yet he boils it down to the basics: "All the world's cooking can be accomplished using five basic processes: gathering, cutting, mixing, seasoning, and transforming by heat, cold or chemical reaction. Five — that's it. Master them, and you'll rule the kitchen."

Raichlen has provided more than 300 recipes, from the simple, such as scrambled eggs and hot dogs (never boil or simmer them, page 118), to show-stopping numbers such as "Finger-Burner Lamb Chops" (see accompanying recipe) and "Spice-Crusted Whole Beef Tenderloin."

And he's tossed in tips and hints as well as advice from more than a dozen celebrity "food dudes," such as actor Stanley Tucci, chef Thomas Keller and activists Michael Pollan and Jim Denovan.

"I tried to pick men who had something interesting to say about food. The activism theme is very important because as more and more families have two working parents, if the man doesn't shoulder some of the cooking, our kids may never eat home-cooked meals," he said.

Raichlen told the Deseret News that it used to be that men didn't cook in the kitchen. If they cooked, they cooked outdoors on the grill (or more often, burned the food on the grill).

"Guys didn't always realize there's a difference between grilling and burning. So guys needed to know it's OK — even cool — to cook," he said.

"Today, most guys are comfortable with the notion of men in the kitchen and cooking. So the challenge is more changing how men think."

For one thing, men like to be instant experts, Raichlen said. "In other words, we lack the patience for a slow climb up a learning curve," he said.

"That's why I start with the concept of culinary literacy in the first chapter — what every man needs to know in the kitchen. Not everything. Just the essentials. Killer chili. The perfect steak. How to cook a romantic dinner complete with a fail-proof seduction chocolate dessert," Raichlen said.

"That's also why I've tried to make the recipes super easy to use, outlining what you need to buy, what tools you need, what you need to know and how long it will take you."

Raichlen explained that men have a paradoxical relationship with simplicity and complication.

"We like food to be simple (think burgers, brats, nachos, steak) until we want it to be complicated. Then we want it really complicated, like an 18-ingredient chili or an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink beef stew," he said.

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