For more than 10 years, Steven Raichlen resisted writing a men’s cookbook. Through books like Barbecue! Bible, and How To Grill, as well as his PBS television show, Barbecue University, Mr. Raichlen has helped countless men step into the kitchen and start cooking. But he was hesitant about dedicating a book entirely to men. Although almost all of Mr. Raichlen’s books have included recipes, he has been far more interested in telling the stories behind the meals than in listing instructions. For his previous books he has traveled the world, studying how people cook in foreign cultures.
“My other books are very much anthropology books, they are geography books, they are cultural history books,” said Mr. Raichlen. “What really juices me about writing a cookbook is getting out into the field and the back alleys, lifting up the lid on the grills and seeing what people are grilling in far-off lands and cultures.”
When his publisher, the late Peter Workman, suggested that Mr. Raichlen write a cookbook targeted specifically to men, Mr. Raichlen wasn’t sure how he would be able to incorporate this sort of hands-on storytelling. After years of Mr. Workman’s persistence though, Mr. Raichlen’s wife, Barbara, had an idea that ignited his interest.
Scattered between the recipes, lessons and information in Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook For Guys are short interviews with Food Dudes. Some of these men are chefs, some of them are just regular guys who like to cook, but all of them have something to say that Mr. Raichlen believes all men should hear.
“I looked for guys who have deep passions and strong opinions and something that I consider important to say,” he said. “I wanted a wide range of ages, so we have 20-something food bloggers and we have 60-something activists. We have guys with tattoos and we have guys with PhDs.”
One of the Food Dudes, Michael Pollan, points out that with more and more women in the workplace, if men don’t start cooking, children will stop having home-cooked meals. Mr. Raichlen also believes it is crucial for men and women to both cook, but feels men and women often cook for different reasons. Rather than ignoring these differences, Mr. Raichlen celebrates them and appeals specifically to the factors that motivate guys.
“I think that in general, women are charged with cooking for the household while when men cook it is more of a special event,” he said. “When women cook, they think meals, when men cook they think dishes. When men cook there is a theatrical show-off element, while when women cook it is more about nurturing. That’s a lesson we can learn.”
Mr. Raichlen believes that all men should know how to cook high quality meals for themselves and for their families. This book was designed to give any guy the tools and knowledge necessary to do this. There are plenty of recipes in the book, but there are also in-depth lessons and stories that will help guys who have never cooked a meal in their lives get started.
“There are other cookbooks for men, but this one has a strong activist perspective,” he added. “I try to teach guys and encourage guys to shop locally, to buy grass-fed beef, heritage pork, heritage vegetables, organic when possible, to buy food seasonally. That’s how I eat and I think that’s a very 2014 way of eating.”
One of the key lessons of this book is that materials matter. That doesn’t necessarily mean buying the most expensive meats, but it does mean thinking about where your food comes from. On Martha’s Vineyard especially, consumers are lucky to have access to high quality ingredients and local markets.
“We’ve got this incredible bounty around us. Here on Martha’s Vineyard, even stores like Cronig’s carry local eggs and locally raised chickens. That’s incredible. That is a needle that communities like ours are moving. I think we are going to move the needle for the whole country.”
Mr. Raichlen splits his time between his house in Chappaquiddick and his house in Miami. He considers the Island a “locavore’s paradise” and tries to take advantage of his time here with some mild foraging. He goes clamming, grows blueberries along his driveway, cooks lobster on the beach and makes his own sassafras vodka. Of course, he also cooks a lot of fish and local products, buying chickens from Jefferson Munroe and eggs from Slip Away Farm.
There are recipes in Man Made Meals for any type of guy, including a number of vegetarian options. After careful consideration, Mr. Raichlen decided that if he could only make one dish from the collection, it would be the “Scottadito,” an Italian lamb chop dish. While the decision was a difficult one, there is no shortage of qualities that make this the perfect dish for guys.
“It is super simple, it features a meat that is intensely flavorful that we should all be eating more of. There’s absolutely excellent lamb on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s something that you eat with your fingers which makes the experience so much more visceral, and if you spend more than 10 minutes preparing it you missed the point.”