30 Days to a Better Man Day 15: Make a Meal

by Brett on June 14, 2009 · 22 comments

in 30 Days to a Better Man

I just walked home from Uncle Buzz’s house where he served up a delicious “breakfast for dinner” meal of homemade waffles, hash browns, and sausage. Everything he’s made me has been singularly delicious. He’s a maestro in the kitchen and yet also a man’s man. I’ve always found this combination really impressive.

In almost all primitive societies, the responsibility of preparing food fell to the women folk of the tribe. And with the arrival of the industrial revolution and the cult of domesticity, the home, and of course, the hearth, became the domain of women. While we’ve made great strides in equality since the days of sending our ladies out to pick berries and roots, the association between cooking  and women persists.

This is quite unfortunate. If you’ve ever taken the time to notice, most of the world’s top chefs are men, and cooking has a variety of manly benefits and qualities.

We’ve previously established the manliness of cooking. So today we’re just going to do a little review of the reasons a man should be as comfortable in the kitchen as he’s in the garage.

Cooking makes you self-sufficient. A man strives to be as self-reliant as possible. But if he runs to Micky D’s every time there’s a rumble in his stomach and doesn’t even know how to make scrambled eggs for himself, then he falls short of being able to fully stand on his own two feet. Cooking is a valuable skill that grants us a greater degree of independence.

Cooking saves you money. The manly man is a frugal man. He’s always looking for ways to live within his means. And so he eats in far more than he eats out. He understands how much money can be saved by cooking one’s meals at home instead of eating at a restaurant.

The more clueless you are in the kitchen, the stronger the temptation is to go out to eat. If the choice is between a PB&J at home or a steak dinner somewhere else, the latter is always going to win. As you get to the point where your own meals approach restaurant quality, staying home will become more and more desirable.

Cooking keeps you healthy. It’s shocking to flip through a health magazine and see the nutritional information for restaurant meals. When a Quizno’s Classic Italian Sub has 1370 calories, PF Chang’s Pork Lo Mein has 1820 calories, and Macaroni Grille’s Spaghetti and Meatballs has 2430 calories, eating out not only does damage to your wallet, it also does a number on your waistline. Restaurant meals don’t just pack in the fat and calories either, they’re also loaded with salt; Chili’s Buffalo Chicken Fajitas clocks in at 5690 milligrams of sodium (2,300 mg is the recommended daily allowance).

Cooking allows you to create healthy meals that can still taste great. And you can feel satisfied in knowing exactly what’s going into your meals. And that some dude at Domino’s didn’t add boogers to your order.

Cooking is creative. Finding years ago that they had no aptitude for painting or music, many men live lives devoid of creative outlets. Cooking is an incredibly creative process and proficiency in this art is within the reach of every man. You take a bunch of disparate ingredients, experiment with and tweak them, and create a whole far greater than its parts.

Many men want to learn a craft, a skill, something they can do with their hands. They consider woodworking or welding, but never consider cooking. But it can produce the same kind of satisfaction as other crafts. Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore; it doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be something  you really enjoy and even develop a passion for.

Cooking boosts your social skills. Whether you’re single or married, few things can warm the heart of a lady like being able to whip up a tasty meal. Much of what we think of as charm comes from surprising people’s expectations. Because of the historic association of cooking with women, a man who can really cook absolutely endears himself to females. If you’re looking for a way to make your wife happy or impress a girl you like, show them that you’ve got real chops in the kitchen.

Additionally, every man should strive to be a gracious and welcoming host.  Buzz always busts out all the stops in preparing Kate and I delicious dinners and breakfasts. And nothing makes you feel more at home and more welcome then a well-prepared meal.  It helps you share a bit of yourself and your home with your guest .

So today’s task it to prepare a meal with your own two manly hands. It can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you’ve never cooked before, don’t worry; if you can follow a recipe, you can cook. Remember, we’re not talking about adding beef to Hamburger Helper or making a ham sandwich. Make a real meal. If you’re a subscriber to the blog, and need ideas for recipes, download the free Man Cookbook which is linked to in every email or RSS post. If you don’t have time to run to the store, try a site like supercook.com. You enter the foods you  have at home, and it will come up with a recipe that uses what you already have. If you’re still stumped, check out the ideas given below:

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Let us know what you’re going to be cooking on the Community page!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew Barbour June 14, 2009 at 8:38 pm

I make breakfast for my wife and I every Saturday and Sunday morning. Here’s our favorite:

(Warning–It’s got tofu in it. But bear in mind, it’s a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. It’s not there as part of some treehuggin’ drum circle goddess ceremony. )

Tools:

Deep frying pan, spatula

Ingredients (for two people)

Half a square block of tofu
5 eggs
Good-sized handful of Pre-cooked rice
Mushrooms, peppers, carrots, onions, tomatoes
Toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. Olive oil

Directions:

Olive oil in hot pan.
Squeeze out as much water as possible from tofu, mash up in pan and fry off moisture until resembling scrambled eggs.
Add veggies. A goodly amount.
Once veggies are good and soft, add the rice, cover for a few minutes to let the rice soak up some moisture.
Add eggs. Depending on how you make it, it could look like scrambled eggs or a giant fritata.
Add sesame seeds and Tabasco sauce (salt, pepper, whatever). Eat. Remain full for several hours.

2 Bob Iger June 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I cook a meal nearly every day for my family. I’ve got nothing to worry about.

3 Mick June 14, 2009 at 10:25 pm

I can see that in an US context this could be a problem. I, however, live in Italy where the culture of cooking applies a lot more than other places. Just to say something, my dad has spoilt my tastes for fish meals, because every sunday he will make these awesome fish based meals. So much that when I go to a restaurant and happen to eat fish I am sorely disappointed :D

For anyone who has never ever cooked in his life I would like to just point out: trust your microwave. Your microwave is your friend!!

Happy man made meal, everybody!!

4 dajolt June 15, 2009 at 2:48 am

Here’s a link to a very manly page that will teach you anything
you need to know about making the perfect pizza.

http://varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm

I stumbled onto it a few years ago and have stopped
buying frozen pizza completely. (I used to eat 1-2 of
these boxes a week before)

Enjoy.

5 Sachi June 15, 2009 at 3:36 am

how comes almost all of the suggsted meals have meat in them : (

6 Paul June 15, 2009 at 4:02 am

Because meat is awesome.

7 Dan June 15, 2009 at 4:03 am

Right in Brett! Cooking is very manly. That’s why I do it all the time.

8 Dan June 15, 2009 at 4:03 am

I meant to say *Right ON*

9 Jason June 15, 2009 at 6:26 am

Funny timing! I just had a dinner party last night and made Chile braised beef brisket (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chile-Braised-Beef-Brisket-350804) and pumpkin risotto (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/wolfgang-puck/pumpkin-risotto-recipe/index.html )…. Of course I never go more than about 75% with the recipe, but it’s close enough.

Cooking is definitely a creative outlet for me. I enjoy cooking as much as my friends enjoy coming over for dinner :)

10 Cutter June 15, 2009 at 6:58 am

As I described in my post under the ‘take a woman out on a date’ article, cooking your own meal is more cost effective, more enjoyable, and more appreciated by others than a meal at a chain restaurant.

First off, if the thought of cooking anything more complicated than a frozen pizza is just too intimidating, check your nearby fancy restaurants (not chain outlets). Many of them offer periodic cooking classes. You can learn the basics of knife handling, how to make the five basic sauces, and how to prep chicken or beef. You can also find lots of videos on Youtube to guide you through this.

Find a cookbook you like, preferably one that explains WHY each step is taken. Stick to proven recipes at first, but eventually, as you come to understand basic cooking methods & the proper balance of ingredients and seasonings, you can branch out and create a signature dish of your own. Believe me, when your wife’s friends tell her how jealous they are of her for having a husband who can cook, she’ll appreciate you even more!

Don’t be intimidated by a recipe that sounds fancy. Remember that the famous French dish coq au vin is little more than chicken stew with red wine poured in, and baked Alaska is just a mound of toasted meringue on top of a thin layer of cake.

Another key point is to use the best quality ingredients you can find or afford. Fresh herbs instead of dried flakes can make a real difference, and homemade tomato sauce is MUCH better than a jar that says Ragu on the side.

When it comes to meat, remember that the pecking order for cuts of meat from the processor is this: restaurants, butcher shops, and lastly grocery stores. In other words, restaurants get first pick of the best cuts, and your local supermarket gets last pick. Therefore, get to know your nearby butcher, who can special order certain cuts or organs for you as needed, or if you really go through a lot of meat, team up with a few people and buy half a cow (grain fed, of course) from a locker plant. For fruit and veggies, try using your local farmer’s market.

I’ve been trying to move away from processed foods as much as I can (you’ll be shocked at how many foods have high fructose corn syrup in them… even bread!). My next step (next year, it’s really too late this year) is to grow my own veggies and learn how to can them for the winter using my grandparents’ canning equipment.

After cooking for a while, you’ll probably find yourself using the drive-thru less frequently, and you’ll likely save some money, too.

11 Greg June 15, 2009 at 7:10 am

Men. Get yourselves a copy of the “better Homes and Garden New Cookbook”. Yes, it’s dated, but it does have an awful lot of “good, plain cooking” in it. Be come familiar with the basics and you’re set. One big caveat. Buy “First Quality” kitchenware. It’s worth it.

12 Keepiru June 15, 2009 at 7:32 am

RE: Cutter
It’s actually not too late to start a traditional garden. Most local greenhouses still have plenty of vegetables ready to go into the ground.
If you’re not afraid of a little research and construction you could always look at home hydroponics. With a little space you can grow a lot of different plants indoors.
http://www.hydroponicsonline.com/forums/ has some good information.
http://www.amazon.com/How-Hydroponics-Fourth-Keith-Roberto/dp/0967202612/ref=wl_it_dp?ie=UTF8&coliid=IPJIYQ1L165TW&colid=RWXEFX5D16N3 is also an excellent source
http://www.instructables.com/tag/?q=hydroponics&limit%3Atype%3Aid=on&type%3Aid=on&type%3Auser=on&type%3Acomment=on&type%3Agroup=on&type%3AforumTopic=on&type%3AforumTopic=on&sort=none and here is more DIY stuff for hydroponics.

Having a constant source of fresh vegetables and herbs for your kitchen would be a huge benefit for your meals!

13 Jason Y June 15, 2009 at 8:36 am

@Sachi
Good question. Indeed, not every meal has to contain meat, much less center around meat.

@Paul
Are not other food groups awesome? Imo, fruits and veggies are key to variety and important to every-day eating experiences. They often get a bad rep, imo, because of:
-eradic quality of fresh selections (which is what frozen stuff is for–though not all plants freeze with equal grace)
-canned over-seasoned, overly-salty, otherwise tasteless canned veggies
-overcooking steamed veggies (turning them to bitter mush)

Everyone mistakenly thinks we should endure veggies because they are “good for you.” Why not instead enjoy tasty food of all sorts for enjoyment?

14 Cutter June 15, 2009 at 9:34 am

@ Jason Y:

Good point about frozen veggies. If you don’t have a farmer’s market nearby, frozen veggies are sometimes the way to go. The reason is the breakdown of nutrients is halted by the freezing process very soon after harvesting, usually within a few hours. By comparison, a “fresh” crown of broccoli from Mexico has been losing nutritional value and crispness for days.

@ Keepiru:

What I meant by ‘too late this year’ is that my wife has already used the available garden area in our yard to plant daisies, poppies, etc. Next year I’m claiming it. I’ll keep the hydroponics in mind, though.

15 paul June 15, 2009 at 11:20 am

Also try Allrecipese.com you input a coupel things you have on hand and can find a dozen dishes that you can make.

And, don’t forget, that cooking is a major chick-turnon. Nothing like whipping up a creative tasty dish (plenty of easy recipes in mags like Mens Health, too, until you get the hang of it.)

In fact, not only did i land a hot chick for a girlfriend, I’ve inspired her 10-year old daughter to become a chef.

Paulo

16 paul June 15, 2009 at 11:21 am

http://www.AllRecipes.com

can’t type. (sorry)

17 P June 15, 2009 at 3:11 pm

My mom always said “If you can read, you can cook!” Best advice she ever gave me. Now I find it fun to take a date to places where you take a cooking class. It is fun interaction. I also think it is important to become an absolute expert in one meal. Make it your signature. It will impress people and will become better with time.

18 Josh, Great Chefs June 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm

A simple question to ask is “What’s more important then the food you take into yourself?” If men are concerned about their health, food, and subsequently the preparation of it, should be concerns too, wouldn’t you agree?

19 Adam Blevins July 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm

My cousin and I cooked a massive meal on the 4th for a family reunion I was hosting.

This is what it consisted of:

2in thick steaks…marinated of course…for the men only. Boys and kids had “regular” steaks, which were still pretty awesome.

Chicken with spices and marinade. The women all wanted chicken instead of steak. Go figure.

Macaroni & Cheese (lots of butter and milk)

Pasta Salad (I didn’t eat this, but heard it was good)

Corn on the cob (cannot have a cookout without it)

Catfish – broken up into small nuggets, lightly breaded, drown in butter, Frischs Tartar Sauce on the side

20 Alexander Connell February 26, 2013 at 10:05 am

I’m a reasonably good cook, although my specialty is “drop everything in a pot and stir it”. However, I’m pretty good at poached eggs and as it’s breakfast time as I read this…I’ll see you all in a bit.

21 Thomas Unga December 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm

So I know I’m pretty late to the party, I just started doing the 30-day challenge at the beginning of December 2013. As I was reading, I found one statement that I didn’t completely agree with: “In almost all primitive societies, the responsibility of preparing food fell to the women folk of the tribe.” In ancient Hawaiian times (I am of Hawaiian and Polynesian ancestry), the responsibility of cooking fell to that of the man. Not only was he responsible for cultivating the food (whether it was farming or hunting), he was the chef. Just thought I would share some of my cultural insight to “the art of manliness.”

By the way, absolutely love the website.

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