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Philosophic Recipes for Men
To Doc Mulligan
For calling me on my bullshit when appropriate.
Chapter 1 Before you begin….. Welcome to Man Food, my first foray into a work of this scale. To be completely fair to you, I need to detail the who, why, and method in this book. When I began this project, my intention was to put together a semi tongue-in-cheek cookbook for men who rarely venture into the kitchen. As I started to write, it became obvious that a simple cookbook wasn’t cutting it, and as I selected these recipes, I realized they reflected more than my taste in food. Thoughts that flowed with them were also important to my life. I hope they will be to yours, as well. Finally, it became apparent that the non-recipe sections needed to stand on their own, and what you will (hopefully) read is in this unique format. I am not a chef, and probably not what anyone would consider a great cook either. I make a few things that are received very well, and that is what I offer here. Each chapter narrates a recipe or dish, and along with that is a corresponding flow of thoughts based on what I believe. I have called these thoughts my philosophy. That sounds a little grand, as I am no Voltaire or Kant. Simply, I am a middle aged retired Navy guy trying to make sense of it all and accept the occasional gifts of happiness that come my way. I also make a valiant attempt to stave off the “gifts” of grief, but as most of you already know, sometimes that effort is akin to tilting at windmills. As someone who does tilt at windmills, I can assure you that although the majority of those efforts are in vain, I do have occasional victories. Common wisdom dictates that we choose our enemies and battles wisely. I won’t dispute that logic, and while there is a difference between standing up and standing tall, that difference doesn’t include a choice of sitting down. Injustice, intolerance, and just plain evil must always be met. That may be a romantic and usually self-defeating stance, but I would offer that one should always engage, with some small measure of sanity thrown in whenever possible. Just like there is no such thing as getting a little bit pregnant, there is no condition I can live with where I have to question my commitment to my ideals.
Some of you may wonder why this book is oriented towards men. The short answer to that is because I am one, and am most comfortable writing from (and to) that perspective. The long answer is more subtle. I guess that I have realized after forty-six years that the vast majority of what we do as men is connected in some way to women. My thoughts expressed in this work are no different. Men often are portrayed as having difficulty discussing emotions, especially among each other. I have found that the more I delve into those particular kinds of interchanges, the easier they become. Moreover, I find great benefit from sharing thoughts and feelings with other men. Maybe this is one thing that I have learned from women; that the “sisterhood” has a male counterpart that can be extremely cathartic if explored. Okay, I should now probably segue into my affinity for .45 caliber handguns, or explore the best defensive football schemes, lest you start to develop the notion that I am something less than a manly man. But the truth is that we as men can love to shoot, enjoy sports, take pleasure in watching ultimate fighting, and still not be total morons regarding how we feel. Just don’t tell me about your latest emotional despondency when I am trying to put a full clip in the black. There is a time and place for most things after all. On to the supposed heart of this matter and that is cooking. Like any self-aware aspiring craftsman, one of the first orders of business is tools. Just like any other endeavor, the right tool for the right job. Here is the rationalization for spending good money on the right pots, pans, knives, and utensils: I once got involved in a dart league, as lame as that may seem, and promptly dropped one hundred dollars on a set of Black Widow darts. The woman that I was having a semi-long term relationship with lost her mind when she learned of the nature and amount of the expense. My calm response was, “When I throw one of these and miss, I can be absolutely positive that it wasn’t the dart’s fault.” The same, of course, holds true for any implement in any activity. First, obtain a decent set of pots. Circa 2008, a nice six piece nonstick set will put you back about one hundred and fifty dollars minimum. Also, do your research. There are many Internet sites that contain user reviews. Avoid the sets that have handles that require a towel being wrapped around them; these are generally professional type pots and will very likely be way above your (and my for that matter) skill level. Next drop another 4
fifty bucks or so on a collection of cooking utensils, and make damn sure they are NOT METAL. There are some non-stick pots and pans that claim to be able to withstand metal utensils, but I don’t believe it. The black nonstick utensils look cooler anyway. Last, get a really good set of knives, including a cleaver. You can usually get a set of cooking knives that also include steak knives. A colander is also handy; I use one that has handles that extend so that it is supported across the sink. So now you have a reasonable tool kit and are ready to do some damage to your kitchen. If you have a gas stove, count yourself among the lucky. Electric stoves are fine, but gas is so much easier to cook with, for no other reason than when you turn a burner up, down, or off, it is immediate. Remember with electric that it takes a few minutes for the heat to be adjusted or dissipate. Ovens, however, work basically the same with either method of heating. Just remember that the rack height does matter, and if in question, just stick to the middle position. One quick note on grills and grilling – read Chapter 2. Finally, I have to address the nature of recipes and the actual execution of all these dishes. I like to have fun when I cook, and I have found that the fun quotient is inversely proportional to the use of a rigid recipe. Sometimes when grocery shopping I will look around and try to figure out what ingredients would taste good together. I have had some phenomenal failures using this method, and a few home runs as well. There are times, however, when one must follow a recipe, and the fun you will find must be relegated to only the finished product. It’s a lot like playing Blackjack in a casino. The first few times I played, I really enjoyed myself in that the mystery that chance provided was a welcome diversion from an otherwise structured life. But after a time, I decided that the end result was more important than the journey, and I started to adhere to the recipe – the rules if you will. Never split 10’s or face cards, stand when the dealer shows 6 or less, etc. And Blackjack ceased to be any fun at all, as a matter of fact; it became a lot like work. So be careful not to take the value of any journey lightly, it may just be a whole lot more satisfying than the destination itself. On to the cooking, and as much of my sometimes unique and always dead-on-balls accurate assessment of life as you can stomach. Truly, I hope 5
you enjoy both parts of this book, and come away with a little more than just how to navigate a few simple dishes. Bon appetite!
Chapter 2 The Perfect Steak And Eloquence in Simplicity Okay, first let me say that I am so tired of people butchering good meat (pun intended) with the perpetrator assuming that he is creating a masterpiece. From cradle to grave, the process for a perfect steak is simple, yet sublime. Put another way, realizing the eloquence in the simplicity of it. It all starts of course, with selection. Selection. In the simplest of terms, the choice we have in everything. And aside from autonomous physiologic functions, everything is a choice. You know, I cannot count how many times I have either heard (blatantly), or in more subtle inference, how this person or that person “had no choice”. I call that the purest form of cowardice, especially in emotional terms. There is absolutely no eloquence in cowardice. There are different cuts of “steak”, and usually the price per pound is directly proportional to the quality. Much like most other things in life, you get what you pay for. The cut selection also depends on the intended cooking method, and there is no other way to realize the perfect steak except through grilling. More on proper grilling later. So, (drum roll here), get thee to your butcher, and have him cut as many 1 ½ inch thick bone-in Ribeye (aka Delmonico) steaks that you have people to serve them to. Now that you have your pricey Ribeyes in tow, let’s talk about preparing and grilling. The preparation will consist of nothing except possibly adding a very restrained amount of seasoning. Not marinating! God created steak marinade for those on a budget, in order to ease the disappointment of a lesser cut of beef. Save the marinade for chicken, pork, etc. Remember, our key word here is sublime. I prefer to rub in some Season All, or a light dash salt and pepper as a minimum. Now, get ready for grilling.
Sublime is one of those cool words that I want to use as much as possible, probably because I am always drawn to things that could be termed that way. It just seems so much more elegant to dwell in a place that isn’t so obvious, a place just behind the curtain. Think of being at a party at night where you don’t know many of the other guests, and you briefly lock gazes with a woman whose dark eyes and slight smile speaks volumes that you cannot read in that single moment. The implied secret, the offered hidden pleasure, the beauty in the darker side of life. All the while and with these things the satisfaction of just letting go. First, if you have to light the fire via any other method than applying lighter fluid to charcoal, momentarily stop reading, get a pair of pliers, pull out a fingernail in penance to the gods of grilling, and finally go buy a charcoal grill. Yes, I know the arguments, but they all boil down to convenience. To the heretics I will say this: apply the convenience paradigm to every other aspect of things you care about in life, and let me know how that works out for you in a couple of months. Anyway, I digress. Light the charcoal and have a cocktail until it is ready (briquettes just turned totally ash gray). So here we are with a ready grill and steaks eager to have their existence made complete. Stop. Set the cast-iron grill surface four to five inches above the briquettes, draw your can of grill-rated cooking spray, and apply the spray to the cast-iron grill surface (exercise some care here, as it is flammable). Now, place the Ribeyes on the grill, and don’t dare to leave them. If you are one of the readers that is now missing a fingernail, and are new to the righteous path of charcoal, take heed. Things cook much faster over charcoal than gas! The information I will impart to you now is the secret of steak perfection: when you see no more than ¼ inch of the bottom (grill-side) of the steak is brown (versus red), turn them over for the first and only time. Read that again. One turn only. A perfect steak is NEVER cooked beyond medium rare. If you prefer anything more, I suggest going to your closet, pulling out an old pair of shoes, and start munching on those instead. At least you will have saved some time and not ruined what was about to be an exercise in culinary perfection. I realize that everyone has their own taste, but I am taking the high road as defined by this: Go to a decent steakoriented eatery, and order a steak well-done and observe what happens to the
waiter’s facial expression. Back to the rib eyes. Watch the meat cook to the same ¼ depth and promptly remove from the grill. You’re done. Well, not quite. Here is a contrary but necessary deviation from simplicity: Nothing is ever really done. Look to religious mythology for proof of that mind-set; even death is (supposedly) not final. Prior emotional entanglements, even after years, will still toss the occasional unasked for memory to the fore. So the eloquence here is the realization that our very natures will always prevent anything from truly being over. Put another way, isn’t life a bitch sometimes? What’s next you ask? Well, the sides are up to you (unless you read Chapter 12), and since this chapter’s subtitle deals with simplicity, I will adhere to my message. And finally, a continued quest for eloquence will always become a noble one.
Chapter 3 Enjoy the Messy Chicken Chicken is really a very disgusting meat to prepare. Perhaps this is because chickens raised for commercial production lead such distasteful and pathetic short lives. It’s one of those things you can’t let yourself think about too much, otherwise you would never eat one of the beasts again. So the mess here must be embraced with semi-blinders on, and although those blinders may be necessary in enduring the mess of preparation, taking them off to enjoy other types of messes is the real trick. Okay, the vulgarians among you have immediately jumped to the two-person bedroom variety mess, and that’s okay. It actually crossed my mind as well. The thing is, I am talking about a more macro-level view of necessary and desired messes here. It is akin to change being dynamic and the accompanying mess that realizing change usually brings. Take separation and divorce as a good example. If the marriage has lasted long enough, the resulting mess that the break will produce can be near to sanity-killing. But do not have blinders on or anywhere within two time zones of that mess if possible, because decisions mired in darkness will render any positive results meaningless. The dish here is a breaded rolled chicken breast, with cheese and butter inside. It’s nomination to Man Food status rests solely on two factors. One, because it is an awful mess to make, and two, because it tastes so good when done. Unlike the previous chapter, I will indulge the traditional and list the ingredients, then detail the preparation. Ingredients: One package of boneless chicken breasts (approximately four in a package) Real salted butter Shredded Monterey Jack cheese A few eggs Some milk Bread Crumbs (I prefer the Italian seasoned kind)
Tools: Cutting board A meat mallet Toothpicks Baking Sheet Sharp Knife Time to get messy. Remove the breasts and carefully cut away the long gristle line, saving as much meat as possible. (You will know this line when you see it, believe me.) Next, take one breast and place some plastic wrap over it, and start beating it with the mallet like you are a meth-crazed Whack-a-Mole champion. The key here is to get it to about 1/4 inch in thickness. The plastic is to avoid contaminating your entire kitchen while performing violence upon the fowl. So when phase one is complete, you should have four flattened chicken breasts. This part causes me to invoke a stored thought that I bring out for a sanity check every so often. It is that creating messes can become addicting, and usually for the wrong reasons. Does it make us “real men” to go through woman after woman, living only for the moment? And the tragedy is that the messes left behind from that pattern of behavior bring grief and pain. We can justify it all day long, sticking to our lines about how honest we are being. But honesty is sometimes a very poor substitute for compassion. You now are ready to get to the heart of the matter, which involves cutting thin stick-long slices of butter and placing them roughly in the center of the breasts. Next sprinkle some of the cheese in the same place. Finally, (with toothpicks ready), roll the breasts as tightly as possible and pin them securely with the toothpicks. The final product should look like a gnarled up forearm in an external stabilator. Next, combine a couple of eggs with some milk in a shallow bowl, and put it next to a plate covered with a large pile of bread crumbs. Take the rolls, submerge them in the egg/milk mixture, and then roll them around the crumbs so that they are coated. At this point put them in the fridge for a couple of hours, to get all the crap to set together (I don’t know why this works, but it does).
This might be a very good time to consider cleaning up the mess you have made, unless of course you are pawning that off on another, which if is a new female companion is a VERY BAD IDEA. I have found that most women in that role will volunteer their services, but trust me when I tell you that the services and the resulting mess that you are really after will be much easier to secure if you do the cleaning now. Cooking the chicken is pathetically simple. Put them into an oven set for 375 for about thirty minutes (oh yeah, on a baking sheet) and you are done. I would recommend some nice steamed French cut green beans with almond slivers as a side (Chapter 11), because everyone likes some contrast on their plate. If you can learn to enjoy the occasional mess, you may also come to realize that cleaning it up will only lead to the desire to create another. And that may very well be a good thing.
Chapter 4 The Necessity of Muscle Fuel So how can you screw up cooking eggs except for possibly burning them? The short answer is that for most simple egg dishes, you can’t. The thing about eggs is that they are a near perfect food, and as such should be seen as fuel. Forget all the bullshit you have heard about cholesterol; just make sure you are working out properly and you can eat pretty much whatever you want in moderation (a word I really despise, with my apologies to those considering twelve steps), this particular way of cooking eggs is indeed intended as fuel for your body, and by that I mean your muscles. Heavy on the protein, because as bodybuilders will always say, “you don’t get big in the gym”. In the NASCAR/Wal-Mart/Professional Wrestling parlance, this dish would be called Scrapple. I just call it Muscle Fuel. A tasty combination of minute steak, eggs, and cheese. Protein wise, it is the caffeine equivalent of a Jolt Cola-Red Bull cocktail. There are times when you have to go big or stay home and the care and feeding of muscles is absolutely one of the go big ones. Your muscles really serve two major functions. One is the usual aspect, which is strength. The other is either more insidious or practical, depending on your gender, and is of course the gun show. (Remember, however, that biceps are all show and no go). They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and I would agree as the statement is self-evident. I will offer, however, that necessity itself has two mothers – Ms. Want and Ms. Need. The female connotation is not accidental. Speaking from a male perspective, nearly all of the necessities we are compelled to realize start with our female influences. The overwhelming drive to please and satisfy women is one of our most powerful prime movers. It is a lifelong effort, with the only abatement coming from being in a semi-permanent relationship. And therein lays the first danger. If we do indeed relax from the compulsion, we risk losing that which we sought to acquire and maintain. The second danger is of a darker variety. Deciding that the drive must continue with another. So onto the Fuel. Place a frying pan on the oven on roughly medium heat. Get a box of minute steaks (the same kind used for authentic Philly 13
Cheese Steaks) and while the meat planks are still frozen, start breaking them into small pieces and drop the pieces into the pan. The amount of meat you will use is proportional to how much you want to eat and serve. (In other words, use your own brain and figure it out.) Toss the pieces around until just cooked (just turned from red to brown. Remove the pan from the heat, and tilt it so that the grease pools at the bottom, and scoop the meat onto a microwave safe plate. With hot water running in the sink, dump the grease down the drain, followed by some dish soap. Don’t worry about grease in the drain; with this method your pipes will be good for a few weeks at least. Place the pan back onto the stove, and get ready for the eggs and cheese. Cracking eggs is one of those talents that are similar to building big (but mostly useless) biceps. What I mean is that you can look like a master chef, but what is the point if the song remains the same? Anyway, the onehand method looks slick, so try this: hold the egg in a two-fingered fastball manner (index, bird finger, and thumb), and with a quick but deft touch, crack it lightly on the side of the bowl. Spread the halves apart without changing your grip, and presto, raw egg meets gravity. It takes some practice, but entirely doable. Get a few eggs cracked and in a bowl (or right into the pan after enough cracking drills), and put them in the same pan you just used. With a spatula, cook them to “wet”. Remove the pan for a few seconds, and then…. If necessity has two mothers, what or who would be the father? My answer is Motive. A very difficult concept to get your head around, especially in this context, as it is very easy to lapse into circular logic when speaking of necessity and motive. Perhaps motive is one of those things that are comprised of unequal parts environmental and genetic influences in our development. What I do know is that there are times when we do or say things that are driven by forces unseen and unrecognized. Emotional maturity tempers the delivery, of course, but this kind of maturity cannot be rushed, it must be (hopefully) learned over time. To paraphrase a quote, “I speak of the beast that is within all of us”. The beast is Motive. Open a package of shredded cheese and have it on Alert 7 (a condition that means as close to launching as possible – a Navy fighter term). Any variety of cheese will do, and I prefer the milder Cheddar blends that seem to go well in this dish. As close to simultaneously as possible, nuke the meat 14
previously set aside for about thirty seconds, and add some shredded cheese to the eggs, returning the pan to the stove. Fold the cheese into the eggs until it is just melted, and add the irradiated meat to the pan. At this point, you are just making sure it all globs together. So don’t over cook, just get it looking mixed up. Now this isn’t a sexy recipe by any means. It is, however, the absolutely perfect one for dinner following an hour or two in the weight room. This ends with the question of what is really necessary. Much like the amount of ingredients used, that question can only be answered by you.
Chapter 5 Mac and Cheese -andOur need for Comfort This particular chapter must start in the italics, as the non-culinary portion is so very important. In the interest of brevity, I will simply start by saying the obvious; we all need comfort in our lives. The amount depends on where we are emotionally, but the need is a lifelong one regardless. Mac and Cheese as Man Food? I can hear some of you now starting to doubt either my qualifications as a Man Food expert at best, or my recipe selection in the worst. Time for Brutal Truth (a phrase you will see again later, by the way). This recipe is one that I modified from the original given to me by a woman. This particular woman must remain anonymous for certain reasons, but I will say that she would vouch for my male-oriented qualifications without hesitation. So just accept it and read on. As with a previous chapter, the nature of this dish requires the standard cook book format, even as much as I detest listing exact quantities and methods. Take comfort (there’s that word again) in the knowledge that your synaptic exertions will be much reduced doing this one. Hell, we all need a break sometimes anyway. Obtain the following: 8 oz elbow macaroni 8 oz cubed cooked ham 3 Tbs. butter 3 Tbs. flour ½ Tsp. salt 1 Tsp. mustard 2 ½ cups milk 8 oz shredded cheese (try a 50/50 mild and sharp cheddar) ½ cup butter bread crumbs (explained later) I know, so far it doesn’t seem too comforting, but that’s one of the challenges of obtaining comfort. It very rarely comes to us in a nice gift wrapped 16
package. Most of the time comfort actually requires some prior effort. Here is what I mean. Ever taken time off from work to relax, and ended up instead busting your ass at home? In that case, the effort (planning) either wasn’t done or didn’t quite match the intended result. Here is another. In the attempt of providing comfort to your significant other, you give her an unexpected sloppy French kiss, and then attempt to push her into the bedroom. Problem is, she is tired from work, is thinking about the bills, and really wanted to be left alone. Next time you might plan a little better, especially when you are left after your failed attempt at “comfort” with the lonely prospect of watching idiotic internet porn instead. Transitioning from porn to macaroni, cook it according to the directions. (This usually includes water, which I didn’t list.) At the same time, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, and stir in the flour, salt, and mustard. Now add the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk until it starts boiling and thickens slightly. (Sorry about the carpal tunnel, especially after your recent internet surfing). Stir in the cheese until it melts, and remove the pan from the stove. Your macaroni should be done at about the same time. Drain it, put it back in the same pot, add the cheese mixture and ham cubes, and stir it all together. Now the promised “butter bread crumbs” explanation. Put about two tablespoons of butter in a small bowl, cover it with a small plate, and nuke it for about 30 seconds, or at least until melted. Then pour it into a larger bowl containing bread crumbs, and stir until combined. The result should have the consistency of wet kitty litter. (Disgusting I know, but just use the visual). Comfort is really a two-edged sword in that you run the danger of becoming enamored of an existence that will eventually dull all your edges. Take a very close look at your current lifestyle, and if it is really comfortable, consider what you have sacrificed. Sitting in your recliner night after night, watching whatever drivel passes for entertainment on TV, and finally shuffling off to bed. Maybe comfortable, but men are made of so much more. Self-emasculation, however well concealed, is a poor trade for really living. I am not recommending selling everything you own, buying a Harley, and riding off in the sunset. I am saying that comfort can be taken too far. Now preheat the oven (that means turning it on) to 350 degrees. Next, spoon the macaroni mixture into the shallow casserole dish, smoothing it out 17
to flat on top. Next spread the wet kitty litter over the top. Bake the dish for about 30-40 minutes. Just so you know, this casserole (like most of them), can be refrigerated and even frozen for future use. Just remember that entropy affects cooking time. (Entropy: molecular motion and heat are directly proportional ----- or ----- things cook more slowly when they are colder to begin with.) When it is done, the bread crumb mixture should be semi-hard, and the cheese should be bubbly. There is joke somewhere in that sentence, I just can’t find it. Anyway, your comfort food is done, and trust me when I say that this dish will make you feel all warm and content inside. So with all the work and risk associated with comfort, what is the upside? It is the same reasoning as the classic “no one lying in their death bed wishes they had worked more during their lives”. I said earlier that we all need comfort in our lives. My example: waking up on a Sunday morning, sun shining through the blinds, your woman snuggled close to you, the bed warm and cozy, and realizing that such a perfect moment in time is the best kind of comfort.
Chapter 6 Marinara Sauce The Relationship Challenge Me talking about relationships, specifically the male/female variety…… funny, ironic, and some that know me would probably equate to Dr. Kevorkian championing Buddhist life-protection philosophies. Just to be fair, I have been married twice, have been celibate by choice (not counting marriage-time!), and behaved as a serious slut. I guess you might say I have been around, but the important thing is that I really enjoy the company of women, and generally that definition involves relationships. Okay, if you have successfully navigated the previous chapters and recipes, it is time to tackle the big one. Marinara sauce is an almost perfect metaphor for relationships, but more on that later. Because my hometown is Buffalo, N.Y., I enjoyed the privilege of being raised on amazing Italian and Sicilian food. My childhood best friend was Sicilian, and his mother (bless her heart) made feasts on an almost nightly basis that were the cause of my continually eating there. Moving away, and after years of having to consume lesser sauces led me to create my own. Something else I really enjoy about making this sauce is that although it is always very good, it never comes out exactly the same. That may seem disconcerting to some, but I find that the small element of uncertainty and surprise only lends to the experience. And so I am spurred to introduce one of my first relationship observations. Uncertainty and surprise are two of the key elements of the formative stage of a relationship. They also can play a part in the demise of one as well. The wonder of someone new and the choice of happiness that is enabled by the unique aspects of someone different is powerful. We all crave dynamic pieces of reality; stasis is for those who have either given up or deluded themselves into believing that their lives are totally complete. You have seen these people around you, and I sincerely hope that you look at each sunrise as a gift, and not just a function of time. One of my definitions of Nirvana is finding someone who will seize each and every day with me.
My sauce does not start with whole tomatoes, I begin instead with puree. There are chefs and great cooks who would howl with indignation and laughter at that, but I never claimed to be in either category. It still takes quite a bit of time, and a lot of imagination. The short list of ingredients is: Garlic Cloves Tomato Puree Tomato Paste Red Wine (don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink – that means no cheap “cooking” wine) Beef Consommé “Italian” Spices (Oregano, Basil, Bay Leaves, etc) Salt, Pepper, Sugar Olive Oil Leftover pork bones (cook a couple of very large pork chops the night before, and save the bones with some meat left on them) And a yet to be named Secret Ingredient, both for the recipe and a decent relationship, by the way. If you have ever seen the movie “Goodfellas” you will remember the prison scene where Paulie shaves garlic nearly translucent thin with a razor blade so that it liquefies in the olive oil. Well, I have tried this many times and have never seen the garlic turn to liquid. I do still shave the garlic, however, as I like the challenge of not taking part of finger off with the razor, and it also seems logical that the more raw surface area of the garlic that is exposed will lead to more flavor. So that is your first step; put the garlic in the olive oil simmering in the pot. Next, get your cans of puree, consommé, and paste open and ready to dispense. I would also recommend that you have the kitchen trash can handy, as making a good quantity of sauce will leave more than a couple of cans to toss out. When the garlic has turned brown, start tossing in some of the Italian spices and stir them around in the olive oil. Next pour in one-half of the puree. My method involves doing this in two complete stages, except for the initial oil/garlic combination. Start stirring (with your aforementioned non-stick cool looking large black spoon). Now, for the promised Secret Ingredient. Before I name the ingredient for the sauce, I will divulge an important one for a relationship. There are obviously more than one, as you most 20
assuredly know, but this one for me stands out from the others. And that is your going in position. Don’t commit to someone out of any need whatsoever. It should only (and always) come from a pure emotional want. I have found that the relationships I have been party to that began from a mutual need basis eventually met their demise. It is related to being as complete as possible, and having no holes in yourself to fill. If you are with someone simply (and only) because you want them, it will become a joyful exercise in symbiosis. Okay, get your block of Pecorino Romano cheese (the Secret Ingredient), and start grating it into the sauce. Once you have just covered the sauce surface, stop grating, and start stirring it in. Next, pour in a can of the consommé, toss in a couple of pork bones, some wine, and continue to stir occasionally. Now you have some time to kill, as stage one is complete. Oh yeah, don’t cover the sauce, and keep the heat adjusted to where it is just barely bubbling. I also have some time to kill, so here is some more relationship advice from a self-admitted questionable source. You can’t change anyone, at least in any fundamental way. So the equation is pretty simple. If you meet someone, and decide that she is otherwise qualified as Mrs. Right, make a list of what you consider to be her faults. After thinking long and hard about the list, decide if you can live with her and her list AS IS. If not, move on. It is really that easy. If you have reached a really enlightened state as I have, you will even tell her of this exercise and insist she do the same. This may seem clinical, but it really is the basis for the most critical piece of the foundation, which is honesty. So you are stirring along, asking yourself how you can reach my enlightened state, and wondering what is next. As for the sauce, it is a repeat of stage one, which should have taken about one hour. Execute stage one again (stage two I guess), and keep stirring. I would add that instead of using pork bones for stage two, try adding some meatballs. I will assume that even the most cooking deprived among you can figure out how to make a few meatballs. If not, buy a bag of the pre-mades and consider yourself a bonehead. Keep stirring occasionally. There are some subtle changes and additions coming next.
I really wanted to use the word sublime versus subtle, but I already addressed my affinity for that word. Either way, changes are the topic now. I am reminded of how shock absorbers on a car go bad and the indication of it. They lose functionality incrementally over time, and after the requisite amount of miles, you suddenly realize that they need to be replaced. The point is that the nature of relationships change over time, and the small changes can accumulate to the point that you wake up one day to someone you really don’t know anymore. And vice versa. You ignore this phenomenon at your peril, and believe me when I say that I know what I am talking about. Stage two is almost done, and I know that while “almost” really only applies to certain games, explosives, and foreplay, we need this time to apply the changes. They are, in order, thickening, seasoning, and meat removal. If your sauce is “thinner” than you prefer (think Naples versus Palermo), start spooning in small portions of the tomato paste. This will take awhile, and you have to stir the paste in well. Next, do the taste test (which I know you have been doing already). Add salt, sugar, more wine, whatever, to make it yours. Finally remove the bones/meat and set it aside. I want to emphasize that this creation should be entirely yours. When I used the word “whatever” regarding seasoning, I meant it. I have poured in teriyaki, soy, fruit juice, and other strange things just to see what would happen. Eventually I settled on the process I have described here, because I like it. So do what you want, as it is yours in the end. Save the rest in separate containers in the freezer, because for some weird reason it always tastes better after being frozen. As for the pasta to use your masterpiece on, pick one that looks interesting. This leads to my final relationship philosophy, which is love. I have loved, and been in love, and it is without question the most intoxicating and perfect place for my soul. No drug can approach it. Age doesn’t temper it. Nothing can force it if it isn’t there. At the end of the day, it is as fragile as a newly planted garden, and must be tended as such. Love takes effort, forbearance, understanding, humility, and strength. If all this seems like a mouthful, well it is. I do know this, however, with all the risks and work that loving another entails, there are no alternatives. Not one. Would it be saying too much to confess that I miss it…..?
Chapter 7 Roast Beef Hash And The Nature of Conflict Now this may strike you as a stretch; classic meat and potatoes somehow equating to conflict. When I pondered this dish, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me either, but the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. I realized that the combination of something tough and unyielding with something that was soft and pliant was a great metaphor for conflict in general. For me, conflict is a necessary component of living as a man, and so is consuming meat and potatoes. So without further ado…. Great hash doesn’t come from a can, although the dog food looking stuff that you can buy will do in an extreme pinch, it does have the benefit of being both disgusting and good all at the same time (see, even the canned variety demonstrates conflict). Making this hash is time consuming to be sure, so just make a whole lot of it, and freeze the rest. God created magnetron radio-frequency amplification boxes (microwave ovens) for just this eventuality, after all. For the first time around, however, the manual method. Conflict is sometimes a desirable state. I say that advisedly, because there are many times where it is the last thing you want to be involved in. I have thoroughly enjoyed the singular mano e mano conflict that results from sparring in the ring, and been utterly furious at myself for getting involved in a street fight. It goes much further than the physical, of course. The majority of conflicts with a woman with whom you are involved are hardly desirable. (As usual there is a caveat, so keep reading). These fights are lost causes before they even begin, and even the very dubious prospect of makeup sex is often not worth the initial engagement. I hope you have a crock pot handy, as cooking the beef portion of this dish requires it. If you don’t, go get one as they are very inexpensive and can save your ass later with other low effort concoctions. You will also need 23
a small roast and a couple cans of beef consommé, which both get put in the crock pot early in the day on low heat. Now you can go to work, and experience all sorts of other types of conflict that you may or may not need. Regardless, the meat will cook all day, and be nice and tender when you get home. Professional conflicts start getting into the really necessary category, especially if you are an alpha male or at least have aspirations to become one. Effective management of work conflicts all start with choosing your battles. I am always mystified by how many people don’t consider that fact and just rush in headlong to every fight that presents itself. You won’t be an alpha very long (or maybe just a really pathetic one) if you don’t do everything possible to assure victory. Choose the ground, your opponent, the weapons, and most of all the right battle. Here is the first step for the neophyte to this process. If you are justified in sending a flame-spraying email to a transgressor, write it but do not hit the send button for at least an hour. That short interval will provide some thought as to the sanity in sending it. If you are driving home from work worried if your house has burned down because of the crock pot being on all day, just console yourself with the fact that conflict with your insurance company will leave you a quivering mass of ex-alpha jelly. So don’t worry about any of that, and stop at the grocery store to pick up a bag of red potatoes and some real butter. (If you are currently a margarine user, and are on the fence about the butter, refer to the section in Chapter 2 about removing a fingernail). Once home at your hopefully unburned residence, rinse off the potatoes and put them in a large pot of boiling water. Cook them until just a little soft, remove from the pot, drain them, and set aside to cool. Don’t worry about the skins, leave them on. During this whole time you were probably wondering how the roast was coming along. If you have mastered the complex operation of a crock pot, it will be just fine, as you are about to find out. Turn it off, and remove the roast to a plate for enough time for it to completely cool. Save the resulting juice in a bowl for later use. I already said that Hash takes a really long time to prepare, as both parts (beef and potatoes) must be cooked and cooled before the fun part of shredding and chopping. So yet again we have some time, and I would recommend a nice vodka and tonic to help you cope with waiting. 24
Conflicts often take a lot of time. Getting away from the mundane physical and workplace types, what is left is the really sticky one, namely relationship conflicts. (You knew this was coming). And the worst of these are the longdeveloping ones. Let’s say that your woman has consumed the only known cure for nymphomania (wedding cake) and it has worked as advertised. You now start to wonder where the sex fiend woman you courted has disappeared to, and a long slow burn of resentment begins. After enough time has elapsed, you realize that you have a choice consisting of three options. One – leave and deal with guilt. Two – seek affection elsewhere and deal with guilt. Three – reach down and grab a pair and deal with the issue as honestly as possible. It always takes two to tango, regardless of any ridiculous rationalizations. Hopefully you only had one V&T while waiting, because you now will need a sharp knife and human blood isn’t really a great seasoning for hash. Take your roast and start cutting along the grain to produce strips. Keep cutting the resulting strips longitudinally until they are about ¼ inch in width. Then cut them across the grain to produce ½ to 1 inch pieces. Turning to the potatoes, cut/chop them so that you end up with similar size pieces as the beef. Take the beef and potatoes and toss them together in a shallow baking dish. Next, get a small bowl, and whisk equal parts cornstarch and cold water (about two tablespoons each) until mixed completely. Stir mixture into the crock pot juice while it is still warm to thicken it. Now add enough of the sauce into the hash so that it is very moist, and cover the dish with foil. You can freeze, refrigerate, or bake it immediately at 350 for about 45 minutes. When done, season it as you like, and feel free to go as far as using Texas Pete or some other hot sauce. You may be pleasantly surprised by what spicing any dish up some will taste like. Conflicts are also like that, in that they can spice up your life if chosen very carefully and managed properly. I am reminded of a woman that was very fond of a particular activity performed in a manner that resembled Greco roman wresting. But I digress. The point I am making is that a relationship that rarely or never encounters conflict is a sham at best, and a doomed one at worst. I have a saying I am fond of that really says it best: It takes fire to forge steel. So consider the uses of adversity, and temper your life and relationships carefully. 25
Chapter 8 The Brutal Truth of Scallops Scampi This is a hard one for me, as I really have a lot less fun cooking this dish than any except the next one in this book. I guess it is because it is scallops are almost as disgusting raw as chicken is, and the cooking process is so fast. I see scallops as very truthful in that they are very simple creatures. The brutal part comes from the way that they are harvested (ripped from their homes) and the method of cooking scampi. Just for info, “scampi” is really the Italian word for shrimp, so I admit freely to an untruth in the dish title. That reminds me of the Tony Montana character in the movie Scarface: “I always tell the truth, even when I lie”. Scallops come in two basic varieties, Bay and Ocean. The major difference is size; Ocean are large and Bay are small. And in case you are one of those guys that have been seduced by the Cosmopolitan magazine disinformation campaign, size does indeed matter. For the dish, it is really a matter of preference, but I recommend the larger Ocean scallops. If you can find them, Alaskan Scallops are the absolute best way to go. Make sure they are fresh, not frozen, not ever frozen. That may seem redundant; the difference is if they are close to spoiled, and your nose should be your guide. Scallops have the same nasty smell common to all fruites du mer, but there will be an unmistakable foul odor if they are unfit for consumption. Brutally speaking, many things are unfit for inclusion in our lives. I say brutally because we knowingly accept some of these things because they are easy. The “unfit” list is almost endless, but I will start with the lack of truth, which often makes the list. Brutal Truth is an axiom of mine that has become more and more important as I have matured. If I have occasion to end a newly forming relationship, the discomfort of that truthful conversation is infinitely preferable to procrastinating and anticipating the fear of her negative reaction. I once heard that truth and honesty are not mutually inclusive, but that doesn’t wash, as neither does having “degrees of honesty”. What I do know is that we all have different perceptions and thus our truths will be somewhat different than anyone else’s on the same subject. Either way, just be brutal with yourself for everyone else’s sake.
In addition to the scallops, you will need butter, garlic, and parmesan cheese. First unpackage the scallops, rinse off, and pat them as dry as possible with good quality paper towels (this dish doesn’t include paper lint). Next get your trusty frying pan, and melt a stick of real butter over medium heat. As the butter is melting, shave a couple of garlic cloves (revisit the Goodfellas reference in Chapter 6) and sauté the garlic in the melted butter. Now turn the heat up to medium-high, and place the scallops in the pan. A word of caution, there will be spatter as the scallops will have retained some water, so be careful. On the other hand, pain does provide some focus, so perhaps don’t worry about the little stings. Worried about some pain in your life? You should be, but you should also recognize that as counterintuitive as it may seem, some pain is actually necessary and also a basic element of living with brutal truth. Pain may teach us things to avoid, but it also serves to remind us that the avoidance of truth, especially the brutal kind, has consequences. I once had to put a dog down, and insisted that my ten year old son observe the entire process, over the objections of my significant other. I explained to him that he had to know in an intimate sense that death was forever, unlike the video game “reality” he was used to. Was I harsh in this? Probably, but the pain I inflicted was necessary. These babies cook fast, so be ready. Sauté for about 3-4 minutes, turning them over once in the process. Turn the heat back down, and toss in some parmesan cheese. If you are being lazy, or in more of a hurry than even this dish accounts for, use the already grated stuff out of a shaker can. The better way is to grate your own prior to the sauté and have it ready. Make sure the scallops are lightly coated with the cheese, and the perfect scenario is that the cheese will be a little bit caramelized (think light crust) on the scallops. Not a major item, but attention to detail is always a good way to do most everything, including cooking. My last pontificating on Brutal Truth deals with the devil in the details. Now I don’t believe in the Devil, but I am a major fan of details. Being far from perfect, detail worship is really an exercise in futility, but the continued attempt is enough for anyone. If you live your life embracing this mind-set, you will be at the core of self-brutality. It can be taken too far, like most things, with the long end of the spectrum being diagnosed as OCD. In relationships, recognize that continued pursuit of your woman’s details will always be beneficial, and I sincerely hope that this pursuit is reciprocated. 27
If you have chosen wisely, that shouldn’t even be a concern. And the hidden gem is this: focused and continual awareness of her details will also help you find your own. Oh yes, the scallops. I should have mentioned that they are best when placed on some pasta. Serve them over some linguini that you have cooked and tossed lightly in olive oil, or just butter if you prefer. (So much for attention to detail!)
Chapter 9 Zucchini Bread WARNING: THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS EXPLICIT MATERIAL THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL READERS! Now that you have been duly warned, I can proceed with this chapter, which deals with the seemingly innocuous product of Zucchini Bread. I say seemingly because this chapter deals with what I consider to be a major issue in personal relations, namely sex, and this bread is illustrative of that subject, as you will see. (I can hear it now, “Hey honey, this guy is two cans short of a six-pack!” - Bear with me). I will not be getting graphic here; there is more of that type of commentary that can be imagined for me to belabor it yet again. On to the bread, and the real reason you want to keep reading I am sure. If you have never had Zucchini Bread, it is very similar to Banana Bread, except with Zucchini instead of Banana. Reminds me of an old Steve Martin joke: “A day without sunshine is like -------night.” (Note to self: in the future, drink more coffee before starting the day’s writing). I am obviously procrastinating, and you need your bread. I have to again apologize for the necessity of a semi-rigid recipe, but this is baking and that effort usually requires more stringent methods. Ah, procrastinating and rigidity, two words that are tangentially linked when it comes to sex. Bad sex that is. From a crude male perspective, even bad sex is usually better than no sex at all. (I have found that is not a popular position with women, by the way.) The reason these two words are components of badness is that procrastination implies a lack of confidence, and rigidity speaks to a lack of imagination. Great sex requires a total confident commitment to its own process and also a very vivid imagination. How do I obtain this confidence you ask? Simple. Understand that it is about both of you, and the pleasure is shared, not given or received. Imagination? I will cover that later. Zucchini is a vegetable and you may wonder what will make this bread sweet. There is a new ingredient that imparts that quality to most any recipe – sugar. The great thing about this bread is the unique moistness and 29
density that is achieved by the main ingredient (zucchini, not sugar, by the way). I have listed (damn it) the ingredients below, with an alibi: 2 cups grated zucchini 2 eggs 1 cup vegetable oil 2 cups sugar 3 teaspoons vanilla 1 teaspoon salt 3 cups flour 1 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 teaspoons nutmeg The Alibi – you can jazz this up with just about anything that could be reasonably included in any bread. Chocolate, fruit chunks, chopped nuts, etc. As usual, make it your own. It pains me to have to say this, but the zucchini must be grated before use. The good news is that you don’t need to peel it. The bread doesn’t bake well with the whole zucchini in the pan, to say nothing of mixing it all together. So that is your first step, get grating. I won’t even touch the visual of holding the zucchini and the motions, even given the entire nature of this chapter. After they are grated and in a large mixing bowl, stir them and all the rest of the ingredients together. I promised imagination and here it is. A woman I met recently described me as “deliciously complicated”. I pounced on that phrase (but not her – at least yet) and received permission to use it. It may seem obvious that great sex requires imagination, but we all get complacent. I really think that the “normal” paradigm of sex before bed is one of the main culprits, as the afterward means falling off to sleep. The bed itself is another demon. Now I have an amazing memory foam platform bed with a pillow top, but even that excellent sexual venue is still a bed, and thus is also used for sleep. So my advice here is to get deliciously complicated as to when and where to rock and roll, without even considering the after-sex sleep option. Now for some serious metaphors in the bread preparation. Grease a loaf pan, get the oven nice and warm (350 degrees), scoop all the mixture 30
into the greased pan, and insert it into the oven for an hour. And you thought there was nothing sexy about this recipe. (I got all frisky just writing this down!) The problem with achieving this state is the status of your immediate vicinity. In other words, are you alone? I will now introduce an element that is essential for sex, and perhaps one that could become important in your cooking endeavors. Her. Standing in the kitchen working on my bread, grating the zucchini into a bowl, I see her come around the corner. Not looking at her directly, but feeling her with me, her scent subtle but unmistakable, she comes up behind. Her hands touch my forearms, and gently slide down to my hands, caressing on the way. I feel her body press up against mine, enjoying the exquisite touch of her hair on my shoulder as her lips kiss my neck. Her kisses continue as I attempt to concentrate on my task, and a slow smile comes as I know that her playful teasing causes her joy. Finishing the grating, I turn around and pull her tight to me, brushing my lips against hers, my hands tracing up her sides to just touching her breasts. Her response is my reward, and even more so is the feeling of extreme content knowing that what we are about to share shades everything else that is us. Not needing, just the most powerful wanting and its rewards. So I am hopeless romantic, but so what. I will state that being romantic can only be a benefit for cooking, and most every other area in your life. Think of the joy of the wonderful aroma of the bread filling your place, and then seeing the finished loaf. Further, the anticipation of cutting a slice, spreading it with butter, and finally tasting it. Better stop this now before I start getting all anxious again. Sex, like cooking, isn’t about romance, but romance will absolutely make it so much better. This is one of those rare times that I will say………just trust me.
Chapter 10 The Backwards Attraction of Desserts No listing of Man Food recipes would be complete without at least one dessert included. In keeping with honesty and truth, most men (me included) would likely go the easy route and lay out some ice cream with chocolate sauce. Not that that selection isn’t acceptable or tasty; it’s just a little bit mundane, especially when entertaining. I know that you don’t want to be perceived as mundane in that kind of situation, so it is back to the kitchen to prepare a Toffee Mousse Cake. Delicious, well-presented, and the preparation won’t fry your brain. The best part is that it will also impart the illusion of your being conversant in the cooking arts, and it doesn’t hurt that the dish is sweet. Something about decadence resulting from effort is always impressive. Attraction is all about striving to be impressive. The problem here is just how very dangerous a game-winning attraction can be. If someone takes your breath away, and you are otherwise pretty well-grounded, that someone may be less likely to be practicing false advertising. If, however, you don’t avoid a few cocktails when attempting to discern the truth behind the smile, hair, clothes, perfume, etc, you may end up with coyote love in the short term or a really regrettable divorce in the long term. Very few people are as good as they first seem, particularly when the product presentation obviously has a ton of work behind it. Desserts usually include baking, and that normally requires the list of ingredients in detail. You should know by now that I really don’t like to do it this way, so with my apologies: Parts: ¾ cup toffee chips 1 lb. semisweet chocolate chips 1 cup unsalted butter 8 large eggs ½ tsp. almond extract Caramel sauce Chocolate sauce 32
One of the great things about this dessert is that it is prepared well prior to your (possibly) romantic dinner. If your companion does not believe that it is the result of your preparation efforts, it may have the opposite effect in that she may assume you bought it somewhere. Regardless, start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees, and melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave at fifty percent power. Be careful with this, maybe 3-4 minutes and watch it carefully, as melting chocolate is tricky and you don’t want the butter to detonate in the wave. Remove and stir, and set it aside for about five minutes. While it is cooling, line a nine inch baking pan with foil, hose it down with non-stick spray, and put a layer of toffee chips in it. Then crack the eggs into a large bowl, and whisk them together lightly with the almond extract until the eggs are just broken up, and finally whisk the chocolate butter mixture in as well. Pour the entire mess into the cake pan. Attraction is also a prime candidate for getting us all mixed up. The subtitle of this chapter mentions “backwards attraction”, and this is what I mean. When meeting someone, and instead of seeing the first impression driven attempt at perfection, imagine what she would be (with you) five years later. I sincerely hope that the image doesn’t include fifty more pounds, a housecoat, and two underfoot urchins. The more hopeful vision may be one of love and a truly amazing relationship in all areas. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and I suppose the compromise version is something we have to accept in almost all cases. Now for the hard part: Force yourself to accept that she may be thinking the exact same things about you. Shake off the mental picture of yourself in a housecoat, and place the cake pan into a larger pan. A roaster works well in this instance. Carefully fill the roaster pan with enough water so that it comes about halfway up the side of the cake pan, and put it in the oven for thirty minutes or until the cake is a little soft in the center. Remove the cake and allow it to cool on a wire rack for another thirty minutes. Cover the cake and put it in the fridge for a minimum for two hours. As usual, I would advise a vodka and tonic while waiting, but with at least two hours to kill, the temptation to consume more than one given your nervous state about your evening may be a bad idea. Most women don’t 33
really care for inebriation before dinner, but if yours does, then you should probably skip dinner altogether and get right down to business unless this is a first impression type of evening. IF THAT IS THE CASE, RUN SWIFTLY. Hopefully, however, you aren’t drunk and she would leave if you were anyway, so eat your expertly prepared dinner and then bring out the cake. Time for some flair and flourish now. Making sure she is watching, carefully flip the cake over onto a serving plate, peel off the foil, and serve it up with a combination of caramel and chocolate sauce in an artsy dribble on each piece. I have to get a bit personal here, as the latest first impression I experienced was completely unlike any I have had prior. She was relaxed, engaging, and very at ease with the meeting. I remember her wearing faded jeans, casual t-shirt, and thinking that this person was entirely comfortable in her own skin. In all fairness (and humility!) so was I, but looking back I have to wonder if our respective comfort levels were the result of each other, and that mystical force called chemistry. For the record, I still enjoy the company of this wonderful woman, and so far my imagined backwards attraction looks a whole lot like the first one
Chapter 11 The Perfect Futility of Buffalo Wings In the many years and paths I have traveled since leaving my birthplace, I have noticed a steady rise in the popularity of Buffalo Wings. This is curious for a few reasons, not the least of which is that the Beef-onWeck sandwich from Buffalo is actually a much tastier concoction (I pray that I don’t live to regret revealing this). Yet another indigenous Buffalo item, the Icepick (Vodka and Sweet Tea) has been sighted elsewhere, but its advance seems to be glacial, thank God. Why the reticence to share these tasties you ask? Well, the proliferation of Buffalo Wings to seemingly all corners of the world has caused non-natives to attempt to “perfect” the recipe. Depending on my state of inebriation when sampling these altered Wings, my responses have ranged from head-shaking sadness to entering a twisted malevolence that only my fear of incarceration has saved the creators of the unholy Wings from. Yes my friends, we Buffalonians are that passionate about the most visible of our exports. The Buffalo Wing was already perfect, and all who would attempt to further modifications are wasting their time. I used to maintain that the pursuit of perfection was a fine way to live my life. Very, very stupid. That way of thinking only leads to the eventual realization that the goal can never be attained. It also leads to coming off as an asshole most of the time. To quote an ex-friend (another story, and a shame), “You can be an asshole only if you’re the best”. I was never the best at anything, except maybe acting like an asshole. The recipe for Buffalo Wings is a fitting one for this last full recipe chapter, as it is closely related to the first chapter that explores Eloquence in Simplicity. Sort of the Omega meeting the Alpha, or as Asimov explained so elegantly, “a circle has no end”. No, I am not saying that Buffalo Wings are an exercise in metaphysics. I am, however, attempting to close the main body of this book in a method that pays homage to symmetry, a quality that I
am quite fond of. Regardless, the way to make Wings is exceedingly simple and possibly dangerous as well. Buffalo Wings are deep-fried, and unlike other recipes I have described, I strongly encourage you NOT to consume alcohol before or during preparation. Deep fryers can cause serious damage to home and health, and you really need to keep your wits about you. If you haven’t figured it out by now, you will need a deep fryer. Nothing fancy, just big enough to do about 6-7 Wings at a time. Since I am a purist, I will recommend using standard-issue vegetable oil, not sunflower, peanut, or some other extravagant oil. (I am so tempted to digress into the virtues of the naked Wesson Oil - Twister game adventure….maybe the next book) Now Wings come either as a full unit, or in halves. The full unit is the drummie (looks like a miniature drum stick) attached to the actual wing. These are not the kind you want. Get the ones already cut into Wings and drummies. This will save you a lot of time and effort. You will also need some hot sauce (we usually use Texas Pete) and real butter. So there you go, that’s all there is. Wings, butter, and hot sauce. Think about that next time you are out and order Wings and are offered all sorts of heretical choices. Ever go after a woman that you perceived as perfect? Someone that for whatever reason compelled that adjective to the point of rendering your judgment completely worthless? I have, and in retrospect I could make the case for that behavior bordering on heresy. Blood rushing, friend forgetting, work suffering, and all the other fine manifestations that the pursuit of supposed perfection brings. All I can say now, is damn, it was good for the first few months. The rest of this story? Sort of like ordering Wings outside of Buffalo. In addition to the aforementioned ingredients and fryer, you will also need an airtight container big enough to hold 6-7 Wings and the sauce. This will be used to apply the sauce to the fried Wings. Taking one step back, deposit your Wings SLOWLY into the preheated oil, and move them around CAREFULLY every few minutes. The cooking time should be about 10 minutes per batch, and they should be golden brown when done. I use some good quality non-stick tipped tongs for the whole operation. While the Wings are cooking, microwave some butter and combine it with hot sauce in the container. The proportion is a matter of taste, with the 36
drunken crowd favorite “suicidal” wing having no butter in the mix whatsoever. So experiment, and just remember that even straight Texas Pete won’t kill you. Remove the Wings from the fryer and place them on some paper towels to absorb excess oil, and then straight into the container. Shake vigorously (hence the requirement for air tightness) and remove them to a serving dish. Now we come to yet another perversion of Buffalo Wings, and that is the presentation of anything other than Blue Cheese salad dressing and celery with the main course. The only debate here is whether the actual Wings or the celery are dipped into the dressing, not the type of dressing. The next time some goddamn eatery offers me Ranch dressing, I am going to drown the cook in it. (You begin to see how touchy we are about our Buffalo Wings) The last nugget of inside information I will divulge is the way to rid your mouth and palate of the pleasure of lingering hot sauce. Now this may sound strange, but trust me as I have consumed thousands of hot Wings and know of what I speak. Chocolate milk is the best antidote. I suppose it has something to do with a base countering an acid. It also has the added benefit of turning your stomach into a kaleidoscope of interesting chemical reactions after a night of numerous libations and hot Wings. I can remember (sometimes barely) that many of the perfections I pursued were after consuming egregious amounts of alcohol and other unnamed substances. Very similar to knowing that in the dark we all look like centerfold models. I suppose what I have learned is that if perfection is so much more easily found in haze or in darkness, then it must be an illusion after all.
Chapter 12 The Honor in Mistakes So we come to the conclusion of this culinary journey. I would be remiss if I left you with just these recipes and thoughts, however. Specifically, I must give you some simple side dishes, and what I hold to be the most important philosophy for living as a man. The sides are pathetically easy, but making honor your central core value is anything but. Honor is a word that is bandied about in terms both cavalier and pontificating. It is also usually listed with a long supporting cast…… integrity, purity, duty, values, selflessness, etc. The one that is usually missing is the word “mistakes”, without which honor is almost impossible to fully realize. Honor, you see, is also a process that must be learned, much like a good recipe. If you are a somewhat singular type person, then side dishes will be a bothersome necessity. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the results of effective multitasking, the supporting cast to your main dishes will be fulfilling. Either way, here are a few, and they are very easy to the point of being laughable. First up is what I call Dirty Potatoes. Refer back to the red potatoes section in Chapter 7. Instead of allowing them to cool, put them into a large bowl with a mess of butter and spices of your choice. Stir it all up and presto, Dirty Potatoes. Next are steamed green beans and almonds. Pick up some microwave steamer bags, and put some fresh whole beans in, with almond slivers, and a small bit of butter. Now, these bags have the cooking times for almost all the commonly steamed things on them, so it doesn’t get much easier. Don’t make the mistake of just opening the bag right out of the nuke, because they are really hot coming out. Mistakes. Here is one contained within another: I have violated every single piece of philosophic advice I have written in this book, one of them very recently. Before you run back to wherever you purchased this and demand your money back, consider this. I, like you, am an imperfect human. I defy anyone to defend someone as having really learned important lessons in life without having made mistakes. The having learned part is the 38
critical component of the realization of honor. It is like watching a politician demonstrating how clean he is, no skeletons in the closet or bimbo eruptions. I say that such a person is bereft of essential tragedy, heartbreak, and sincere regret. And these are the exact lessons that will lead to living with honor. I can almost hear you thinking, “I wish this self-important jerk-off would just get to the point of this chapter!” And I would almost agree, but it’s my dime, and your time, so more side dish advice. I spoke of contrast in an earlier chapter in regards to color on a plate. Esthetics in food presentation cannot be overrated, and although that may seem shallow coming from an enlightened source such as me, keep in mind that we all have deep and subconscious receptors to such motivations. If you feel the need to question that statement, ask yourself why music and art inspire such powerful emotional responses. Or, why some men prefer brunettes over blondes, the aggressive over tender, fantastically slow kisses over rapid tongue dancing, etc (all personal favorites of mine, if you haven’t guessed). Rice is an underused food by men. I admit that when I am considering side dishes, it isn’t one of the first things I think of either. But when I sit down to eat, and rice of whatever variety is part of the fare, it always seems to be a pleasant surprise. Rice comes in a large array of flavors and choices, and the instant stuff is pretty much idiot-proof. Something else that isn’t a usual first choice is sweet potatoes. If you do these right, they come out more like dessert than main course support, and the key is (again) the microwave. Rinse a couple of them off, poke some holes in them, and nuke for five minutes each (turn over halfway). Cut a lengthwise opening and slather on some butter and cinnamon. Too easy. I wish I could tell you that living an honorable life was easy. I also wish I could be driving an Aston Martin DBS, but in both cases the object of desire is so spectacular as to compel devotion to realizing the result. When viewed as something that is more than the sum of its parts, the DBS is a perfect metaphor for honor. Many intricate pieces, painstakingly engineered and assembled, coming together as a rare example of beauty, grace, power, and sublime assurance. When I start each day, I remind myself that I will make decisions as a man, and that I will endeavor to make those decisions with the following thought guiding me: I will not regret anything I do today. That doesn’t mean laying low and avoiding the things that are hard to deal with. Quite the opposite. 39
My final recipe for my brothers is easy, and only has four ingredients. Trust me when I say that as simple as this dish is, deciding to consume it on a daily basis is difficult in the extreme, but may help you realize what is really important to you. In unequal parts depending on what you encounter in life: Strength Honor Humility Compassion It's been my pleasure to share some of what I know about cooking-and life--with you. I wish you the best in both.
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