Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: Man with a Pan

I just finished, Man with a Pan, a book of collected essays, recipes and tips entitled in the trenches.  There are very few original recipes that you haven't seen before.  Only Mexican Chocolate Pie and Vegetarian Bobotie, a type of South African curry caught my eye.  The reading is entertaining for a father who cooks, allowing for a male perspective of domesticity that is seldom talked about.  It allows for comparison of strategies and thinking about what it means to be a male cooking for our families.  I was able to see myself in some of these essays and was encouraged that they were not all polished and perfect, much like I feel fatherhood and cooking can be.  The essays felt genuine.

Some standout essays included an essay about gender bias in cooking by Shankar Vedantam and Mark Bittman's Finding Myself in the Kitchen.  Matt Greenberg, a screenwriter known for his horror, writes a screenplay that reads like a B movie centered around a grill that kills with a few gross out moments at the end.  It is a lot of fun to read and reminds me of Strange Tales or the Cryptkeeper.

Mario Batali's essay is interesting in that he is talking about a lot of what appears to be high end dishes but when you break it down, he makes simple but good fare for his family.  Tripe, cardoons, duck testicles and even truffles are just ingredients that need only a little prep and nothing more.  These may seem gourmet but they are just vegetables, leftover meat parts and mushrooms.

The essay that I connected with most was Keith Dixon's Alternate Side Cooking.  It clearly articulated why I cook for my brood.  It captures the phenomena of your spouse cooking every now and then to rave reviews.  There is a description of the inherent jealousy and and fleeting resentment due to the fact that you do it all the time and it is the way that you use to connect to your children and spouse.  Your cooking is expected to be a certain caliber and your efforts are generally unappreciated.  This is no knock on my family but has been going on for millennia.  Man bites dog is a headline but dog bites man is rarely one.

All in all, this was a quick fun read with a few essays that really spoke to me.  The short pieces were personal and seemed honest and sometimes raw.  The book was like a series of small meals where some things worked and others didn't.  It was still a dinner party that I was glad to have attended but maybe I won't be back...except for the company.

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