Friday, June 14, 2013

Cookbooks: Guy Gourmet by Adina Steiman and Paul Kita

There was a time that a cookbook aimed entirely at men were comprised of stacks of recipes for huge portions of fatty foods -- mostly meat -- and how to put them together easily into different, now edible stacks. And, truly, that time wasn’t so very long ago.

Despite its manly appearance, Guy Gourmet (Rodale) is a different sort of animal. While the design, presentation and even food choices all seem pretty testosterone-led, the emphasis here is on lean and healthy. Not surprising, in a way, considering the book was prepared by the editors of Men’s Health. But even that phrase has different, deeper connotations than it used to. Men have different expectations of themselves these days and most often “strong” and “lean” are included in the definition. And though the recipes are top-knotch and spot-on -- carefully selected for flavor, leaness and ease of preparation -- in some ways, they are not the heart of this book.

What, for me, took center stage was the bright new way in which food was talked about and shared. For instance, I loved a section called “Unhealthy” Stuff That’s Actually Good For You. Among other things, it lets you know why pork rinds, alcohol, beef jerky, sour cream and other “treats” can actually be good for you. Another interesting spread offers powerful small snack alternatives to the hundred-calorie snack pack trend. A very good section on the home bar includes not only drink recipes and bar staples but also discussions on health and alcohol and even the caloric content of popular drinks. (Your classic Tom Collins is only going to set you back 115 calories while a delicious Margarita will hit you with a whopping 237.)

For all of that, the recipes are tough to beat: and all perfectly selected for this particular collection. There is very little here that is predictable and even classic male “standards” are given new -- and often undetectably light -- twists.

Of the recipes I made, there were a few I enjoyed that I know I’ll make again. I especially loved the Caramelized Onion Dip which is a modern take on an American classic that here manages to be light and rich at the same time. The Asian Dumpling Bowl is fast food made at home that’s so good and so quick, I know I’ll make it again and again. And, from the Date Night section, I can’t think of a more perfect meal for a man to make the first time he cooks for a woman than Seared Scallops with White Beans and Bacon. It sends the perfect message of sensitivity and strength… plus you don’t need to spend all night in the kitchen.

I liked this one a lot. I can’t imagine changing a single thing. ◊

Jones Atwater is a contributing editor to January Magazine.

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