The editors of the magazine Men’s Health, who ought to know better, have offered this cookbook that says yes, men, EVEN YOU can cook as long as everything comes out of a can! They start off with the hackneyed “men can’t cook” line, which you may have noticed comes into play any time cooking is a chore but is quickly thrown out the window if you want to argue that all the best chefs are men. The cookbook then notes, “we’ve been charring giant slabs of meat ever since we discovered fire. The difference is that now we have better things to do. Why slave over a hot stove when we could be cooking up plans for a golf outing? Or warming up at the gym? Or making things sizzle in the bedroom?” Right, because obviously no woman is capable of doing ANY of those things.
We all know this line is nonsense, just a way to try to present a playful introduction to a dismal batch of recipes. I have to tell you, guys, if you offer your date some of the dishes in this book, I don’t think things will be sizzling in the bedroom any time soon.
Canned food is not inherently bad. I cook with canned beans and canned tomatoes all the time. But several of the offerings in this book are not that good. “Pigs in a Pinwheel” combines canned ham, reduced-fat cream cheese and refrigerated crescent-roll dough, plus onion and chopped oregano. (The recipes feature vivid color photographs of the commercially packaged products they feature, and “also” additional ingredients like vegetables and spices that didn’t get corporate sponsorship.) “Drunken Corn” has you mix canned corn with peppers, Heineken and butter. Other recipes are simply unimaginative combinations of things like beans, cheese and olives, or beef, tomatoes, cheese and tortillas. The idea that you need a cookbook to tell you how to make these things is what’s killing me.
I’ll admit, this book hits one of my pet peeves. I don’t have a big problem with people who admit they can’t cook. We all have things we haven’t mastered. But I do not find it cute when people say they can’t cook, and it drives me nuts when people try to present their lack of this basic survival skill as a charming facet of their personality. This cookbook, with its big chunky pages (of a thickness usually associated with picture books for toddlers) and its simplistic combinations of brand-name foods, is smug about its intended readers’ lack of skills. You don’t need to know how to cook, guys, just open a few cans and the ladies will be falling at your feet! Yeah, nothing makes a woman want to become your love slave like opening a can of SpaghettiOs for her. I have a better idea. If you want to cook to impress a date, pick up a copy of How to Cook Everything and work your way through it. If you want to impress her with good food that you don’t have to know how to cook, take her to a good restaurant that offers better beer than Heineken.
2 15-oz cans SpaghettiOs
¾ lb extra-lean ground beef
10-oz package frozen broccoli
Also: ¼ cup diced green onion; small red bell pepper, chopped
How to make it: Brown the ground beef in a nonstick skillet. Dump in the SpaghettiOs, broccoli, onion and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 335 calories, 11 g fat (30% of calories), 4 g saturated fat, 22 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 898 mg sodium
From A Man, A Can, A Plan: 50 Great Guy Meals Even You Can Make! David Joachim and the editors of Men’s Health. Rodale Press, 2002.