Monday, January 2, 2012

Teaching a Man to Cook

I'm sure you've heard the old saying, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  That's only true if the man knows how to cook fish.

When I met Barry he could grill and microwave.  Almost every day he ate the same cereal for breakfast, SlimFast for lunch, and a green salad, Bush's beans, and steak for dinner.  Sometimes he'd have a pork chop instead of steak.  Once in a while he'd order pizza.  If he was feeling really wild and crazy he'd make stir-fry and rice.  After I moved in he seriously suggested that we eat out all the time so he wouldn't ever have to consume anything outside his comfort zone.  I now realize that this was a symptom of his Asperger love of rigid routine, but at the time I was very upset; having the time to cook complicated favorite foods and experiment with new ones was supposed to be one of my compensations for giving up my good-paying job.  Plus, after I quit working in insurance we couldn't afford to constantly eat at restaurants.

Eventually Barry became reconciled to variety in his diet and when we committed to healthier eating he started to research different foods and suggest that we try things (like quinoa) we'd never eaten before.  However, he never actually learned to prepare any of those items; he just agreed to eat them when I cooked.

Once we separated, Barry returned to his old diet.  This fall, though, he's been complaining about being tired of eating the same things all the time.  (Talk about "I never thought I'd see the day..."!!)  Occasionally I break down and invite him over for dinner, but my long-term strategy is to teach him to cook more things himself.  Last week, for instance, we baked a ham together and I showed him how to make deviled eggs, and for Christmas I gave him two cookbooks.

Originally I considered giving him a "learn from scratch" cookbook like the one I gave a friend last year, but Barry already knows many of the basics of cooking; he just needs to learn how to put them together in a healthy way.  And, oh, yes, have I mentioned that he doesn't have any patience?

Here are the two books I finally bought for him:

More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin.  You already know that I think Jacques is the greatest teaching chef ever, and these recipes are relatively healthy and practically goof-proof.  The accompanying TV show is also still in reruns on the local PBS station so Barry can see the techniques in action if he so desires.

Now Eat This!:150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories by Rocco DiSpirito.  When I lived in New York, Rocco was the executive chef at Union Pacific Cafe, where the food was fabulous.  Since then he's become a triathlete and jumped on the healthy eating bandwagon.  He was the consulting chef for several seasons of The Biggest Loser.  These recipes drastically cut the fat, sugar, and bad carbs from standard recipes while maintaining or (in many cases) improving their flavor.  Not quite as easy as the Pepin recipes, and some searching for unusual ingredients may be necessary, but a great starting point for anyone who wants to learn to make healthier versions of old favorites.

With luck, Barry will learn to make more than steak and stir-fry for himself, and I may get a few free meals out of it, too.

"Anybody who believes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach flunked geography."  ~Robert Byrne

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