Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Man in the Kitchen

A Man in the Kitchen is the title of this little Soviet cookbook, by one Petr Saraliev. My mom has owned it for nearly 15 years, yet the only time it makes it out of the bookcase is when I need some entertainment.

Pubished in 1986, it's intended as a cooking for dummies-type book for men, but I skim it for the intro and advice sections.

From the intro (translation, mine):

"Every moderately intelligent man can successfully cook meals which will not only satisfy him, but also others."

"Of course, gastronomy must not become a cult; there's no need to strive for the rich and opulent feasts of the Chinese mandarins, Arabic sheiks and Roman patricians, as we eat to live, not live to eat."

"I want to note that the health impact of these recipes is of no small concern. Taking into consideration recent scientific findings, frying and sauteeing are kept to a minimum."

From the "Useful Hints" section:

"Well-made food depends in large part on the cook's good mood, and a favorite tune will help you with this."

"Dirty dishes must be washed after every meal, as they quickly pile up in large amounts, making washing more difficult and time-consuming. Besides, putting off washing the dishes is simply unhygienic."

From the "Culture of Eating" section:

"It's indecent to have unkempt kitchen cabinets that would horrify people [with their messiness]...Cleanliness is an inherent part of culture."

"The cultured person always eats at a clean table, using the appropriate silverware. The ability to eat well is a habit that develops with time."

"You will agree that cultured dining is not such a difficult thing, even though it demands self-discipine and self-control."

It's easy to laugh at this old-fashioned advice now, but it's basically true, don't you think?

Unfortunately, the recipes don't live up to the no-nonsense intro . For example, bean soup. Ingredients: 1 can of beans in tomato sauce; 1 onion; 1 carrot; a piece of celery; parsley; mint; salt. Directions: Put the beans in a soup pot; add the chopped vegetables and herbs. Add 4 cups of water and mix well. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring.

Me, I have mixed feelings about men in the kitchen. These days my dad gets home before my mom on weekdays, so he's in charge of starting dinner. I hear the results are tragicomic. When my boyfriend, P., heads to the kitchen, my possessive side comes out. He's is going to meddle in my kitchen! Where everything is arranged according to my needs and every countertop is hygienic! God, I hope he won't make eggs or something and get the stove all greasy and keep asking where we keep the skillet...

Alas, I don't think Petr Saraliev ever had many male readers.


mzn said...

I grew up in a family in which the men and women shared cooking responsibilities. My mother often worked in the evenings (teaching adult ed classes) so my father would come home around dinner time and cook for us. There was rarely anything fancy to these meals. I have never seen my father prepare a fresh vegetable and I'm sure he doesn't have the first clue how to do it. But he can make hamburgers or spaghetti pretty well.

Now I do all the cooking and my wife, who is a capable but not at all enthusiastic cook, stays away from the kitchen. We have a good arrangement.

Love the quotes from that book.

Yulinka said...

My dad makes pretty good fried potatoes and a tomato/cucumber salad (veggies cut very chunky--"peasant style," says my mom).

After moving to America, he learned to grill. I'm sure he's never considered reading "A Man in the Kitchen."

My grandfather lived with us for a while and would sometimes make make horribly overcooked soups or stews--no one ate them besides him.

The Boyfriend is pretty hapless in the kitchen, but I really don't mind. The kitchen is my playroom.

Anonymous said...

In my family (also Russian) my father always cooks. He is a great down-to-earth cook. Of course, he is best at meat stuff and also makes great fish, holodets (which was, thankfully, abandoned at last), borsht and rice. There was one mythical cooking disaster early in my parents' married days, when Dad made a fish-with-meat recipe and claimed it was from the "Kniga o vkusnoi i zdorovoi pish'e". Of course, the recipe was never found in the book. My mother is a terrible cook, though I remember the times she used to bake passably.

Alas, gender roles were reversed in my generation. I love to cook and my brother's signature dish is ordered pizza ;)

Love your blog, btw.


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