Men have been under the thumb a bit for the last couple of decades. We have had to quash some of our more primal instincts, learn how to talk about our feelings and, God help us, even listen to our partner’s Taylor Swift albums without searching desperately for the nearest cliff from which to hurl ourselves.
Even when it comes to food, we have been keeping our real urges under wraps and pretending to prefer a plate of roast organic vegetables when, in reality, we were screaming for a slab of roasted flesh with all our hearts and souls. Thankfully, however, being a real man is back in fashion — and being a real man who cooks is even more so.
But you have to cook the right things. There’s no room for cupcakes in the real man’s kitchen. So here is a checklist of the 10 things every man should tick off on their quest to discover their inner savage.
Get out the grill
Few activities can make men congregate so willingly as a barbecue. Within seconds of the grill being fired up, circles of men will have gathered and all will be offering sage advice on the best way to prepare the steaks and chops. If you have a garden and don’t have a grill, shame on you. If you don’t have space, buy a good cast iron griddle and practice until you are rich enough to buy a house with a garden.
Kill, clean and cook
Hunting used to be a way of life for a huge percentage of the population. Indeed, for many, it was often the only way they were able to put food on the table. Cue the anthropomorphism of animals in films like Bambi, and suddenly hunting for food was the equivalent of strangling puppies. I have no problem at all with hunting if what is dispatched ends up in the pot. There are few more satisfying meals than those that include ingredients you have caught, cleaned and prepared in the field.
Roast a whole animal
Just about every culture has a tradition of roasting a whole animal, particularly at a time of celebration. Some countries will roast hogs, others goats or sheep and, in the case of the Argentinian Gauchos, even a whole steer. Not only is the sight of an animal cooking on a spit over a fire undeniably impressive, and slicing off huge chunks of flesh with a sharp knife will make you feel like the ultimate man’s man.
Eat nose to tail
If you are going to kill an animal for food, you owe it to the animal to eat “everything but the squeak,” not just the prime cuts you might find prepackaged in the supermarket. Many men now seem to be too squeamish to eat anything that looks like it came from an animal. But many dishes made with the insides of the beast can be incredibly delicious, so it’s time to literally cook with heart — and liver and kidneys.
Buy and learn how to care for chef’s knives
Visit any department store on the weekend, and you will undoubtedly see men cooing loudly over the blocks of knives. But most chefs I know will tell you that one great chef’s knife is better than a dozen mediocre ones. So, go to a specialized store and ask to try a number of chef’s knives for weight and balance before you buy one — make sure you get a good sharpener too. While you are putting a sharp edge on your blade, you can recite lines from Braveheart.
Smoke and cure your own meat
Smoking and curing meat is one of the oldest methods of food preservation known to man. After generations of only consuming commercially smoked meats, men are now discovering the joys of preparing their own cuts of bacon, salt beef and salamis at home. Making bacon at home is incredibly easy, and the end results will ensure that you never go the store-bought route again.
Make your own sausages
Most men, particularly those who spend all day behind a desk, crave hands-on experiences. I am no different, and my weekend relaxation is often centered round making my own sausages. It is very straightforward and requires little more than a grinder with a sausage-making attachment and some natural sausage casings. There are few things more fun than going to a grilling party with a tray of your own sausages and being able to say, “I made these.”
Cook over an open hearth
Cooking over an open flame brings out the primal instinct in every man. From roasting marshmallows over a campfire or even just brewing up coffee while on a hike, there is something special about food prepared over fire. So, next time you plan a hike, why not prepare your meal on the trail? Just make sure to take all necessary precautions to prevent brush fires.
Make beer-can chicken
Only a man would have thought that shoving an opened beer can up a chicken’s backside while it was cooking was a good idea. But it’s a method that really works. The beer evaporates during cooking, creating a steam that flavors the meat and keeps it beautifully moist. Well worth trying.
Have an old-style clam bake
An original clam bake involved a mariner’s catch of lobsters and clams, along with potatoes and corn, popping away in a pit lined with stones. That may not be practical or safe today, but you can fashion a good version with a propane stove and a large pot. Lots of clams, lots of cold beer and lots of your buddies enjoying the two can’t help but make for a great time.