For Dad, a cookbook to call his very own

June 16, 1993|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

Excuse me -- I have a message for the man of the house:

ANot only is it time to wake up and smell the coffee, it's time to wake up and make the coffee. As well as the rest of the meal.

After all, you can program the VCR, change the oil in the lawn mower and recall Frank Robinson's batting average for 1966; there's nothing more difficult about kitchen skills.

And you don't have to go it alone. Bob Sloan will be right there to help. At least, he will be there on the pages of his new "Dad's Own Cookbook" (Workman, $12.95 paperback).

"Men are discovering cooking is a lot less mysterious than they originally thought," Mr. Sloan said during a recent trip to Baltimore to talk about his book. "They're also finding that if they get involved in the kitchen, they get out of a lot of things they like even less . . . like laundry . . ."

That last part is a joke, and he laughs, but he's serious about ushering men into the culinary arena.

"Cooking is very simple, if you understand a few basics," Mr. Sloan said. "Dads do other things with their hands -- change spark plugs, brain surgery -- cooking is not some mysterious skill only women have."

Mr. Sloan, a New York caterer who has two sons and whose wife cooks only occasionally, said he wrote the book "for the guy who knows what he likes to eat, but has no clue about how to put the things together."

"It seems to me that most men still feel out of place in the kitchen," he said. "They're used to feeling successful" in the workplace and in chosen avocations, why should they venture into new territory?

Well, because it's fun, Mr. Sloan said, and it's rewarding. "Cooking is a relaxing and fun enterprise," he said. "It's giving people pleasure, it's instant gratification -- and you know you've done it. Why should moms be the only ones who get the credit?"

Besides that, he said, cooking is a way of controlling what goes into your food -- controlling fat and cholesterol and sugar and other items a careless diet might have in abundance.

Cooking allows you to control variety, as well, he added. "How many times can you eat out" or dine on carryout food without getting bored?

So they won't be on their own, "Dad's Own Cookbook" aims to be "a pal in the kitchen," Mr. Sloan explained.

The book -- subtitled, "Everything Your Mother Never Taught You" -- is copiously illustrated and packed with tips, techniques and "primers" on items from herbs and spices to pasta sauces to wine. Each recipe includes a list of equipment needed.

"You only need about 5 or 6 things," Mr. Sloan said. "You need good equipment, you don't need a lot of it. Fancy utensils don't make good food."

Timing, food safety, grilling, and leftovers are other topics explored. For instance, each menu starts with "The Timetable," a list of things to do the night before the meal, 2 hours before, 1 hour before, how to start the dinner, how to serve the main course, making the salad and serving dessert.

"We wanted to make the book work for dads," Mr. Sloan said. Traditional cookbooks are often "just a string of recipes," he said. "Dad's Own" tries to answer the question, well, how do you put a meal together?

And it's not just for dads, he said. Women who have spent time pursuing a career may not have spent much time in the kitchen.

"A lot of women have said to me, 'Can I use this book too?' and I say" -- with a wry tone -- " 'Probably.' "

Mr. Sloan is self-taught as a cook. "In college I discovered a great first date was to make dinner for someone," he said. He moved to New York to work in theater, but, like a lot of aspiring actors, found he needed another job to support himself. His cooking skill seemed a natural starting point. He worked as a short-order cook at lunch counters and delis, then got a job with a catering firm.

His book explains how to organize a meal and get everything out on time and suggests make-ahead strategies to save time later. "Dad's coming home at 5:30 too," Mr. Sloan said. "If he can put on a pot of water and get out a pot of spaghetti sauce he made over the weekend," dinner can be ready in a flash.

"Dad's Own" also takes care of the notion that cooking begins with getting out utensils and ends with eating the meal. Grocery shopping and clean-up are also covered.

Every step includes a clean-up step, he said. "It's not like it's an afterthought. Keeping a neat kitchen allows you to work more efficiently."

As for shopping, Mr. Sloan said, in his experience, "Men are loathe to undertake shopping." But he has a strategy to conquer that: "Do your 'shopping' at home," with the aid of a list created at the kitchen table, "and buy your food in the grocery store."

He advises shopping only during off hours -- early morning, late at night -- and buying only the items on your list.

Mr. Sloan is practicing what he preaches. Both of his sons, ages 7 and 3, are active in the kitchen. The younger son likes baking -- "He likes measuring things," Mr. Sloan said -- and the older boy likes fixing breakfast. "He's a great scrambler."

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