Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Masters of the pre-rehearsed barbecue

Do you like He-Man? No, I don't mean the most powerful man in the universe. It's just a bait-and-switch question so I can introduce the cookbook of the day:

"The He-Man's Cookbook" (Good Reading Rack Service, 1956) was serious about getting real he-men to cook. You can tell the guy on the cover is one such specimen by his wisps of chest hair and tentatively outlined heart-with-an-arrow tattoo.

The introduction on the inside cover is a gem too good to pass up, so here it is in its entirety:

This enlightened cookbook was written for men because "let's face it . . . only a man can be a Chef."

In case you're not clear on the significance of this declaration, it is spelled out: "Cook only on special occasions and only prepare special dishes." The man is not supposed to be the regular cook, just the "chef" who gets to bask in the glory of special occasion cooking.

At least the book recognizes that cooking is a good deal of work. If a man wants his cooking performance to seem effortless, he needs to "do a bit of rehearsing," "run through [the recipe] for the family" beforehand, and lay out the "props" before his performance for guests.

Recipes are also supposed to be "glamorized" with fancy names. For example, potentially dull fried fish should become Rainbows in Bacon:

The dish is so exciting that even the fish on the side of the page appears to be stoked about its new bacon wrap.

Some recipes are more complicated than "Wrap fish in bacon, grill, and serve with lemon juice, oil, and herb sauce." Burgundy Meat Balls require a little too much work to make before an admiring audience, so they were to be made the day ahead and simply reheated at the table for the guests:

There's nothing particularly exciting about these meatballs, composed mostly of meat, crumbs, egg, onion, and cream, and served in a wine sauce. I picked this one because the crumbs can be either the regular bread variety or "finely crushed corn chips." I'm more amused than I can even explain to see a recipe calling for corn chip crumbs and Burgundy wine.

I was surprised by how many recipes meant for manly men were variations of recipes that often popped up in ladies' luncheons. While women might get together to nibble on Monte Cristo sandwiches, men could replace the ham and cheese with hot dog and mustard wrapped in egg-soaked bread for this treat:

Midnight Dogs should even be served "with mugs of milk or cocoa and fresh juicy apples." Those lines could just as easily come from a ladies' luncheon menu.

My favorite may just be the "manly" variation of the legendary sandwich loaf.

You can tell that Sam's Old Devil Samich is for men from a variety of clues:
  1. It's got "Old Devil" right in the name! A lady wouldn't say that.
  2. It's got hamburger in a layer, rather than foofy fillings like crushed pineapple, cottage cheese, and/or tiny canned shrimp.
  3. It's not "iced" with thinned-down cream cheese.
  4. It's a samich, and everybody knows ladies can only eat sandwiches.
Now that you know what it was like to cook in the '50s as a man, usually also for other men, go out and write another recipe that combines corn chips and wine! Or at least have a good samich. Happy Cookbook Wednesday, and as always, thank you to Louise from Months of Edible Celebrations for hosting!

P.S.- Today is also, coincidentally, the day of my post for the annual Pieathalon. If you want to find out more about my cooking skills (or lack thereof), check it out.


  1. I wonder who cleaned up the kitchen after the he-man finished his chef's action.

    best... mae at

    1. I'm sure we all know the answer to that! If it's not glamorous, he's not going to do it.

  2. Oh wouldn't you love to see how they would promote this book in this day and age, Poppy? I can only imagine how many words would be changed, lol...too bad actually because, it is after all, part of our heritage.

    The Midnight Dogs would almost make sense after a night of bowling but mugs of milk or cocoa and fresh juicy apples? What? No beer!?

    I confess Poppy, I'm really liking this book and wish it were in my collection:) Thank you so much for sharing and joining in for another Cookbook Wednesday:) Now I'm off to check out your Pieathalon!

    1. This was on the front of a (transparent) grab bag full of old cooking pamphlets and it was the reason I bought the bag. I definitely have no regrets, plus I got plenty of other goodies to share....

  3. the misogynist's cookbook maybe? Love love love the illustrations! Especially the fuzzy hot dog :D

    1. I'm sure it's supposed to be bread, but it kind of looks like a felt wrap!