Cooking for guys

With more of us guys working at home, it's becoming more common for us to be put in charge of cooking meals. This is a grave mistake in most cases, one that could lead to outbreaks of nutrition-related ailments like rickets and scurvy.

I speak in generalities here and the usual exceptions apply. I know at least two couples in which the guy is a gourmet chef and does most of the cooking. But in general, guys seem to be missing the cooking-nutritious-meals gene. Apparently, it's in the same DNA strand as the stopping-to-ask-for-directions gene.

The problem isn't that cooking is so hard or that guys are too lazy to do it right. It's just guys are like dogs: To us, pretty much everything is food. If you can eat it, it must be good for you. And the easier it is to get, the better.

This was built into our genetic code during the caveman days, when men went around foraging for things to eat. Men would wander the wilderness, picking up things and sticking them in their mouths to see if they tasted good. It was mostly a matter of trial-and-error. If a rock broke out Trog's teeth, then Trog wouldn't eat any more rocks. If Trog found a dead animal, he'd gnaw on it and take it back to the family because it was good.

It was just a short step up to Trog going around killing animals for the family to eat. I suspect he got tired of waiting for roaming animals to fall over dead from old age. He had to take matters into his own hands.

But it was the woman in this scenario, I believe, who discovered that meat held over a flame got even tastier and was less likely to give the Trog family a screaming case of trichinosis. Mrs. Trog was left back at the cave, whittling new teeth for her husband, and she had time to experiment with the food he brought home. It was Mrs. Trog who learned which foods tasted best together and which ones kept the family healthy. It wasn't long, I suspect, before she was demanding a spice rack and a kitchen island.

Trog, meanwhile, was still out there hunting and gathering. Being a guy, Trog would eat almost anything while he was on the road. This mentality, which eventually would lead to the proliferation of fast food joints along our nation's highways, allowed Trog to eat new and different foods, including those forbidden by Mrs. Trog. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how pork rinds came to be.

A modern guy still carries around those Trog genes. Left to his own devices, he will forage for food rather than plan a well-balanced meal and prepare it. Why cook when Taco Bell has a drive-thru window?

When a guy is forced into cooking or (God forbid) grocery shopping, he still will produce odd combinations, many of them involving beer. And he still wants an element of danger in the process, which is why barbecue grills are so popular.

If you doubt these generalities, check with most any bachelor. When I was a single guy, I started thinking about dinner the moment I got off work. No advance planning, no thawing something ahead of time. I got in the car, picked up fast food and zoomed home to eat it before it got cold. My refrigerator was stocked with condiments and Pepto-Bismol and a few mystery leftovers that would stay safely wrapped in foil until a biohazard team happened by.

Now that cooking is part of my job description, I've learned to prepare simple meals and -- most importantly -- make good use of the microwave. "Heat and eat" is my middle name.

But foraging still is in my genes. My best cooking tool is a car.

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