Here's a great phone call to get from a cookbook publicist at work in the middle of a ho-hum afternoon: "Our afternoon plans got scrambled, and we've got some free time. Do you have an hour to meet Lucinda?"
In this case, "Lucinda" is Lucinda Scala Quinn, the head food guru at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and author of the new cookbook Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys. And yes, I did have time - as did Kate (@Savour, who writes the lovely blog Savour Fare) and Hilary (@HilaryCable, who pens the LA Baking Examiner column). And fortunately, the three of us work in the same building. So down we went to our local Starbucks, where we sat outside for an hour of girl talk about Mad Hungry with Lucinda on a breezy afternoon.
Mad Hungry grabbed me right away, because, as you may know, I live with one very hungry husband and two very hungry young boys, and feeding them is mostly my job (to be sure, a job I truly enjoy). I had all kinds of questions. Is it true what they say about the bottomless pit of the teenage boy stomach? (Yes.) Do yours eat vegetables? (Yes.) Even salad? (Yes, and in fact, there's an essay in the book about how to get boys to eat salads. The trick, apparently, is keeping pre-washed greens on hand at all times, and we're talking crisp manly greens like romaine, not soft delicate greens like mache.)
One bit of advice Lucinda offers in the book - which I happen to think is brilliant - is to use what boys eat outside the house as inspiration for what you cook at home. Those greasy bacon-egg-and-cheese-on-a-bagel sandwiches you find at every New York corner deli? When one of her three sons started eating those daily, Lucinda started cooking them up at home, minus the extra grease, of course (p. 20). When another came from a vegan friend's house raving about soup, she called the other mom to find out what kind of vegan soup could have her son in such raptures and added it to the family menu (lentil, p. 87). I guess that means I'll be trying to reproduce chocolate old-fashioned donuts and sushi soon - oh, wait, I know how to make sushi!
There are, of course, rules to feeding men and boys. Here are some of Lucinda's:
- Learn to understand the urgency of boy hunger. There's no "I'll get something later." When they're hungry, they need food NOW.
- Lucinda doesn't buy much in the way of clothes, jewelry or cars: She spends her money on quality ingredients for her family.
- That said, she doesn't serve lamb chops when the whole crew is home. It's just too expensive. She'll wait until there's a night with just her and one boy, and then the lamb chops come out. For the big crowd (that's her, husband, three boys ages 15, 18 and 22, and usually three friends), she sticks to longer-cooking but less dear cuts of meat.
- Lucinda is a two-vegetable-per-meal woman. They'll eat at least one, she says, and eventually they'll learn to eat both. Just keep putting it in front of them, and eventually it will go in. But learn how to cook vegetables so they appeal: No one likes mushy steamed cauliflower, she points out, but if you slice it thinly, toss it with olive oil and salt, and roast it at 400 degrees until it's brown and crispy on the edges, watch how quickly it disappears.
- Always make at least two cups of rice. You can put anything over rice in the morning, and they'll eat it. Fried eggs on rice is a favorite.
- Her family has beans and rice once a week. They'll eat a vegetarian meal, but they do prefer their beans laced with a little bacon.
- Speaking of bacon: Never run out.
Let me tell you, I am feeling generous today, because I really really want to keep this cookbook for myself! But no...my blog friends come first....