The James Beard Award-winning Men's Health editor wants to make cooking less intimidating for all.
As the longtime food and nutrition editor for Men's Health magazine, Paul Kita has seen men's relationship with home cooking evolve quite a bit. Just compare the title of his new cookbook, A Man, A Pan, A Plan (out today) to that of its forerunner, a Men's Health-release called the similar, but very different, A Man, A Can, A Plan.
"Back then," Kita tells Food & Wine, "I think men interacted with food through the conduit of a can opener." At one of the first men's magazines to even write about cooking, Kita has seen firsthand data on how, in the 15 years since, more men are "going to the grocery store more often," "seeing themselves as the primary shoppers of the family unit," and "cooking more frequently."
The causes of what Kita calls an evolution "from can opener to chef's knife and KitchenAid stand mixer" are many, but he sees the advent of celebrity chefs and food entertainment as a major factor. Especially, as you might have guessed, Anthony Bourdain.
"There was this idea that restaurants had to be fussy, and that every chef had to be French and wear a toque," Kita says of many men's (mis)conception of restaurants in the pre-Kitchen Confidential days, "and here was this guy who you would see at CBGB’s … this grizzled guy that has such a machismo to him that, how can you not help but be drawn into his universe?"
The attitude chefs like Bourdain, and Food Network-propelled stars like Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, and Mario Batali helped spread also made them proponents for the home cook, emphasizing accessibility, and a can-do attitude Kita tries to instill in Men's Health. Still, he says, the biggest obstacle in getting men (or anyone) to cook remains "the idea that cooking is hard," and that's where A Man, A Pan, A Plan seeks to help. Because much as the new culture around cooking has helped home cooks, it's more hardcore, craft-driven extremes present new obstacles. "Overly chef-y recipes" and cookbooks that, Kita says, involve esoteric ingredients, kitchen equipment most people don't own, and a level of complexity that "can be incredibly intimidating" are all furthering the barrier to entry.
"I was sort of sick of this idea that every meal had to be a project, or every meal required a hunt," Kita says (referring to hunting ingredients, though you never know). So, he assembled the 100 recipes and core of lessons found in A Man, A Pan, A Plan for easy education. "The majority of the meals that I’m cooking at home are done with minimal equipment," the James Beard Award-winner says, "in one pan, in the 15 minutes I have when I get home, before the hanger kicks in," and that's what the book will help you plan for. From Spicy Bison Bacon Burgers, to Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Tahini and Herb Sauce, to a Giant Oatmeal-Almond-Craisin Cookie, A Man, A Pan, A Plan has every meal covered in simple, quick, tasty, and nutritious fashion that will get you further than any can opener could. And just because it's from Men's Health doesn't mean it's not for everybody—as Kita says, ease of cooking, taste, and health should be unisex ideas.