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SAHD School Lesson One. You cannot live on takeout alone.

October 6, 2011

I consider it very important to be “out” about my job as a Stay at Home Dad. Even as the Great Recession swells our ranks with fathers temporarily (we hope) bereft of employment, couples who have planned their families this way are still an oddity. This need not be, and being visible about it is one way us SAHDs can remove the stigma that is sometimes attached to all forms of non-traditional parenting.

On the flip side, a lot of guys seem to be jealous of my lot. Mostly because they underestimate the amount of work involved. So I thought I would pass on a little of the wisdom I have accumulated in my 6 years of being a “homemaker” in order to prepare my brethren for that bright future when the womenfolk take over the breadwinning for good. Welcome to the Raising Hellions second recurring featurette, hopefully the first one to actually recur, SAHD School.

SAHD SCHOOL Lesson 1: Learn to cook dummies.
Actually, this bit is good advice even if you are in the pre-relationship stage of the relationship. When Boy met Girl I had just begun to move past the bachelor chow level of cuisine. I firmly believe that my ability to marinate a chicken breast in Italian dressing, roll it in store bought bread crumbs, and bake it until it was brown and yummy is what got me a return invitation to third base and beyond. And that was an innovation made mainly because I looked at the ingredients on a box of Shake and Bake and almost had a heart attack on the spot. Luckily for me, the early years of my marriage coincided with the explosion of cooking on television.

I credit two programs with turning me into someone who was well respected enough in the kitchen that I actually catered my brothers wedding rehearsal dinner (grilled beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, vegan pesto, turkey breast stuffed with spinach and cheese, and Costco ravioli’s in tomato sauce, also there was a salad. I think, I drank a lot at that party.)

Good Eats

Alton Brown is a bit of a hero for me. Whilst Emeril Lagasse was the first mainstream Food Network star, he was never very good at teaching about the food. Don’t get me wrong, Emeril did teach one important lesson, he was always having fun. You cooking should be fun for you. I love cooking for parties and BBQ’s with tons of food and lots going on at once, I learned that from Emeril. But Alton Brown, what can I say AB made cooking geeky enough for a geek like me. Good Eats was, in it’s creators words “one part Julia Child, one part Mr. Wizard, and one part Monty Python.” That sums it up better than I can. I still make his chili recipe all the time, his Thanksgiving Turkey recipe is a perfect introduction to the science of brining food, and his explanation of cheesecake (it’s a custard pie sillies) is cooking science at it’s best. A Good Eats episode is guaranteed to inform, entertain, and educate.

America’s Test Kitchen

Christopher Kimball shares more with Alton Brown than taste in glasses and receding hairlines. They both share a passion for teaching their audience about good food. Whereas Good Eats played court jester for the Food Network, America’s Test Kitchen is the premier cooking show on public television. They don’t have fancy sets or celebrity chefs. They also lack commercial obligations, allowing them the freedom to talk about the quality of name brand ingredients and equipment. Want to know what the best chefs knife is? They tested it. Want to make the worlds best triple chocolate cookies? They made thousands of them to make sure the recipe they hand off to you was as perfect as possible. ATK is really the companion show for Cooks Illustrated magazine, another thing I can’t live without. I also recommend Cooks Country, the sister program and magazine, which focuses more on traditional American cooking as well as reviving and updating “lost recipes” and unknown regional cuisine, like Cincinnati Chili, or Lucy Blue hamburgers.

I’ll admit to being a complete slave to the Cooks empire. They just mail me cookbooks at this point and I pay for them and give them as gifts if I don’t need them.

Not comfortable with learning to cook from TV? Take a cooking course! If it were up to me everyone would learn to cook in elementary school, but until then it’s up to you to cover up for our societies deficiencies. Learn to cook, you’ll eat better, your family will eat better, and with luck your kids will pick up a love of cooking from you and you’ll avoid them being fast food junkies when they are the ones out looking for mates.

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