Lucinda Scala Quinn, food TV personality and Executive Food Editor of Martha Stewart Living, has written a cookbook titled Mad Hungry [Artisan], which is the same name as her cooking show on the Hallmark Channel. What's different is the subtitle: Feeding Men & Boys.
It's easy to have a kneejerk, slightly offended reaction to this if you're a woman. “What? Why do we need an instruction book on how to feed guys? Can't they feed themselves? What decade is this? Geez.” Then you open the cookbook, and things become clearer.
Mad Hungry is a book that's centered around what men like to eat, but that doesn't mean it's an attempt to enslave women. Scala Quinn has been surrounded by boys her whole life — having only brothers and three sons — and the ways in which she has adapted her cooking to accommodate that are reflected in her recipes.
Scala Quinn tells us that the cookbook, as well as the show, are actually centered on bringing the entire family into the kitchen. We sat down with her to get the lowdown on her philosophy:
“I'm not barefoot and pregnant talking about taking care of 'our men.' The book was the baseline for the television show, which is really about the family. I write from experience, and when it comes to the guys, I say, 'cook for the men you love, teach them to cook for themselves and they will pass it on.' We have a tradition in this world of women cooking and passing it on [to their daughters], and not teaching their sons to cook. In my case, it was about empowering the boys in my life.”
And let's be real. Men do approach food differently than women. Anyone who's ever lived with a guy at any point knows they're much more neanderthal about eating. They like meat. They want big portions. They crave straightforward, simple food, and a lot of it. “You have to have an abundance,” she says. “You have to be prepared or you're going to have an angry mob on your hands.”
More importantly, “Men are less complicated about eating, and more organic and intuitive about it, in general,” she says. “There's less fear.”
She says women can learn from that. “I sometimes feel for young women because we have this idea of what beauty is, and how we achieve it, and how it's related to what we eat. But in fact, nourishing ourselves with food early on — if we can have a healthier approach to it, that is to say not a deprivational approach, one that is associated with joy and pleasure — which is what happens, actually, when you eat at the dinner table now and then with your family.”
Scala Quinn frequently brings her nearly-grown sons onto the set of Mad Hungry so they can strut what they've learned. She boasts that all three have become quite self-sufficient in the kitchen. One even cooks professionally. “I am determined to deliver young men into the world who, whatever their financial circumstances are, can pull together a meal for themselves,” she says. “As parents, one of the things I think we've lost sight of is to raise independent human beings.”
Both her show and her cookbook indicate that this is a slow process. She encourages mothers (or whoever is doing the cooking) to take children to the supermarket and teach them how to pick out ingredients, as well as how to plan meals. Her book provides 10 tenets for how to get started, the first of which is simply deciding that it's important to you. On her show, it's often about teaching kids simple practices: what to do with eggs, how to work with seafood, what to do with the milk in the fridge besides drink it. She also makes a point to teach basic recipes for oatmeal or a frittata, foundations to which various ingredients can be added.
In other words, Scala Quinn takes it slow in the kitchen. She thinks long-term. “We have become such a fast-cut, fast-paced, 'give me 25 ideas' culture, and food television has evolved to be [dominated by] reality competition…I look at my own program and think, 'I'm really just doing what I do in my own kitchen.'”
Mad Hungry airs at noon on weekdays on the Hallmark Channel. The cookbook can be purchased here, or at your local bookstore.
Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter @MySo_CalLife.