The New Yorker editor and author John Donohue on what it means to be "a man who cooks"
John Donohue is a "Goings On About Town" editor at the New Yorker and author of the soon to be released book, Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for Their Families, in bookstores May 17. He blogs about food and family at Stay at Stove Dad. Here, Donohue divulges how much he spends on groceries, his favorite things to cook, and one of his "addictive" recipes.
Have you always been into cooking?
I’ve always been into eating, and to satisfy my hunger I long ago learned to cook for myself. I have the classic high metabolism, and I’m tall and thin. For years, as a child and a young man I never seemed to get enough to eat.
Did you appoint yourself as the “Home Cook” or did your wife request that you manage meals?
I appointed myself. When we had our first child, we became overwhelmed with work and family responsibilities. I realized that I could be of great assistance by becoming involved with the shopping and cooking. Remember, I was always hungry.
What does being “a man who cooks” mean to you?
It means that I have a very tactile way of taking care of my family. I literally bring home the bacon, the broccoli, the chicken, and the roasting potatoes. I provide for my wife and children in a very sensual and rewarding way by putting good food on the table.
Why do you think there is a current trend of men who cook?
There are many reasons. More women in the workforce is probably the largest reason. A whole generation of young men have come of age with working mothers, and they don’t necessarily have the expectation that the women in their lives will cook for them. Men have also come to realize how rewarding it can be, both on a day-to-day level and as a way to woo a potential mate.
How do you manage to cook for your family with a demanding, full-time magazine job?
It takes a lot of mental energy and planning. It should be made clear that my wife is the one who most often serves the children dinner, and she also cooks. Often that will mean she defrosts a Bolognese sauce or soup that I made for her, but that is work too.
Approximately how much do you spend on groceries every week? Do you have any cost-saving tips when it comes to buying food?
I spend about $250 a week on groceries. We eat organic fruits and vegetables when we can and we buy milk from grass-fed cows and eat grass-fed meat. Those things are expensive. We’re fortunate to be members of the Park Slope Food Coop, so we don’t pay a premium for them. That would be my suggestion for saving money. Join or form a food coop.
Name one ingredient you'll splurge on.
I splurge on everything. I don’t believe in economizing on food. I’m fortunate to be able to think that way, but I forgo many other luxuries in life. I don’t often shop for new clothes. My car, which I inherited, is ten years old, and the only vacations we ever seem to take involve staying at friends’ houses. We haven’t been overseas since becoming parents.
What are your three most favorite things to cook, and why?
1. Roast chicken, because it is not a lot of active labor and always delicious. Also, if I do two birds at the same time I have leftovers that can last almost a week.
2. Any fresh fish, because if the fish is fresh you can’t miss.
3. My Fly-Sky-High Kale Salad. You can’t believe how addictively good it tastes.
Can you share a favorite recipe?
Fly-Sky-High Kale Salad
1 bunch Lacinato kale
1 Tablespoon pine nuts, or more, to taste
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
½ lemon, juiced
1 t. Olive Oil
Wash the kale and strip out the thick center rib.
Roll a few of the leaves tightly together, like a cigar, and cut it into little circles, which will unravel into a perfect chiffonade.
Sauté the strips of kale in a little olive oil, for just a few minutes, until they change to a brighter green and soften a bit.
Toast the pine nuts in a cast-iron frying pan until slightly brown.
Combine the kale, the pine nuts, and the cheese in a bowl.
Dress with lemon, being careful to taste as you go and not to make it too tart, and more olive oil if you wish.