Recently I was browsing through a pile of cookbooks in a remainder bookstore (and I realise that by shopping there, I am guilty of depriving authors of their royalties, so as soon as I’ve finished writing this post, I’ll be off to flagellate myself) when I came across a book called “The Sneaky Chef”. The subtitle was “How to cheat on your man (in the kitchen).” The subtitle was mildly amusing in a tongue-in-cheek way (at least, I thought it was tongue-in-cheek) and on a quick flick-through, the recipes looked promising, so I handed over my $5 and took home my find.
First, a commentary on the recipes themselves. The basic principle behind the Sneaky Chef is pureeing fruit and vegetables and sneaking them, sometimes along with extra protein and fibre also cunningly disguised, into traditionally tasty-but-unhealthy food. The recipes I’ve tried so far range from “not worth the trouble” to “new family favourite”. The Fearless “Fried” Chicken (it’s actually baked) fell into the former category. Including the time spent making the orange puree, it took two hours to make and resulted in a net increase of vegetable consumption of about a tablespoon per person. And this is my main criticism of most of the recipes – a hell of a lot of work for a tiny increase in vegetable intake. Everyone happily ate the chicken, except for the youngest and most vegie-resistant member of the family, who wouldn’t touch it until she’d peeled off all of the crunchy coating (where the vegies were hiding).
I was dubious of the combination of pureed baby spinach and blueberries. After inserting it into hamburger patties and French toast as instructed, I remained dubious, as did the rest of the family. The pureed white beans in the mashed potato were a big hit, but that might have had something to do with the fact that I substituted sour cream and butter for the yoghurt and olive oil in the recipe. Yes, I am a Bad Mother, feeding my family all those animal fats, and need to go flagellate myself.
My main problem about this book is the astounding level of sexism it contains. I had to keep checking the publication date to make sure it had been first published in 2008 and not 1958. Here are a few excerpts:
“When a man goes on a diet, he chooses protein; when a woman goes on a diet, she chooses vegetables. I’m not necessarily saying that the woman adores alfalfa sprouts, but she will make the sacrifice for the goal of staying healthy and slim.”
“Hiding broccoli in the meatballs, or spinach in the chilli, is just like putting on lipstick and high heels. We’re simply dressing up the food to make it visually appealing to a man. Once he ‘gets to know’ the disguised vegetable, he may be more willing to overlook her flaws and accept her for the substance she delivers.”
“When my male friend challenged me, “Why are you just addressing women? […]” I admitted that some men really do like to cook-but I still couldn’t imagine any of them taking the care and time to enhance our favourite dishes with carefully thought-out ingredients they know will contribute to our well-being.”
“Though I don’t want to encourage dishonesty or deceit in a marriage[…]the results of revelation can be counterproductive. Just like kids, when men know they are eating something their minds tell them they don’t like, they may stop eating it-even if they genuinely enjoy it.”
Bah. I should have known to judge the book by its cover. That picture of the author, with her perfectly smooth skin and her perfectly straight teeth and her perfectly straight hair (can you tell I’m a little jealous?)…I bet she’s best friends with the women who wrote “The Rules.” Never mind that my life resembles in many ways that of a 1950’s housewife, with my lipstick and high heels and 12 hours a week part-time employment “to get me out of the house” and my almost sole responsibility to all things relating to cooking, cleaning, shopping and childcare – it simply would not do to have such an offensive tome in my house where my young children might get hold of it and be influenced by its evil message.
Yet, I still have it. I can’t quite bring myself to dispose of the thing because…well, I’m a hoarder, for one thing. Especially of books. Extra-specially of cookbooks. And yes, I know…self-flagellation time. As if the skin on my back isn’t bloody enough already, it turns out that the author of this book is infamous for attempting to sue Jerry Seinfeld and his wife Jessica. Three times. Her lawsuit and her subsequent appeal against Jessica Seinfeld for publishing her own cookbook using a similar premise failed, as did her lawsuit against Jerry Seinfeld for making fun of her on his TV show. This is all old news, but I only found out about it today when I Googled the author (I’m too scared to mention her name in case she sues me). So there’s one more round of self-whipping for living under a rock.