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How to Cook Like a Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession

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When Daniel Duane became a father, this San Francisco surfer and climber found himself trapped at home with no clue how to contribute. Inept at so many domestic tasks, and less than eager to change diapers, he took on dinner duty. Duane had a few tricks: pasta, stir-fry ... well, actually, those were his only two tricks. But he had a biographical anomaly: Chef Alice Waters When Daniel Duane became a father, this San Francisco surfer and climber found himself trapped at home with no clue how to contribute. Inept at so many domestic tasks, and less than eager to change diapers, he took on dinner duty. Duane had a few tricks: pasta, stir-fry ... well, actually, those were his only two tricks. But he had a biographical anomaly: Chef Alice Waters had been his preschool teacher. So he cracked one of her Chez Panisse cookbooks and cooked his way through it. And so it went with all seven of her other cookbooks, then on to those of other famous chefs-thousands of recipes in all, amounting to an epic eight-year cooking journey. Butchering whole lambs at home, teaching himself to make classic veal stock, even hunting pigs in Maui and fishing for salmon in Alaska, Duane so thoroughly immersed himself in the modern food world that he met and cooked with a striking number of his heroes: writing a book with Alice Waters; learning offal cookery hands-on from the great Fergus Henderson; even finagling seven straight hours of one-on-one private lessons from the chef he admires above all others, Thomas Keller. Duane's inimitable voice carries us through, with humor and panache, even through a pair of personal tragedies. Here is a writer who can make chopping an onion sound fun and fascinating. But there is more at stake in his wonderful memoir: In the end, Duane learns not just how to cook like a man, but how to be one.


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When Daniel Duane became a father, this San Francisco surfer and climber found himself trapped at home with no clue how to contribute. Inept at so many domestic tasks, and less than eager to change diapers, he took on dinner duty. Duane had a few tricks: pasta, stir-fry ... well, actually, those were his only two tricks. But he had a biographical anomaly: Chef Alice Waters When Daniel Duane became a father, this San Francisco surfer and climber found himself trapped at home with no clue how to contribute. Inept at so many domestic tasks, and less than eager to change diapers, he took on dinner duty. Duane had a few tricks: pasta, stir-fry ... well, actually, those were his only two tricks. But he had a biographical anomaly: Chef Alice Waters had been his preschool teacher. So he cracked one of her Chez Panisse cookbooks and cooked his way through it. And so it went with all seven of her other cookbooks, then on to those of other famous chefs-thousands of recipes in all, amounting to an epic eight-year cooking journey. Butchering whole lambs at home, teaching himself to make classic veal stock, even hunting pigs in Maui and fishing for salmon in Alaska, Duane so thoroughly immersed himself in the modern food world that he met and cooked with a striking number of his heroes: writing a book with Alice Waters; learning offal cookery hands-on from the great Fergus Henderson; even finagling seven straight hours of one-on-one private lessons from the chef he admires above all others, Thomas Keller. Duane's inimitable voice carries us through, with humor and panache, even through a pair of personal tragedies. Here is a writer who can make chopping an onion sound fun and fascinating. But there is more at stake in his wonderful memoir: In the end, Duane learns not just how to cook like a man, but how to be one.

30 review for How to Cook Like a Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Lanahan

    First was Julie and Julia, now this guy decides to cook through...Alice Waters? At least he felt some connection to her, since she was, apparently, his nursery school teacher. Sorry, I just could not appreciate the obsessive, self-indulgent, excessive tone of this book. The guy's a good writer, to be sure, but he comes across as a spoiled child who's wife enables him to blow a month's worth of groceries on ingredients for a single meal. The whole thing came across as self-centered and elitist. T First was Julie and Julia, now this guy decides to cook through...Alice Waters? At least he felt some connection to her, since she was, apparently, his nursery school teacher. Sorry, I just could not appreciate the obsessive, self-indulgent, excessive tone of this book. The guy's a good writer, to be sure, but he comes across as a spoiled child who's wife enables him to blow a month's worth of groceries on ingredients for a single meal. The whole thing came across as self-centered and elitist. The only redemptive part of the whole book is the last chapter, where he finally begins to understand that cooking isn't just following recipes and getting exotic ingredients. He has some wonderful descriptions of a steak orgy in Las Vegas, and he does a good job of describing his credential (or lack thereof), but is a completely unsympathetic person who, if he lived in any other part of the country, would have had to deal with his mania years earlier.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    Sorry, but I had to give up on this one halfway through. More than half of the book concerns his personal life, which didn't interest me much at all, and much of the rest was general "foodie" stuff, with almost no description of actual cooking projects themselves. Sorry, but I had to give up on this one halfway through. More than half of the book concerns his personal life, which didn't interest me much at all, and much of the rest was general "foodie" stuff, with almost no description of actual cooking projects themselves.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This is not a book about learning to cook what men like to eat. This is a book about one man's search for the all-knowing cookbook that would transform him into a skilled cook. All of this is sparked by his desire to pitch in (and hide out) when his wife got pregnant. Foodies, cookbook fanatics, and celebrity chef followers will probably like this book. I found myself relating to the author on more than one occasion, which is embarrassing. And I found myself envying him on other occasions, since This is not a book about learning to cook what men like to eat. This is a book about one man's search for the all-knowing cookbook that would transform him into a skilled cook. All of this is sparked by his desire to pitch in (and hide out) when his wife got pregnant. Foodies, cookbook fanatics, and celebrity chef followers will probably like this book. I found myself relating to the author on more than one occasion, which is embarrassing. And I found myself envying him on other occasions, since I've never had the time and money to cook 4-5 new dishes day after day for long periods of time, not have I had the resources to fly around the world for culinary adventures. My takeaway from the book? Pick five go-to meals and learn to master them by perfecting the requisite skills.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    This was a perfectly fine book for adults; Duane is a facile writer who can describe food with the best of them (the best being, of course, M.F.K. Fisher!). I love reading food writing, but I hate cooking, and I had an absolutely visceral loathing of this book. Mr. Duane gives the statistic that in a survey of 185 human cultures, women are primarily responsible for cooking in 97.8% of them. This could be because I, unlike Mr. Duane, never considered cooking for my family as some kind of challeng This was a perfectly fine book for adults; Duane is a facile writer who can describe food with the best of them (the best being, of course, M.F.K. Fisher!). I love reading food writing, but I hate cooking, and I had an absolutely visceral loathing of this book. Mr. Duane gives the statistic that in a survey of 185 human cultures, women are primarily responsible for cooking in 97.8% of them. This could be because I, unlike Mr. Duane, never considered cooking for my family as some kind of challenge or way of escaping more onerous duties under the guise of doing a job that needed to be done. The selfishness of this endeavor is smugly explained down to the smallest detail (making wife and new baby travel inordinate distances and pay exorbitant costs for beets, a well as other weird ingredients that no one really eats willingly) all while liberally dropping the f-bomb. I'm glad that Mr. Duane learned to cook, I'm glad that he has written seven books, and he should be glad that his long-suffering wife hasn't thrown him out!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I finally had to stop reading this book. Daniel Duane started cooking more when he and his wife had their first child. Daniel and his wife both worked from home and since she was doing so much breast-feeding and other care for their daughter that Daniel decided he should step up and at least cook dinner every night for them. He decided to work his way through some of Alice Waters cookbooks because she had briefly been his pre-school teacher before she opened Chez Panisse. I had to stop reading t I finally had to stop reading this book. Daniel Duane started cooking more when he and his wife had their first child. Daniel and his wife both worked from home and since she was doing so much breast-feeding and other care for their daughter that Daniel decided he should step up and at least cook dinner every night for them. He decided to work his way through some of Alice Waters cookbooks because she had briefly been his pre-school teacher before she opened Chez Panisse. I had to stop reading this because while some chapters were really good and interesting others were very vulgar and I just got sick of it. Also he seemed almost manic is his obsession to complete certain cookbooks/ingredients/etc. like when he made himself sick eating so many truffles trying to complete all the truffle recipes in one of Waters cookbooks. I just wasn't impressed overall. The irritating and vulgar just overpowered any of the really good chapters in my opinion.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Far too much name/ingredient dropping which really makes it handle to focus on what the author is trying to say. Reads like a series of Men's Journal articles, unfortunately. Far too much name/ingredient dropping which really makes it handle to focus on what the author is trying to say. Reads like a series of Men's Journal articles, unfortunately.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine

    Entertaining, and not just because it’s mostly about food. Not for people who think a book is only good if they like everything about the narrator or characters; “obsession” is in the subtitle for good reason, and this memoir is an honest, if delightfully written, tale of heedless excess and a kicking-and-screaming path to personal growth.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Caleb Liu

    A word of warning: treat the subtitle quite literally. By cooking like a man what Duane means is treating cooking literally like an obsession, turning it into a competitive sport, using it as a means of overcompensating for emotional and self esteem issues and of course treating a cookbook less as a guide than a challenge, the goal being less edification than completion. It is far too easy to play into the cliche of men being ultra competitive completists, this is certainly true of Duane if not A word of warning: treat the subtitle quite literally. By cooking like a man what Duane means is treating cooking literally like an obsession, turning it into a competitive sport, using it as a means of overcompensating for emotional and self esteem issues and of course treating a cookbook less as a guide than a challenge, the goal being less edification than completion. It is far too easy to play into the cliche of men being ultra competitive completists, this is certainly true of Duane if not of many other men. Still, this is his memoir and his story. While I appreciated some of his personal stories and anecdotes, I would have preferred more of it to actually be about cooking. There were digressions where he pursues his obsessive nature not just in cooking but in home renovation and improvement. While there was some realization that his obsessions in cooking, in home improvement, in writing were somewhat rooted in various emotional insecurities, this wasn't really explored in depth - perhaps there was a limit to his capacity for self reflection. It was great that he had a reason to be nostalgic about Chez Panisse (not to mention a subsequent professional relationship with Alice Waters) but a little more background about why we should care about Waters as much as he did would have really helped me feel a similar passion. When he starts name dropping chefs and cookbook authors (Julia Childs of course, Elizabeth David, goodness knows who else), it risks losing those who are less than remotely interested in cookbooks or a newer generation of budding cooks whose idea of celebrity cooks hardly extends beyond Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver. I get that Waters was a hippy who started a restaurant in Berkeley but why really does she matter so much other than the author seems to be obsessed about her? In the end, I wish there was more here about cooking and food as opposed to all these secondary obsessions (Alice Waters, cookbooks and home improvement included). My favourite passages were his descriptions of going to Las Vegas on commission to try out the best steaks at many of the best restaurants. Those twenty odd pages left me not only enormously jealous but mouth wateringly curious. I wanted to try out some of those steaks. I wanted to learn more about how meat was aged and cooked. I wanted to actually try out some steak recipes! Too bad that most of the rest of the book barely tickled my taste buds in the same way.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    What I didn't like about this book - the title and the cover. Bad choices on both. Also, a self admitted obsessive personality, there are times I would have came near to throttling him if I was there for some of his hijinks. This book does make me want to read his wife's book, Elizabeth Weil, on their marriage (No Cheating, No Dying). What I did like. I have been reading Duane since the mid '90's, and still hand out copies of his books on climbing and surfing to friends. He has a casual way of w What I didn't like about this book - the title and the cover. Bad choices on both. Also, a self admitted obsessive personality, there are times I would have came near to throttling him if I was there for some of his hijinks. This book does make me want to read his wife's book, Elizabeth Weil, on their marriage (No Cheating, No Dying). What I did like. I have been reading Duane since the mid '90's, and still hand out copies of his books on climbing and surfing to friends. He has a casual way of writing that I enjoy. But what I like the most about him is he lets it all hang out. How many writers do you know who would admit to being relieved that a pregnancy was terminated? Because this book is not just about obsessively cooking every recipe in a number of cookbooks, it is about growing up, and becoming an adult, a husband and a father. And in the end it is about facing your own mortality. I also like his message to his readers - cooking at home does NOT make you a chef! Cooking for 4 or 6 or 8, or even 18, is nothing like putting in a shift on a Friday night at a busy restaurant. I agree on the worth of Chez Panisse "Vegetables" cookbook, but I am also glad he could take Alice Waters with a grain of salt. CP is now, sadly, filled mostly with dot com, East Coast, trust fund babies. We already agreed on Ruhlman and Keller and others, so I trust him when he gives synopsis of other cooking titles, and have picked up a couple already for future reading. As above, there are times I just would have never wanted to ever see him again in my life (not telling his friends about what a surfeit of truffles does to you, insisting to his wife that she is not allergic to shellfish), but our interests so intersect I am sure I would be back at his place again sometime. The LV steak trip is just over the top - I can't imagine eating that much in 36 hours! At times I wonder how they paid their mortgage, let alone the food and wine bills. At lastly, I like it because it brings back fond memories of life in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    I really wanted to like this book; it is a pity things didn't work out. Daniel Duane is a food writer, with publications to prove it; he is also a man, with a wife and two daughters to prove it. There are a great many cooking memoirs written by women; not so many by men. I have read sufficiently about chefs who cook during the eighth month of their pregnancy or who breast feed while frying on the line; in Duane's book, I was hoping for something a bit more masculine. The book is well written but I really wanted to like this book; it is a pity things didn't work out. Daniel Duane is a food writer, with publications to prove it; he is also a man, with a wife and two daughters to prove it. There are a great many cooking memoirs written by women; not so many by men. I have read sufficiently about chefs who cook during the eighth month of their pregnancy or who breast feed while frying on the line; in Duane's book, I was hoping for something a bit more masculine. The book is well written but Duane is simply not a person who engages my interest. His exploits as a home carpenter, his relationship with his father, his reminiscences of being a surfer dude, his emotional reaction to a miscarriage, and his mania for cooking every recipe in certain cookbooks (e.g. Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables), didn't connect well with my own experiences and learnings. Surely others will find the work more interesting. Perhaps it would have been improved by the inclusion of some recipes, but Duane follows the recipes of others rather than creating his own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Food is something I need and like, but not something I obsess about. But as a novice when it comes to the kitchen, I wanted to see how guys view cooking since, traditionally, most have never been conditioned since birth to learn the skill. To Daniel Duane, however, cooking is a bit more like an artistic endeavour bordering on obsession. I like how enthusiastic he is about cooking and gaining acceptance and validation for his skills as a cook, but that doesn't make up for the fact that I felt lik Food is something I need and like, but not something I obsess about. But as a novice when it comes to the kitchen, I wanted to see how guys view cooking since, traditionally, most have never been conditioned since birth to learn the skill. To Daniel Duane, however, cooking is a bit more like an artistic endeavour bordering on obsession. I like how enthusiastic he is about cooking and gaining acceptance and validation for his skills as a cook, but that doesn't make up for the fact that I felt like I was reading a series of articles instead of a memoir. Being new to food writing in general, I would have appreciated a bit more set-up to how he started to cook and less cooking theory stories. I really wish I could have connected more with him as a person so I could understand why he loves food so much. This was by no means a bad book, just that I had different expectations. Still this was a quick and pleasant read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    I was so excited that the publisher allowed me to review this book through Netgalley. As I got into the book, my excitement turned into disappointment. What could have been written as a really cool story (as the storyline was really interesting) almost came off as disorganized and wandering to where it was difficult to follow at times. There is also a underlying tone to the book which comes off periodically as being elitist. I was so disappointed with the premise of this book, it could have been I was so excited that the publisher allowed me to review this book through Netgalley. As I got into the book, my excitement turned into disappointment. What could have been written as a really cool story (as the storyline was really interesting) almost came off as disorganized and wandering to where it was difficult to follow at times. There is also a underlying tone to the book which comes off periodically as being elitist. I was so disappointed with the premise of this book, it could have been such a winner, imo, but ended up coming off to the point of being a "flop" I have to say that if I didn't make the commitment to Bloomsbury books or had I purchased the book, it would have been returned.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    A lot of the reviews of this book criticize Duane as pompous so I was wary going into the book but I really, really liked it! I don't cook a lot (more of a restaurant fanatic) so the trials and tribulations of the kitchen were new and entertaining to me. And anything about a man getting into local, gourmet foods is a bit foreign to me and therefore kept me quite entertained. I especially enjoyed the chapter on Duane's foray to Vegas to try all the steakhouse steaks. My friend and I do those kind A lot of the reviews of this book criticize Duane as pompous so I was wary going into the book but I really, really liked it! I don't cook a lot (more of a restaurant fanatic) so the trials and tribulations of the kitchen were new and entertaining to me. And anything about a man getting into local, gourmet foods is a bit foreign to me and therefore kept me quite entertained. I especially enjoyed the chapter on Duane's foray to Vegas to try all the steakhouse steaks. My friend and I do those kinds of foodie trips whenever we can and I was intrigued by the interesting steak facts!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nate Hendrix

    A new dad takes over the cooking for his family and chaos insues. He tackles some of the most difficult cookbooks out there, attempting to cook every recipe in each book. He learns a lot and has inspired me to try to improve my skills. He mentions several resturaunts that we will try to go to and several book I want to now read. Several of the books he mentions I have already read and enjoyed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Toby Murphy

    I devoured this book. It was a great journey into learning how to cook. It's a quick read. The high points really resonate with all readers and aspiring chefs. At times the writer spent more time name dropping and his experience does not seem all that relatable. The moments of clarity as he learns his lessons work well. I devoured this book. It was a great journey into learning how to cook. It's a quick read. The high points really resonate with all readers and aspiring chefs. At times the writer spent more time name dropping and his experience does not seem all that relatable. The moments of clarity as he learns his lessons work well.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Farrell

    Duane likes to use seven words when four would do, but I really enjoyed this book - his last chapter about him and Thomas Keller was just beautiful. The tale from surf bum burritos to high class cooking is a must read for foodies.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I can relate to this book more than when I first read it. Not because I got married or had a kid, but because I now cook more. I can readily see how cooking can become an obsession. You don't just want to do it, you want to feel that you are good at it and that you are doing it the right way. I can relate to this book more than when I first read it. Not because I got married or had a kid, but because I now cook more. I can readily see how cooking can become an obsession. You don't just want to do it, you want to feel that you are good at it and that you are doing it the right way.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tgaylord

    Hated it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ericka

    Reads like an overly long glowing review of Chez Panisse and Alice Waters. Very regional, nothing wrong with that. Interspersed w family anecdotes and notes on being a dad.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Reneeantrosio

    I kept picking this up, wanting to read it, but it was rather tedious. On the other hand, I did finish it........

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    If trapped in an airport with NOTHING to do I might try to finish this book. Discussion of his life, and finding I am bored with it, can do better things in the time available.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Neil Aring

    I lost interest quickly. More about obsession than cooking.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Throughout the first half of this book I thought the author was obnoxious and felt sorry for his wife. Once he figured out food was for enjoyment and pleasing others he became more tolerable

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy Elizabeth

    I really enjoyed this book with its cookbook obsessed author doing some hilarious and driven menus of gluttony and expensive ingredients.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peg!

    Fun, lightweight read by an obsessive-compulsive (& clever) cook.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Really surprised to read so many negative GoodReads reviews on this book... I am almost halfway through this book and think it's great. Really fun and kind of inspiring. Really surprised to read so many negative GoodReads reviews on this book... I am almost halfway through this book and think it's great. Really fun and kind of inspiring.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amy Azinger

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