By Amy Bertrand, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Lucinda Scala Quinn knows how to feed men. Growing up with four hungry brothers and raising three always-starving sons has taught her the art of knowing how — and how fast — to cook for men and boys. Now, the Martha Stewart food guru and co-host of PBS’ “Everyday Food” shares her strategies in a cookbook, “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys.”
It reads both like a cookbook for the modern mom and an ode to family togetherness. In it, she pleads her case for family dinners and shows how her own family has benefitted not only from sitting down to eat a meal together but from cooking together, too.
Q: Why did you decide to write this cookbook?
A: I looked back, and 22 years ago I made the commitment to feed my family the way I had been fed by my mom, and noticed there were tremendous rewards that had come from it. All of a sudden I woke up one day and realized the accumulation of all these years resulted in so many riches, so I decided to put it down on paper. So many people ask me all the time, ‘How do you do it?’ But when it’s 6 a.m. and the dog is barking and the boys are starving and my shirt is wrinkled, I’m no different than anyone else. I simply made a commitment to feeding my family this way.
Q: How do men eat differently from women?
A: I think there are ways we’re culturally different and many ways we are the same. Once you have more than one hungry male, you have an urgent situation. Through that immediacy, I got my food act going. Guys like big, lusty foods. Oh, and one tip: Never be caught without bacon. If you have collard greens and bacon’s in there, they are eating it. You can make carbonara. You can make a meal with bacon.
Q: How did you get started cooking?
A: I had grown up in big Italian family where everyone cooked and ate. When I was 15 years old I moved from the Midwest to the East. I was a miserable young lady, but a counselor at school told me I could get involved in a work-study program at a great cafe. I instantly loved it. I loved being around it; I loved cooking; I kept cooking.
Q: Tell me about how you’ve fostered your sons’ love of cooking.
A: They are 15, 18 and 22 now, and they all want the good stuff. They love the meal; they love the prep. I think when you are making this be a pleasurable experience; it just comes out of that. My son in college just couldn’t wait to cook on his own. My middle son is a professional at a high-end restaurant. And cooking together is good for other things. It’s not like they are just going to come up to you and spill about their girlfriends. But when you are cooking together or talking about food, you can talk about things. It leads you to where you want to be. Trust me.
Q: One of the things you say in the cookbook is “don’t hide the vegetables.” Why is that?
A: I say vegetable eaters aren’t born, they are made. When I went back to work full time when my youngest was 7, my husband picked up the food slack. But the kids stopped eating vegetables. I told him he had to learn two or three techniques to let the vegetables shine. Don’t hide the vegetables. I read one cookbook that said to put spinach in brownies, but if you do that, the kids miss out on the deliciousness of spinach, and they’ll never look at a brownie the same again.
Q: Your cookbook has fairly simple recipes with “real” ingredients. Was that intentional?
A: In today’s world, we’re inundated with complicated recipes and foodiness. It makes people intimidated. I like to strip it down to its basics with tips that make it much more doable. … you should decide it’s important to you to feed your family this way. I just felt like you take that need and turn it into pleasure. It’s not just physical nourishment, it’s emotional and spiritual.
Q: What’s your husband’s favorite recipe in the book?
A: It would have to be chicken wings. He has a lot of influence in this book.
Q: Do you prefer to cook for your family or for others?
A: My absolute favorite thing to do is cook for my family. It’s my happiest time.