If there are two things America knows about
its men, it’s that they can’t cook and they love power tools.
Brooklyn men are no exception, and this is why Chris Peterson, a writer in Carroll Gardens, recently tested over 125 recipes on a 15-year-old blender in his apartment’s kitchen to write "A Man’s Whirled: Every Guy’s Guide to Cooking with a Blender," released last month by Simon & Schuster.
The cookbook - Peterson’s first - offers time-saving, dude-satisfying, lady-pleasing blender recipes for men just a hair on the wrong side of datable, divided into easy categories like "game day grub" and "date food."
Peterson, 44, pads palatable two- and three-step recipes with bantering advice about everything from how to keep pantry items smelling the way they should ("If you were the coach of the Knicks, would you play four quarters with the same five guys?"); to how to set the tone for a romantic date ("Bedsheets do not qualify as tablecloths"); to how iceberg lettuce and bottled dressing can irreparably damage said date ("might as well wear sweatpants and a torn Metallica T-shirt").
Can a blender, requiring little more than average motor skills, make a man more datable? GO Brooklyn sat down with Peterson to explore that, the chemistry of food and how one goes about making an effortless meal look and taste really, really impressive.
"Creme brulee is a pain in the ass, but it’s easy in the blender," Peterson said, while sitting in the living room of his two-bedroom apartment he shares with his 15-year-old son, Sam. Peterson, who has always enjoyed cooking, began experimenting with the blender to ease his hectic lifestyle and to impress dates with "killer" desserts.
"It turned out to be a super-quick way to prep food and make entire meals, and it was sort of a watershed to me," said Peterson while serving a breakfast of delicious and light "Armchair QB Quiche," containing shallots, cheddar and bacon, alongside a heap of his fresh "Marvelous Very Blueberry Muffins."
In the book, Peterson defends such recipes as indisputably un-sissy.
The author, who is also at work on a novel and a book of short stories, knew he wanted to write a male-oriented book when he pitched a number of ideas to a trusted writer-friend, who suggested that the blender cookbook had the most promise.
"You know how it feels when your team boots that 55-yard field goal in the final four seconds?" the author’s note to "Offensive Line Garlic-and-Bean Dip" reads. "Well, that’s how your tongue is going to feel when it gets a sample of this smooth and tasty dip."
Peterson created the book’s recipes by compiling tried-and-true recipes and "adapting them to the weirdness of the blender."
"A blender will only move certain amounts of liquid at one time," said Peterson, over the sounds of the Gipsy Kings plinking lightly in the background. Peterson was explaining his initial shock at the precariousness of perfecting blender recipes. "The bottom will get blended too much and the top won’t get blended enough. It’s things like that that you have to understand."
Peterson has no formal culinary training, but seems to be a natural in the kitchen. He said some of the book’s recipes come from his family - the book’s section on comfort food also pays tribute to "Mom’s best" - but Peterson said he did not inherit his skills.
"My mother - God bless her - made a dry meatloaf you could kill somebody with," he said, while explaining that a good meatloaf is good "on a soul level."
"The meatloaf in the book is really moist."
Some of Peterson’s other favorite blender recipes are his soups, such as "Red Velvet Roasted Pepper Soup" and "Home Team Chili," a basic chili recipe to which the author adds various suggestions for easy embellishing and personalizing.
"Chili is a little like sex," the recipe’s annotation reads. "The basic idea is simple, but the trick is to develop your own memorable rendition."
Cooking with the blender may require minimal effort, but testing 145 recipes in an approximately 5-foot by 7-foot kitchen with a 300-watt Oster blender as old as Peterson’s son ("Hey - it still works great," he insists) was a trying ordeal. Having received a moderate advance from his publishers, Peterson said he spent between six and seven months and about $2,000 polishing his recipes for the book, and the author learned some tough lessons along the way.
"I had expected to be able to test five to seven recipes a day, which is really, really stupid," Peterson said. In reality, nailing down three to four recipes represented a good day.
Peterson also learned that certain foods can be finicky when dumped into a blender.
"Food is chemistry, and chemistry has its own laws," Peterson said, recounting that he spent an entire day on a meticulous Welsh rarebit recipe. "Part of the beauty of blender cooking is that you have a lot of latitude," he said, but the rarebit is one of the few in the book that Peterson suggests not to alter.
"And you don’t want to over-blend certain things," said Peterson. "I make an egg salad in the blender, but if you blend it too quickly, you just end up with egg puree. That’s the sort of thing I discovered."
Peterson’s "antique" blender worked fine until he tried to use it for chocolate fudge, which caused the motor to start smoking.
"The blender can almost handle anything, but it can’t move solid material," Peterson observed. Luckily, the blender survived the fudge and is still in use today.
"A Man’s Whirled" also includes drink recipes from the alcohol-spiked "Screamsicle" to nutrient- and protein-packed smoothies.
"What guy will drink a ’Liquid Salad’? That’s a good question," Peterson said. "Once you start adding things like flaxseed and kale, you’re pushing the envelope a bit on what people are willing to consider a justifiable smoothie. That taste is not for everyone, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a lot of nutrients getting into your system very quickly."
Peterson plans to apply the skills he learned writing this cookbook to publish more collections of recipes. In the meantime, he continues to write for magazines as well as do-it-yourself and interior design books for-hire for Hearst.
He’s so good with words, in fact, that some of the recipes in "A Man’s Whirled" are liable to speak for the chef. In Peterson’s cookbook, the smooth-talkin’ "Tantalizing Goat Cheese Timbales" promise they’ll coo: "I care that only the finest food touches your pristine lips, in the hope that at some moment, I might."
"A Man’s Whirled: Every Guy’s Guide to Cooking with a Blender" by Chris Peterson (Simon & Schuster, $13) is available or can be ordered through these bookstores: The Bookmark Shoppe [6906 11th Ave. at 69th Street in Dyker Heights (718) 680-3680], BookCourt [163 Court St. at Dean Street in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677] and Barnes & Noble [267 Seventh Ave. at Sixth Street in Park Slope, (718) 832-9066].