By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Editor’s note: This column was first published March 10, 2006.
Over the centuries, the man has been the provider, the hunter-gatherer, the killer of large, furry, occasionally ferocious but always nutritious animals.
Then the man waited for the woman to whip up a tasty pot of furry, meaty animal stew, perhaps with a nice salad made from the green stuff growing just outside the cave entrance.
Unless, of course, the man decided to barbecue. Then he would gather a pile of whatever our ancestors used for charcoal briquettes, invite some of his buddies and their families over, pop open some warm animal skins full of beer and sit around talking about manly stuff while the meat burned to perfection.
Men’s preference for barbecuing, it seems, is based on evolution, not sexism. Dr. Mark Horton, an archeologist with Britain’s Bristol University, said the first barbecue tools emerged about 2.5 million years ago in the Middle Awash valley in Ethiopia.
The phenomenon of men cooking indoors is a relatively recent one, geologically speaking.
Today, many of the world’s most famous chefs are men. There’s Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme and all those crazy guys on that “Iron Chef” TV show.
There’s even some guy who bills himself as “The Naked Chef,” Jamie Oliver. I’ll bet he’s extremely careful around hot liquids and such.
Personally I prefer to remain clothed, and as far from the kitchen as possible.
I can’t cook, unless you count cold cereal, microwave popcorn and frozen pizza. I never learned. I never had to. When I left home I went to college, where the nice cafeteria ladies in their sensible shoes and hair nets served up warm, plentiful helpings of exotic dishes, the ingredients of which probably were better left to the imagination.
The one time I had to fend for myself, while living in a rooming house during summer school, I nearly starved. I lived on Frosted Flakes and those cooking bag meals that you simply drop in hot water. I wasted away to 140 pounds.
Then I met my future wife and she took pity on me.
She’s been keeping meat on my bones ever since. But she’s away for a few days visiting her sister, so I’ve been left to my own devices.
She tried to give me an impromptu cooking lesson before she left, instructing me on how to warm up frozen pizza, frozen chili and frozen fried chicken.
But in her heart of hearts she knows it won’t take.
She was ill once, confined to bed, when I nobly offered to fix her something to eat. She said scrambled eggs sounded good.
So I trooped off to the kitchen. Soon I was back. “Where’s the frying pan?” She told me. Back to the kitchen, briefly. “Where are the eggs?” Right, I knew that. A minute or so later, I was back. “Do I need to spray the pan?” OK, got it. “Ah, honey, one more thing. Do I mix milk in with the eggs?”
She made a noise, hauled herself out of her sick bed and stormed off down the hallway to the kitchen, where she made herself, and me, too, a pan of scrambled eggs. They were delicious.
Pat Jones, former football coach at Oklahoma State, is a man after my own heart.
Jones, a bachelor, built a house in Stillwater without a kitchen, just a place for a refrigerator in which he presumably kept nothing but cold beverages.
Actually, by staying out of the kitchen I am keeping myself, and our home, safe.
Cooking is the No. 1 cause of household fires, according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
I’ve never set anything on fire while barbecuing, except the meat, of course.
But if I am to survive my brief stint of bachelorhood, I am going to have to practice my cooking skills.
There’s no time like the present: Can I get that to go? Does that come with gravy? Yes, I would like fries with that.
And if all else fails, there’s always cold cereal and microwave popcorn.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.