Bachelors who love to cook seems to be a growing cultural trend in America. There are several websites — and even a few cooking shows — devoted to the subject. One site, The Bachelor’s Kitchen, poked fun at typecast bachelors’ cooking skills by quipping: “And on the eighth day, God invented Ramen noodles.”
A book called The Lazy Bachelor’s Cookbook targets the “culinarily impaired.” Its marketing message is aimed at bachelors who “never eat a meal outside of their car” … or those who have not “used a fork since the Clinton Administration.” Yet, the stereotype of the bachelor with an empty refrigerator, the bachelor in line at the fast food restaurant or the bachelor buying only beer and a steak at the local grocery store is a fading label for many.
In order to sustain themselves nutritionally, single men have choices: go to a restaurant, heat up frozen or canned foods, visit mom or grandmother’s house or simply cook a meal. An increasing number of bachelors are choosing the latter for a number of reasons. Primarily, eating every meal out is expensive. Most importantly, however, single men have begun to realize that women are attracted to men who can cook.
“I think a woman always appreciates a man who can cook,” says John Mood, a 40-year-old businessman in Columbia. “I decided I needed to learn how to cook or go broke going out.”
Like many, John was influenced by his grandmother. He grew up on good ole’ Southern cooking. “I like to cook fried chicken, rice and gravy and squash casserole,” he says, “but I can also cook pork on the grill and things like chicken piccata. I’m not a great cook, but I’m not bad.”
John says that a Lowcountry native, Susan Grant, would cook for his grandmother when the family visited Pawley’s Island each summer. “I would sit and watch her cook while my siblings and cousins would play on the beach. She taught me a good bit about the time and temperature involved in cooking. I guess that’s when I originally found out I really liked cooking.”
Thirty-three-year-old Gray Howard had parents who were proficient in the kitchen. He said his father was skilled at grilling, while his mother was creative with fresh vegetables and herbs. “She wasn’t big on pre-packaged foods,” says Gray, who manages a wholesale tree farm. “We always had things like broccoli or whole wheat bread in the refrigerator for snacks after school. My sister and I had to learn to be creative.”
His parents cooking together spurred his interest in cooking. Classes at places such as Fleur de Lys in Columbia helped build confidence in his cooking abilities. John also says he has taken classes at Charleston Cooks!
“I watch cooking shows and just try to think outside the box. It’s not hard to make food taste good,” Gray says. “But it might be hard to make food taste great.” Gray finds inspiration from a buddy who is a chef in New York as well as some of his other friends.
Consulting forester Bill Milliken, 41, says he gets together with other guy friends eight to 12 times a year to cook — especially if they have all spent the day hunting or fishing. With no formal training, Bill learned from his mother how to cook most game, from deer to ducks to wild hogs, as well as fresh and saltwater fish.
“I just observed my mom,” says Bill. “So how I cook is not usually by a recipe. I might use a recipe as a base and then just build off that. I use whatever is in the cabinet and fridge and then improvise.”
Bill says that he spends about 80 percent of his time cooking on the stove and the other 20 percent grilling. “Times have changed a lot. Men are in the kitchen. I enjoy it, so I cook it up.”
Trey Price, 34, says everyone who knows him knows he loves to cook seafood, especially tuna. “I can go to the finest steak house, and I will still order fish. My friends make fun of me!” Growing up loving the water and the beach, Trey says fish is just what he prefers to eat. He makes up a special glaze for the tuna steaks he grills (see recipe below).
One motivation for learning how to cook is the fact that when he was a child, Trey was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, and later had surgery. Due to that illness, his mother almost always cooked healthy meals at home, so he also tries to eat nutritious foods, primarily fish, chicken and vegetables.
Trey says, however, that he is a typical guy. “When I need something, I go to the grocery store and get what I need and come home and make it. I don’t collect recipes. I just learn how from my mom or a friend.”
Trey feels that women perceive a man’s ability to cook as an appealing masculine trait. “It’s manly for a boyfriend or husband to know his way around a kitchen. It’s good to help each other in a relationship where cooking is involved, and it’s good to switch it up and see what someone else wants to cook.”
Recently, Trey assisted his father by helping to smoke several Boston butts for a large party. He says that knowing how to cook, and to assist someone who is cooking, is great for building relationships.
Gray agrees. He believes that cooking with friends or a date creates an ambiance. “Good conversation comes when there is cooking going on,” says Gray. “It’s not just about conversation when eating the meal, but when making the meal as well. If a date or friends want to help, cooking becomes an activity that can be enjoyed together. I personally like it when a date can cook or at least be interested in cooking.”
John, who admits he is a “little OCD” in his kitchen, says it is not as important to him for a date to share his culinary interests.
Bill says he wants his date to be able to cook or at least have an interest in cooking. “I might ask one date to cut something up, and she’s simply disinterested,” he says. “And then others may have new ideas to offer.”
Gray says that recipes should be chosen for the mood as well. “The one I shared for this article is a Sweet Heat Summer Salad,” he says, “And it needs to be eaten on the porch about sundown when the breeze sets in. This is a recipe that is fresh, cool and very seasonal, while simple enough that it can be done after sipping the better part of a six pack of Coronas.”
Trey concludes, “There’s something about getting together with friends or a girlfriend, listening to good music, drinking wine and cooking.”
Seared Tuna Glaze by Trey Price
Use salt, pepper and garlic powder to desired amount — enough to cover the tuna. Place in a hot pan that contains olive oil and butter. Right before it’s cooked, squeeze the fresh lime juice (desired amount). Take tuna out of pan. After removing the tuna, in the empty pan, add cilantro, chopped tomatoes and fresh garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes on high and serve on top of tuna.
Shrimp Creole by John Mood
12 ounces bacon
2-3 lbs shrimp
1 green pepper
3 stalks celery and leaves, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic
1 large can tomato juice
2 large cans whole tomatoes
Old Bay seasoning
Crushed red pepper
In a large pot drain and crush tomatoes in colander. Add tomato juice, celery leaves and ends. Peel shrimp and put shells in tomato juice (optional); let simmer. Fry bacon until crisp, remove for later. Add chopped onion, green peppers, celery and sauté in bacon fat. Add garlic near the end of sauté. Strain tomato juice to remove shrimp shells; add crushed tomatoes and “trinity” (garlic, onion and green peppers). Add seasonings and let simmer or sit overnight. Add shrimp. Cook for ten minutes; add bacon. Serve over rice.
Sweet Heat Summer Salad by Gray Howard
Gray has a disclaimer regarding this recipe: “I will have to give credit to an anonymous chef somewhere on this globe. I wrote this recipe down on the back of my hand some years ago in a deserted dentist waiting room. After returning to an intensely hot day of work on the farm, the sweat left me with the remainder of the instructions, which had to be modified somewhat but, as with all recipes, they are meant to be added to, subtracted from and explored to fit your own personal tastes.”
1 lb local shrimp
1 whole orange, squeezed
1 whole lime, squeezed
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 to 2 shots of “good” vodka (if available)
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper thinly sliced (remove seeds)
3 cups fresh watermelon, cubed
1 mango, cubed
1/2 red onion finely, chopped
Large bunch of fresh mint, coarsely chopped
A few large leaves of basil, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Garnish of orange zest and fresh mint and/or rosemary
Fresh arugula, baby spinach and/or romaine lettuce
Bring pot of salted water to a boil; add shrimp. Cut off heat after one minute of cooking time. Let shrimp sit for an additional minute or more until cooked thoroughly. Drain water, peel shrimp and place in a separate bowl. Add orange, lime, lemon and vodka to the shrimp. Add sliced pepper. Let mixture sit for 45 minutes. After marinating, pour off juice, leaving only one to two tablespoons with the shrimp.
Toss the remaining ingredients with the shrimp. Chill for an hour or so to let the flavors soak in. Remove and toss a few times before serving. Garnish. Serve over fresh greens. “Goes great with corn on the cob,” says Gray.