John Donohue is an editor and cartoonist for The New Yorker, a writer, but most importantly to his wife and two daughters, he cooks. In fact, you might even say he’s obsessed with cooking. So obsessed that he started a blog called Stay At Stove Dad, and that he reached out to other guy friends who happen to be famous writers and chefs and asked them to contribute to Man With A Pan, a collection of stories about men cooking for their families, out today.
Donohue, a 42-year-old who lives in Brooklyn, assembled an all-star cast for the book. Mark Bittman, Stephen King, Jim Harrison, and Michael Ruhlman are some of the literary luminaries who share the trials and tribulations of cooking for the pickiest eaters on the planet, kids. There’s also interviews with regular Joes about cooking for kids, Mario Batali’s funny admission about getting his kids hooked on monkfish and foie gras, and Donohue’s own cartoons from The New Yorker. We caught up with him a few days before today’s big publishing day of Man With A Pan.
What led you to start compiling stories about cooking fathers?
After I became a parent for the first time, six years ago, I started cooking more than I ever had before in my life. I noticed that my male friends who were also new dads were doing much the same thing. I was interested in how they were going it about it, and, as it happens, some of my close friends are very accomplished writers. I thought it would be interesting to collect their stories. The book took off from there.
How did you find the pieces included in the collection?
I simply asked writers who I knew to be fathers who also liked to cook. Some of them responded very enthusiastically, and that made the project a joy to work on.
What’s different about a dad making dinner and a mom making dinner?
That’s hard for me to answer because it depends on the mom and the dad. Everyone cooks slightly different than everyone else (it is why we follow certain chefs when we dine out) and I don’t think any generalities can be drawn. What is different is the way people look at men and women cooking. It is assumed in some places that men can’t cook, and that’s not what I have discovered.
Do you find that more of your guy friends are cooking for their families than you’d expect? And more than our fathers’ generations?
Absolutely. And as I look, at least anecdotally, at men younger than myself, I see even more guys cooking.
What advice would you give to new fathers who are getting ready to cook for their kids?
That’s a great question! It depends on how comfortable you are in the kitchen at the moment. I’ll assume you know what you’re doing. In that case, what will be harder is finding the time to cook, but that will be true of everything in your life. It will be hard to find the time to do the things you used to do. Raising a child requires an enormous amount of labor. So you might have to get smarter about stocking your larder so you have the necessary ingredients on hand to make a meal. Be prepared, though, for great potential feedback. You could make your wife and son or daughter very happy on a day-to-day basis by bringing good food into their lives. Children can be merciless in their affections. They can go crazy for things they like.
Do you cook for your kids? How’s that going for you? Talk about it in the comments.