Breaking Gender Stereotypes at the Dinner Table

October 23, 2011 | 32 comments
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Given that my wife is female and her heavy and varied involvement with food (cooking school, PhD in Food Studies (scroll to bottom), sometimes-food-blog, etc.), most people assume she’s doing all the cooking at our house. Not so. In fact, even before we were married, I did so much of it  that at our sealing we laughed when Grampa said (tweaking us both in turn), “Now Ben, when you come home, and C. has burned the roast…”

We maintain a strict division of labor in the kitchen. She does all the baking, and most of the French and American food. I do most of the Mexican, Asian (except Korean), and pseudo-Italian food. And so I present below a recipe I made up, good for fall. It’s become a favorite at our house, and it packs a good punch. What I love most is when people compliment C. on it, and she disarmingly says “Oh, Ben made it.”

Italian Lentil Stew

Ingredients

Spicy Italian sausage. (Don’t worry about the “spicy” part. It mixes in with lots of other stuff. I’ve made it with 6 links and made it with 3, it just depends how “meaty” you want the stew.)

4-5 cups Lentils (I’ve made it with both red and green. Green break down less, but I prefer the color of red.)

1-2 Large Onions, medium dice.

Bag of spinach

5 good-sized carrots (peeled, diced into medium size. You want them soft but distinguishable by the time it’s down cooking.)

1/2 cup or more Kalamata olives (De-seeded and chopped, but not too finely. You want to see the olive chunks, and get nice salty bursts, not just contribute to the general flavor. Do not substitute canned black olives.)

3 10.5 oz cans undrained diced tomatoes. (I prefer the Muir Glen fire-roasted, but they’re not cheap.I’ve also made it with two cans diced and one crushed.)

6 cloves Garlic (I prefer it roasted, but unroasted is good too. Roasting mellows the flavor, so add more if you like.)

5 cups chicken broth  (You may well need more. This is an estimate. You want to mostly cover the lentils, which will absorb liquid.)

3 Tb Basil (less if it’s fresh.) A bit of oregano. (Sometimes instead, I’ve just added a decorative dollop of pesto to the top of everyone’s bowl.)

Salt, freshly ground pepper

Parmesan-Reggiano or Grana Padano for serving. (If you have an old Parm-Reg rind, throw it into the pot when you add the bouillon and tomatoes.It still imparts flavor. Stuff in a green cylinder does not count as Parmesan cheese.)

Big frickin pot.

Instructions

1) Strip sausage out of casing, and start frying and breaking up in pot, over medium/high heat. I put in a little olive oil before, so the sausage won’t stick.

2) When it’s getting nicely broken up (leave it in larger chunks if you like) and somewhat browned, add onion, carrots. Stir for a bit until the onion and carrots start cooking.

3) Add lentils, and stir all around, It helps them absorb some flavors in the oil, for a minute or so.

4) Add chicken broth, and stir. Add tomatoes and mix it up. If you need more water, add more water until all the ingredients are covered, but you’ll need to compensate by adding more spices and chicken bouillon. Less water will be more stew-like, more water will be more soupy. Lentils absorb water over time, so keep an eye on it.)

5) Turn heat down until it simmers nicely, and give it 20 minutes or so.

6) Add washed spinach and stir thoroughly. The spinach will shrink down a lot.

7) Add the crushed/diced garlic, some salt and pepper, and basil.  Once the carrots and onions and lentils are the right text texture to eat, add in the olives, and stir.

8) Add more basil, salt, pepper to taste. (or a dollop of pesto if you like)

Serve in bowls with Parm/Reg, a few red pepper flakes, and crusty bread.

This makes a LOT.Plan on serving 6-8 adults and having leftovers, which freeze well.

Variants: We’ve sometimes added zuchini, used different kinds of tomatoes (make sure some are diced; using all crushed doesn’t produce good things), or left the spinach out if we don’t have any. I’ve also used leftover turkey broth instead of the water/bouillon combo. I also like using both fresh AND roasted garlic. Adding a red/yellow/orange pepper doesn’t do much for the flavor or health, but certainly doesn’t hurt.

Health info: On the one hand, it has italian sausage as a base. On the other hand, you’re getting lentils (a superfood with protein, complex carbs and fiber), spinach (another so-called superfood, one of the leafy greens), carrots, and canned tomatoes (higher in lycopene than fresh, oddly enough.)

Happy Fall eating

32 Responses to Breaking Gender Stereotypes at the Dinner Table

  1. Bradly Baird on October 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    I am very glad to know that other Mormon men out there participate in the cooking duties. Our household also favors a strict division of kitchen labor: I do all of the meals that require any sort of kitchen skill and my wife puts together anything that comes out of a bag or a box.

    It is really interesting that my wife was raised by a mother who hates to cook (cannot cook, really) and that dislike of the kitchen was passed on to her daughter. My wife very happily has me do most of the cooking, and I am quite happy to do it.

    Being in the kitchen and making a good meal has a very zen-like effect on me. Besides, I love knowing that the “scientific workability” of preparing a meal can provide immediate and delicious results. It is very comforting to be able to work on something so certain where, if you follow a recipie exactly, you will get exact results.

    Cooking is one of the great pleasures of my married life.

  2. queuno on October 23, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    That recipe looks great, albeit with a lot of caveats I could do without. Will have to try it soon…

  3. Ben S. on October 23, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Queno, that’s the result of shooting from the hip (so to speak) in the kitchen. I’d made this several times, and then someone wanted the recipe, so I suddenly had to quantize the amounts, ingredients and instructions instead of feeling my way through it.

    I regret I have no accompanying food pr0n (use of that terminology is probably worth another post).

  4. Rachel Whipple on October 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Sounds like a great recipe. We don’t usually have meat, but for soups like this, I usually make up for that with spices and a bay leaf. This may well be our dinner tomorrow. Thanks.

  5. Kaimi on October 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    This looks excellent.

    Lentils pair great with spicy sausage in general. I’ve made chorizo-lentil soup more than once, and it’s always a hit.

    I’m thinking this would also go well with a sprig of fresh rosemary on the bowl. And I have a rosemary plant. Hmm . . .

  6. Kaimi on October 23, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Rachel, if I were making this without meat, I would probably add some sauteed mushrooms for the savory element. Curry and lentils is also a classic pairing which can make a fantastic vegetarian stew. Either way, keep in mind that lentils have a very robust and non-spicy flavor themselves, and so they’ll tend to dull the spices you use.

  7. Bob on October 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    There is just my wife and me at most dinners. But when it time for cooking big for family nights, I’m the go to guy. I cook BIG. I cook Peasant. My main ingredient is usually TIME. Sometimes two days get it done. But then, it can feed 15 and only needs some good hard bread, and bag salads. Maybe someone will bring some pies.

  8. Julie M. Smith on October 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Is it really necessary to peel carrots?

  9. Kaimi on October 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    You cook peasants, Bob? Wow. I guess that’s a shepherd pie made with real shepherds.

  10. Kaimi on October 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    It’s a whole new way to have the missionaries for dinner.

  11. Kaimi on October 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Bob’s version of quiche Lorraine really contains poor Lorraine. And then there’s his fetuccini Alfredo.

  12. J Swift on October 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Copycat.

  13. Bob on October 23, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Julie M. Smith:
    It you cook peasant, you don’t peel the carrots or potatoes. Stews are very peasant. So is chile, ham and beans, and large paste meals. However, I don’t use possums in any of my dishes.

  14. Bob on October 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Kaimi,
    “Quiche Lorraine is rural and the original quiche Lorraine had a rustic style: it was cooked in a cast-iron pan and the pastry edges” (Wikipedia)

    Let’s make some together!

  15. Erin on October 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Wow, look at all these comments! I actually have spicy Italian sausage in my fridge right now AND I am the proud owner of a big frickin’ pot. I think this is going on my menu plan for the week.

    If I don’t like olives, would you suggest trying it first WITH these olives (in case the flavors are to die for) or just leaving them out?

  16. Bob on October 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    My wife loves olives, I am OK with a few. I find, if they are not cold, they are easy to add to a hot dish by each individual, just like hot peppers.

  17. clark on October 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    My main ingredient is usually TIME.

    I think that’s spelt “tyme.”

  18. Bob on October 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Clark:
    I am from the 60s: ” Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”. (Song by Si and Gar).
    By TIME, I mean cook it (the cheap meat) a long TIME.

  19. James Olsen on October 24, 2011 at 12:22 am

    Ben, I like to bake challah on the weekends, and particularly when we first move to a new area I bake a bunch and we deliver it to neighbors, ward members, etc. Like you, I’ve received countless compliments for my wife on how good the bread was. Always makes me smile.

  20. Bro. Jones on October 24, 2011 at 7:43 am

    1) You don’t cook Korean?
    2) For those whose cooking styles sidestep the “avoid all appearance of evil” suggestion: a splash of red wine in between steps 2 and 3 adds a wonderful dimension to the soup.

  21. Sarah Familia on October 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I used to make a recipe just like this when we lived in Italy, but without the kalamata olives. When we moved to Tunisia and couldn’t find pork, I used olives as a substitute for the Italian sausage. I never thought to try it with both, though. Sounds yummy!

  22. Ben S on October 24, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Bro Jones- My wife makes kimchi (and a few other Korean things) from scratch. She likes it more than I do.

  23. Mark B. on October 24, 2011 at 10:04 am

    It’s about time that we get recipes written by real men for real men. Although the instructions about the canned black olives and that crap in the green cylinders should be a little more direct (and insistent), as, perhaps “Do not ever waste your money on that dreck”. And I do like the “big frickin pot” although it’d be awful if the soup and all that’s in it overflowed the biggest frickin pot I have. So, how much soup does this turn into?

  24. Bryan Stiles on October 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

    You lost me at lentils. :)

  25. Bob on October 24, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Mark B.,
    For a Man, ““big frickin pot” means something like a 5-gallon bucket. That will hold this soup.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on October 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Ben, when can you and C. come for dinner? Sam will make salad. I’ll bring (bakery) rolls. :)

  27. Alison Moore Smith on October 24, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    BTW, Sam was in a bishopric with two serious home-chefs, Robes and Bruce. Bishopric meeting during those years was a veritable recipe exchange.

    I think he was never so pressured as when they confronted him upon arriving for his early Sunday meetings one Mother’s Day, asking what he was cooking for me. Hesitantly he responded, “Um…lemon pepper chicken…???”

    He was quite relieved when they nodded their approval. :)

  28. Curtis Pew on October 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    My mother hates to cook (but loves to sew.) I’m the oldest, so she taught me to cook so she could sew while I fixed the meals. This suited me fine, because I like to eat.

    Although I didn’t realize it until after we were married, my wife is very much like my mother. The division of cooking duties has generally been that I cook weekends, holidays, and other days when I haven’t gone to work. Now that we have older children, we make them cook as often as we can.

  29. Researcher on October 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Okay, so I made this yesterday along with some fresh bread. It’s one of the better lentil dishes I’ve made. Very nice. I cut down the amount of lentils — just over three cups — and it still made enough for an army.

    I used fire-roasted tomatoes, as suggested, but from Aldi, so they weren’t particularly expensive; some excellent local sausage; a small zucchini; and frozen loose-leaf spinach. It took about an hour and a quarter, start to finish.

    And speaking of gender stereotypes in the kitchen, there’s the question of who does the cooking and baking, but there’s also the question of who does the dishes.

  30. Erin on October 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I made this for dinner tonight and LOVED it. I put in about 3 cups of lentils and probably 10 cups of broth and substituted kale for spinach. I was not an olive eater before tonight, but I’ve been converted! I’m so glad I had a big frickin’ pot because now I have leftovers aplenty.

  31. Ben S on October 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Good to hear from some of the men out there who are boldly barefoot and in the kitchen!

    Also good to hear that this recipe didn’t magically turn terrible by posting it online.

    Julie- Probably depends on where you get your carrots and what shape they’re in.

    Allison- We don’t make it to Utah very often, but we’ll take you up on it someday.

    Bryan- Bagging on the lentils?! Superfood, man! Protein! Goes way farther towards shirt-bursting pectorals than, say, your slice with pepperoni or burger+fries.

    Bob- I generally leave my potatoes unpeeled, since the peel has all the nutrients. Especially in garlic mashed potatoes, the peel adds a little texture. I never knew that people didn’t eat their baked potato peels until I met my in-laws, who ate out the potato, and then threw the good part away.

  32. Space Chick on October 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    @ Researcher, dish duty is easy–whoever didn’t do the cooking gets to wash up.

    I came home from church this afternoon to find DH had started 3-bean chili simmering on the stove. Thanks babe!