The Männkitchen Story
I owe it all to my Mom and oatmeal.
My mom is an excellent cook.
I remember the whole house rumbling when she powered up her old Mill&Mix to stone-grind wheat, dried corn and oats into flour that would become delicious brown bread. Her calzone and homemade ice cream sandwiches are legendary. However, like any mother of three boys knows, you don't always have time to handcraft every meal.
The typical breakfast of my childhood was a bland, viscous substance with a texture somewhere between mud and glue.
As a child I endured bowl after bowl, trying to make it palatable by adding salt, butter, brown sugar, and bananas. I tried everything, but at 8 years old I’d had enough. I announced to my mom one morning that I would no longer be eating oatmeal.
She reacted to my proclamation by continuing to make it almost every morning.
She reasoned that If my dad and two older brothers could endure it without apparent suffering, so could I. When it became evident that I was willing to skip breakfast entirely in order to avoid ingesting another spoonful, she spoke the words that would alter the course of my life:
“If you would like to eat something else, you can make it yourself.”
She showed me how to light our old propane range (with matches!) and granted me access to the pantry, spice rack, fridge, and her collection of well loved cast iron skillets.
My world expanded.
I started with eggs. Once I could consistently make scrambled eggs without burning them, I started making eggs over-easy, celebrating my first intact yolk like it was an Olympic Gold. Next were omelettes, then fried potatoes, then pancakes-which was my first time measuring and mixing ingredients. I learned the difference between a tsp and a Tbs of salt the hard way. I graduated from pancakes to waffles, splattering the stove top and my moms heart-shaped waffle iron with lumpy batter and scorched butter.
It was absolute bliss.
When I felt that breakfast was in-hand, I expanded to lunch, kind of. Fried eggs became fried egg sandwiches, and I began experimenting with poached eggs in my Top Ramen. My experiments didn’t always result in edible food, but they did result in valuable lessons, like:
• Salt in a glass jar looks identical to sugar in a glass jar.
• Lemonade is good, and milk is good, but lemon milk is not good.
• More flavors do not equal better flavor, etc, etc.
In 7th grade, we had Spirit Week and Mr. Hayashi taught us how to make fried rice, which started with dicing and frying a pound of bacon. It was my first time handling uncooked meat, and a serious relationship developed.
The summer of my 16th year I got my first of many commercial fishing jobs where I would be on the ocean for weeks at a time. My fledgling interest in the kitchen was noticed by the captain, and I was happy to leave the cold deck an hour before the rest of the crew to prepare a hot meal for everyone. Necessity breeds invention, and when fish is on the menu every night, you learn how to create new dishes with whatever is on hand.
Hunger is the best seasoning, and on a commercial fishing boat there’s plenty of it.
Even when the meals I prepared were sub-par, there were few complaints and fewer leftovers, which encouraged me. Eventually I was put in charge of grocery shopping, and land animals were back on the menu. Roasts, hamburger, chicken, pork chops-if it fit in the budget and the freezer, it was on board.
Cooking is work, but it doesn't always have to feel like work. It's a creative act that meets a practical need. To me it's the nearest thing we have to alchemy-transforming a mix of ordinary ingredients into something that sustains life and has the power to bring people together.
There’s little in life that I enjoy more than preparing a meal and sharing it.
I've cooked on fishing boats in Alaska, over open flames in mountain forests, on secluded tropical beaches in Hawaii, and on camp stoves in the Himalayas.
With a few ingredients and a fire, anywhere in the world can be a kitchen.
My heritage is Norwegian, and the word “Männ" is a masculine possessive pronoun from a dialect of old Norse meaning my or mine. So “männ" kitchen could be translated “my kitchen". I am a man, and I cook.
Since 1960, the number of men who cook at home in the US has increased by almost 50%.
Cooking allows one to better serve themselves, their family, and their community. After all, everybody eats. Taking on the responsibility for preparing food to share leads to developing skills that will serve one for the rest of their life.
MÄNNKITCHEN makes tools for men who cook, because a man who can cook is better than when he couldn't.
MÄNNKITCHEN: A man’s place is in the kitchen.