The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Real Men Cook...and Bake

As I write this, dessert is in the oven. While shopping a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a box of (here goes my image) cake mix -- but one like I had never seen before. The product is a Sweet Potato Pound Cake, and the company that offers it is Real Men Cook Foods. I didn't think much more about it, put the groceries away, and didn't find it again until this morning, when I decided my sweet tooth deserved some attention. The directions are wonderfully simple, and it took me less than five minutes to mix it up and get it in the oven. Then I sat down to read the box. (As I mentioned, I have been reading EVERYTHING lately!)

The cake mix box says the product I have in the oven is the inspiration of a New York bakery. The name and address is given on the box - even the name of the baker and his wife! Then there was a paragraph about Real Men Cook(R), which seems to be an organization. The paragraph mentioned twelve years of producing the largest family celebration of Father's Day - but I had never heard of such a celebration. The packaging mentions that a percentage of net proceeds of this product goes to Real Men Charities, Inc. On the side with the nutritional information is a short poem by a nine year old boy. On the side of the box with directions for making this cake are notes about sweet potatoes, how good they are and how good for you.

I tasted the batter before I put the cake in the oven and noted nutmeg in the mix. I do not like nutmeg - but this isn't like most nutmeg I happen across. This nutmeg tastes more like that I used to grate fresh for Techie Kid's pop's porridge. But whether or not I like the cake itself (If I don't, I have neighbors who will!) I do like the idea of the company, and when I noted the website on the box, I decided to go take a look around. Here I found something really wonderful and unusual. Real men. Cooking, caring for children, making a difference in their communities. Real men as family heads and nurturers. Wander around the website, as I did, and see if you don't smile to yourself. While the company and website have a definite African American bent, it is about real men of all colors and creeds.

I am disappointed that the Father's Day Celebration the website mentions has not yet come to the Tampa Bay area. I am from the other side of the street; all I know of father is that I did not have a good one. Father's Day usually passes by without even a nod from me - except that I think of the men who are the fathers of my children and salute them from the distance between us. One was an active participant in nurturing and child rearing, one was, by nature, not. But to make Father's Day a celebration that includes people like me, and includes those families who have no in-house dads -- that's a great idea that needs more exposure. I like the sound and feel of this organization, and hope that more men develop an urge to cook something more substantial than beans and weenies in the kitchen.

Cooking seems to be symbolic of a lot of things in this world, anyway. While Techie Kid was visiting, it was important to me to cook a great dinner as often as I could while he was around to eat it. It's a means of showing love, and I think especially in the times we live in, it is important for families to make it a priority to have dinner together - if not daily - as often as possible. To realize that your health and happiness is important enough to another for him/her to cook for you is a great heart-warmer. How can anyone be petty over a dinner of freshly cooked food?

My daughter recently told me that her brother, when home from work, traditionally makes silver-dollar pancakes for his family - a wife and two small boys - and I smile at such traditions. I remember staying with an aunt and uncle when I was small, and on his days off, when it was a Sunday, Uncle Frank, a former Navy cook, would make pancakes for the family. Now, Uncle Frank's family thought the burnt-on-the-outside-raw-on-the-inside delicacies were spectacular, but I remember being less than impressed. Looking back, that he would take over and make this special breakfast on a Sunday was rather spectacular in itself, and I imagine his children never tasted the burned parts.

As a grown woman, I know many men who cook - most out of neccessity. My friend Doug makes the best Fettuccini Alfredo I've ever had. My friend Michael sautees a mean chicken breast and can make any rice or pasta mix Lipton or Uncle Ben's puts out. My brother Bob (BBB) cooks for a living, but I have never tasted his own cooking since he's grown up. In the building where I live there are men who are accomplished on the grill and smoker in the courtyard - and many say their grilled fish and ribs are among the very best.

And now - the cake is out of the oven and I am having a slice of it warm with a dollop of whipped cream. Nutmeggy, yes - but not at all unpleasant. The texture is wonderful, the appearance is top notch. Can't really taste the sweet potato, though. I think I would go lighter on the nutmeg and let the sweet potato taste come through a bit more. But I'll buy this again. Maybe next time I'll add raisins or nuts or both to it. Or as the box suggests, add more sweet potato - either grated or canned and mashed up - and see if that doesn't cut the nutmeg taste down a little. By the way, the directions called for baking the cake in a loaf pan, but since my loaf pan is missing (who did I lend it to?) I baked the cake in an 8 x 8 cake pan, and adjusted the time. I like the crustiness of the cake this way, and I may make it the same way even when I get my loaf pan back from where ever it is.

So guys, put on your aprons, even when you aren't going outside to grill something. Cook for your families, cook for your friends, cook for yourself.

Real men do.


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