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Cooking For Geeks 312

jsuda writes "You've got to have a lot of confidence and nerve to write and try to sell a nearly 400 page book on cooking to the take-out pizza and cola set. No cookbook is likely to turn many geeks into chefs or take them away from their computer screens. However, even though Cooking for Geeks contains a large number of recipes, it is not a conventional cookbook but a scientific explanation of the how and why of cooking which will certainly appeal to that group, as well as to cooking professionals and intellectually curious others." Read on for the rest of jsuda's review.
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food
author Jeff Potter
pages 432
publisher O'Reilly Media
rating 9/10
reviewer jsuda
ISBN 0596805888
summary an excellent and intriguing resource for anyone who wants to experiment with cooking
The author is a geek himself and brings "geek-like" approaches to the subject matter - deep intellectual curiosity, affinity for details, appreciation of problem solving and hacking, scientific method, and a love of technology. What is even better is his filtering of cooking concepts by a computer coder's framework, analogizing recipes to executable code, viewing of ingredients as inputs and as variables, running processes over and over in a logical manner to test and improve outcomes. This is not a mere literary shoe-horning of cooking concepts into a coder's framework but an ingenuous approach to the topics that should loudly resonate with geeks.

The subject matter includes selecting and using kitchen and cooking hardware; prepping inventory; calibrating equipment (especially your oven, using sugar); understanding tastes and smells; the fundamental difference between cooking and baking (and the personality types which gravitate to one form or the other); the importance of gluten and the three major types of leavening (biological, chemical, and mechanical); the types of cooking; using time and temperatures; how to use air as a tool; the chemistry of food combinations; and very thorough and detailed discussions of food handling and safety. The book is organized into seven chapters and includes an appendix dealing with cooking for people with allergies. The recipes are indexed in the front of the book.

The major conventional flavor types of salt, sugar, acids, and alcohol have been supplemented by modern industrial elements - E- Numbered (a Dewey decimal system-like index) additives, colloids, gels, foams, and other yummy things! All are itemized, charted, and explained in the chapter entitled "Playing with Chemistry." A whole chapter (and an interview with mathematician, Douglas Baldwin) is devoted to the latest and greatest food preparation technique - sous vide - cooking food in a temperature-controlled water bath.

Threaded through the sections are short sidebar interviews of mostly computer and techie types who are serious cooks or involved in the food industry. Some of these contributors are Adam Savage (of Myth Busters fame) on scientific technique, Tim O'Reilly (CEO of the book's publisher) on scones and jam, Nathan Myhrvold, on Moderist cuisine, and others. Other interviews deal with taste sensitivities, food mysteries, industrial hardware, pastry chef insights, and many more. There is an insightful section just on knives and how to use and care for them.

Anyone who is interested in cooking will learn from this book. I now pay attention to things I've never heard of before: browning methods like caramelization and the Maillard processes, savory as a major taste, transglutaminase (a.k.a. meat glue), for example. There is stuff I didn't really want to know - "if you've eaten fish you've eaten worms."

Although one of the strengths of the book is the systematic organization, there are useful tips spread throughout. For example, keeping a pizza stone permanently in your oven will help even out heat distribution; storing vegetables correctly requires knowing whether they admit ethylene gas or not (a chart is included); you can test your smell sensitivity profile by using a professional scratch and sniff test kit obtainable from the University of Pennsylvania. Whatever specialized information not contained in the book is referenced to external sources, especially on the Internet.

If all of this is not stimulus enough for the geek crowd, how about learning how you can spectacularly kill yourself cooking with dry ice, liquid nitrogen, blowtorches, and especially an electrocuted hotdog. Cool! This is mad scientist stuff. Engineering-minded types can learn how to make their own ice cream machine from Legos. You'll also learn how NOT to kill your guests with bacteria and other toxins.

The production is nicely done with easily readable text, plentiful drawings and charts, color captions, and many other quality production features. Weights are based in both grams and US volume-based measurements.

You can purchase Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.


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Cooking For Geeks

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  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @02:49PM (#33511656)
    A site [cookingforengineers.com] in a similar vein.
    • by stonewallred ( 1465497 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:08PM (#33511946)
      I watch Good Eats(which has declined in quality IMNSHO) because AB takes the time to explain the whys and whats of cooking and that is worth ore than 1000 recipes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by QuietLagoon ( 813062 )
        I used to watch Good Eats, however ever since AB became a paid spokeperson for the salt industry, he seems to have been using a lot more salt and telling everyone that it's not a problem. I don't watch him anymore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drewhk ( 1744562 )

      And some really cool stuff:

      http://cookingissues.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]
      (The French Culinary Institute's Tech'N Stuff Blog)

      The best scientific cooking articles I've ever read!
      Also, another cool one is:

      http://blog.khymos.org/ [khymos.org]

      with its fine hydrocolloid recipe collection:

      http://blog.khymos.org/recipe-collection/ [khymos.org]

    • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:42PM (#33512416) Journal

      Any geek who aspires to cook good food would do well to read the magazine, Cook's Illustrated and watch the PBS series America's Test Kitchen, that puts out the magazine. This is a nonprofit foundation, the magazine has no ads, like Consumer Reports. They perform scientific experiments on recipes. In a typical article, they will find a classic recipe, analyze the many variations, and explain what commonly goes wrong. They will then attempt to correct the flaws, turning to their food scientists for explanations of things like the Maillard reaction and why adding veal makes a meatloaf jucier (it's the gelatin in veal forming a matrix that keeps water from escaping.) They also perform unbiased reviews of equipment that will let you know, for instance, which cheap nonstick skillet outperforms all the expensive ones.

      I've found the scientific approach helpful in my own cooking, not just when recreating the recipes given. Once you know how the Maillard reaction works, for instance, you know why searing meat first and then finishing is not as good as starting at a low temperature and finishing at a high one. Once you understand why Brassicas respond well to a high, dry heat you will never boil brussel sprouts or cauliflower again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I wish I hadn't commented, but MOD PARENT UP.

        Cook's Illustrated is not cheap, but is amazing. Parent is dead on with everything.
        http://www.cooksillustrated.com/ [cooksillustrated.com]

      • by pspahn ( 1175617 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @07:50PM (#33515312)

        The moment I saw TFA, my response was, "yeah, but is it better than Cook's Illustrated?"

        I got a subscription from my girlfriend's mom a couple years ago after I told her how cool it was while staying at their house. My step-mom also bought me their book for Christmas.

        Last Thanksgiving, my girlfriend and I were going to my family's for dinner. We decided to bake pies and used recipes from CI. The two of us, who have never baked a pie from scratch before, turned out the most delicious pies at the dinner, beating out several career homemakers in the process (who are certainly some of the best cooks I know). The secret? Vodka in the crust. It's a very small amount and burns off in the oven, but it's wet so it holds the crust together, but dries it out during baking so that it's nice and flaky and nomnomnom.

        Their method for pork schnitzels is also fantastic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Michael -- the guy behind Cooking for Engineers -- is one of the interviewees in the book.
  • Does this cook book have the geek staples? Does it have recipes for Mountain Dew and Twinkies?

    A geek's four basic food groups:

      * Mountain Dew
      * Twinkies
      * Pizza
      * Beer

    • Re:The staples (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:01PM (#33511828) Journal

      That's more the loser's staples. Some of us like to apply the typical geek problem solving techniques and eye for quality in the kitchen as well as the computer room.

      • Re:The staples (Score:4, Interesting)

        by stonewallred ( 1465497 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:13PM (#33512008)
        I concur, as the deer roast, slowly being braised in my oven with potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, onion and celery will attest. And when I pull it out, I will pop in some buttermilk biscuits I made a couple of weeks ago, and froze before cooking them, into the oven to quickly cook to go with my dinner. Protip for geeks, learn to cook a few really good, yet complicated looking meals. There are many simple recipes that look and taste as though you slaved for hours to make. And yes, there are really women in the world, and yes, a well cooked meal impresses them far more than how well you can program, even if the ability of program impresses them.
        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          For when one of those roasts gets a little freezer burn or you shoot an old deer, sauerbraten is the way to go.

          PROTIP: if the recipe includes ginger snaps, find a better recipe. Germans do not use ginger snaps in it.

        • Between you and my bosses discussing the pros and cons of salmon and steak in my cubicle earlier, I'm HUNGRY!

          And I agree - a scant few talents makes you more appealing to the opposite sex then being able to throw down like Morimoto in the kitchen.

        • Where is the "+1 Delicious" mod option?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by djdanlib ( 732853 )

          Geeks of both genders, this is COMPLETELY TRUE.

          If you prepare a GOOD home-cooked meal for a friend you are romantically interested in, you win a lot of points. It's worth more than taking someone out for dinner (as long as you still do that once in a while) and WAY more than ordering delivery. It shows that you have some useful IRL skills that geeks are commonly assumed not to have. The more from-scratch it is, the more points you can theoretically obtain if your Other has also invested time in learning to

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Yep, I even came up with some original recipes: Ramen noodles in Mountain Dew, deep fried Twinkies in Beer batter, Mac and cheese pizza, Donuts with Tacos etc etc

        I just wish I had more ingredients to work with.

      • by arivanov ( 12034 )


        I recall only one male student (out of around 30) in my class/major at the Uni who could not cook. At least 3-4 could cook better (and healthier) than let's say Nigella or Worall Thomson. That is without counting myself (I definitely can cook a X-mas duck or carp better than either one of these "kill by cholesterol overdose" TV characters).

        Granted, I graduated with Chemistry before turning to the dark side and doing software, sysadmin and networks so my class probably does not constitute a represent

    • - Mountain Dew
      + Coke

      - Twinkies
      + Entenmann's choclate covered dounuts

      And no mention of Cheetos?
      And once upon a time, cigs would have been on that list. As a food group, dammit!

    • You know, since it covered staples like twinkies and deep fried food does that mean this book covers deep fried twinkies?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Contrary to popular belief, there really are only three food groups:

      * Whipped
      * Congealed
      * Chocotastic

      As per Dr. Nick Riviera.
  • by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @02:51PM (#33511686)
    The microwave is usually the optimal algorithm, as it cooks food in logN time.
    • Complexity (Score:5, Funny)

      by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:02PM (#33511844)

      If you want to cook food in log time you should use an open fire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 )
      Indeed. And for when it turns out to taste like you just heated up a biological waste bin, you can drown it in ketchup.

      I'm not sure I need this book.
      • The microwave can be a tool for good food. Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet is a great book on foods where the microwave is actually a good cooking method. Pate, for example....

    • Boolean Stoves (Score:5, Insightful)

      by infinite9 ( 319274 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @04:01PM (#33512676)

      When my wife and I first got married, she was an awful cook. I mean, it was really bad, like she was trying to kill me and collect the life insurance. So one night, I analyzed her cooking technique. I discovered that for her, the stove was a boolean device. That is, it was either on (10) or off (0). All those numbers in between 0 and 10 were there for decoration. Luckily my wife was really smart, getting As in organic chemistry for example. So i started speaking a different language.

      Cooking is all about heat transfer. Heat will conduct from the outside of food to the inside of food (microwaves aside) at the same rate, depending on the substance. If you turn the heat up, it won't simply cook faster. The outside will burn before enough heat has transferred to the inside. This was enough for her to have an epiphany, suddenly realizing what all those numbers between 0 and 10 were for.

  • by swanzilla ( 1458281 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @02:52PM (#33511698) Homepage
    Alton Brown has been doing this stuff for years. Interesting stuff, in any case.
    • Amazingly enough, Alton has published many Good Eats books...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Offenbach ( 1133493 )
      And before Alton Brown there was "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee. It's about 20 years old and still considered the best book on food science; covers everything from the microbiology to paleontology.
      • It's a good book, and Cooking for Geeks features and interview with him. The main problem with "On Food and Cooking" from what I gather is that it's a lot of knowledge which a beginner is likely to be overwhelmed by. Cooking for Geeks is more of a beginners book explaining them basic processes and getting the reader introduced to the whys of cooking.
        • <a href="http://www.cooksillustrated.com/>Cook's Illustrated</a> has lots of helpful geek-type cooking advice. In fact, you'll see a lot of Alton Brown's ideas referenced in their magazine and cookbooks. Seeing their relationship with the Culinary Institute of America, Alton's alma mater if you will, it's no surprise. Almost a Consumer's Digest of cooking.
      • And before Alton Brown there was "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee. It's about 20 years old and still considered the best book on food science

        Actually, it's just six years old - a completely revised version was issued in 2004.

    • Then again it now seems kind of simple that it's amazing I ever thought it was difficult. (IE thaw, brush oil/butter on both sides, sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and pepper, use pan with either some butter or oil and cook each side for 2 minutes.)
  • Just watch Good Eats with Alton Brown... the biggest geek of us all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @02:57PM (#33511770)

    Preparing Scrambled Eggs:
    INSERT INTO bowl SELECT * FROM spoon_and_raw_eggs ORDER BY RAND()

    Making pulled barbecue from a slow cooked slab of beef:
    fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork(); fork();

    I'm outta material :(

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:02PM (#33511832) Homepage Journal

    cooking is. Everything raw, that's the way.

    Of-course for a vegetarian it's a much easier proposition.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Eating everything raw is a pretty silly idea. I enjoy raw tuna and rare steak as much as anyone, but with no cooking at all many nutrients are not available. Not to even mention the lack of flavor such a diet would have.

      • as I said, for a vegetarian it's a more doable idea. For 8 years I only ate raw vegetable/fruits/nuts, that's pretty much it. I ate nothing cooked at all. Now it's a bit different, I cook some of the vegetables.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          I would think being a vegetarian would make it harder. All tubers are basically right out, so is almost any other root vegetable. Most beans are inedible raw too. What exactly other than fruit, soft vegetables and nuts would you be eating?

          Sounds like one would need to be very careful to get a decent diet that way.

          • well no, many root vegetables are edible raw. I even tried potatoes, but I don't recommend.

            Tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, carrots, beats, parsnip, turnip, onions, garlic, radish, celery, all leafy things like salads, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, corn... I am not naming all, but there are plenty.

    • The human prestomach (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheLink ( 130905 )
      Most humans have evolved to have a large section of their digestive systems outside their body.

      That section is sometimes called a kitchen.

      And this prestomach is why we don't need as huge teeth, jaws or gizzards (plus grit) to eat certain foods, compared to other animals who don't have a prestomach. It also allows us to eat (and live on) a wider variety of foods than we would otherwise - the prestomach can help reduce toxicity, increase palatibility and nutrient uptake.

      Because this prestomach is not attached
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      for a vegetarian it's a much easier proposition.

      Not if you can outrun a cow.

  • I do most of my cooking in the microwave, and I've actually gotten pretty good at it. About the only thing that goes in the conventional oven is frozen pizza, and about the only thing I cook on the stove is hamburgers, french fries, steak, and eggs. Other meats and vegetables go in the microwave. It takes me about ten minutes to cook a good balanced meal - last night I had lemon-pepper pork chops, hominy, lima beans, and a baked potato.

    Even chicken can be cooked in the microwave without turning to rubber if

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      How do you get any browning?
      How would you make a confit?

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        How do you get any browning?

        I don't. That's why I cook steak on the stove or grill. Everything else, I don't need browning.

        How would you make a confit?

        I have a refrigerator and freezer, so the preservation aspects of a confit are unnecessary. However, often I do like to marinade meat. I just put it in a ziplock with its sauce and let it sit overnight. It works well.

  • by snsh ( 968808 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:03PM (#33511848)
    Have you ever looked at the recipes on the back of a box of Saltines crackers? It's stoner food.

    Lasagna: Saltines, Velveeta, ketchup.
    • Saltines, Velveeta, ketchup.

      A lot of college students eat this also. Coincidence, or something more sinister?

  • And I don't even like having to remove the film and stir it halfway through microwaving. Where's *my* book, dammit???
    • I believe they call that a "phone book" and it contains many "recipes" for things like pizza, Thai and Indian foods. And in some markets other foods such as Vietnamese and Chinese.
      • I find that kind of strange where I live, because it only contains recipes for pizza and Chinese food, and a lot of both at that. But no Thai, Indian, or Vietnamese. (Which sucks)

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
        No thanks. I don't want to eat people--whatever their nationality.
  • if you've eaten Worcestershire sauce then you've eaten fermented anchovies.

    if you take premare then your then someone's been taking the piss out of pregnant mares.

    I'm not sure where they get all those nitrates from in preservatives, but I should imagine the synthesis is a lot easier than collecting buckets of piss from outside pubs nowadays.

  • I'll wait for Nathan Myhrvold's "Modernist Cuisine" - http://modernistcuisine.com/ [modernistcuisine.com]

  • Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by edraven ( 45764 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:09PM (#33511954)

    Most of the geeks I know are also foodies, and a large percentage of them love to cook.

    • Agreed. I myself have loved cooking for a long time and in the past few years (with owning a home which has a decent sized kitchen and enough spending money to buy some real tools) I have really upped the variety of recipies and the different techniques I use. I have really started to learn the concepts *BEHIND* the meals, instead of 'Add eggs to milk and flour' which is basically what a cookbook does. In fact, my plan this winter is to design and assemble a smoker due to my BBQ not having enough capacity w

  • When I grew up my mother had a grueling 12 hours work day. So I had to cook myself if I wanted to have something hot on my plate (yes I am so old my early teen years predate the microwave oven). This drown or swim approach to cooking tought me well and ensured I was always able to whip something up for myself.

    Although I am still spending more time on the computer cranking out code than in the kitchen I consider myself something of a foodie now. Bake my own bread, make killer potato pancakes and have prett

  • How To Cook For Geeks... How To Cook Forty Geeks... How To Cook For Forty Geeks!
  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @03:11PM (#33511984)
    For anyone interested in this sort of book, I'd also recommend Cookwise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking [amazon.com] by Shirley O. Corriher. Not nearly as geeky as this book sounds, but it does incorporate a great deal of science into nearly every recipe. And it does it in a way that probably won't scare off non-geeks, either.
  • ...has been doing the same things for years. The physics of heat transfer, the chemistry of almost everything cooked, bits of biology and botany, a dash of history, etc.
  • Nice, a scientificly book on food. On the other hand anyone that is interested in quickly preparing a meal does not have to look further to the (by now very old, but venerable) "How to prepare your input" by no-one else than Andrew S. Tanenbaum (aka Andy for students/friends).


    Important note: Last time I saw him he still looked healthy to me :)

  • Art: Julia Child [amazon.ca]

    Science: The Joy of Cooking. [amazon.ca]

    All you need.
  • My personal favorite of all the introductory cookbooks I have ever seen is, "How to boil water",
    ( http://www.amazon.com/Boil-Water-Food-Network-Kitchens/dp/0696226863 [amazon.com] ). It has labeled pictures of things you might find in a kitchen, so when a recipe says to use a "frying pan", you can go look at the picture and get the right thing out of the cabinet. The first recipe is "coffee". The next chapter is "things you can eat without having to cook them first".

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Sounds like we need to find the people who bought that book and put their parents on trial for neglect.

    • You might laugh, but I had a pal in college who found a couple of freshmen in the dorm kitchen holding a box of spaghetti and looking very confused at the instructions "boil 4 cups of water".

      And for those geeks who've forked off new processes, remember that some basic cooking skills are extremely valuable for the little tykes. Someone who knows how to cook can eat for something like $3 a day, whereas if they can't they'll spend closer to $15 a day. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a pretty dramatic differ

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've worked in IT. I've worked in kitchens.

    And I don't get why people need to make them into the same pursuit.

    Here are some things I've learned: you check steaks for doneness, not by shoving thermometers into them ... but by touching them and feeling for firmness.

    You can tell how hot a pan is by watching how oil moves across its surface.

    You can tell how hot a pan is by listening to the patch of food as it sears / sautees / sweats.

    At a certain point, you're just collecting more data while losing out on the v

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      The only to learn what a medium NY strip feels like it so touch them and use a thermometer to check or ruin a lot of steaks. The rest of those are pretty much the same.

  • Is there an e-edition? I'm not able to find it on Amazon.

    And "Cooking for Geeks" should have an e-edition if any cookbook should.

    • Is there an e-edition? I'm not able to find it on Amazon.

      And "Cooking for Geeks" should have an e-edition if any cookbook should.

      Not only is there an e-edition, but in true geek fashion, it is DRM-free. You can order it here [oreilly.com]

  • How about just following the recipe?

  • Eat Twinkies, Coke and palate-scorching Szechwan food.
    So are THOSE recipes in there? I think not!

    Note: Honestly, I think we have moved on to Thai and Indian but that may just be regional.

    http://www.suslik.org/Humour/Computer/Langs/real_prog2.html [suslik.org]

  • Following the affiliate link in the review will take you to Amazon. They don't provide a Kindle version. But if you go to O'Reilly's site [oreilly.com] you can get it in various DRM-free formats for your reader of choice. And yeah, I would prefer the paper version of a cookbook too. I just found it ironic that the only way to get a version for your Kindle was to NOT go to Amazon.
  • by Rene S. Hollan ( 1943 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @04:41PM (#33513254)

    When I was growing up, cooking was "womens' work" -- no self-respecting "man" would cook, certainly not when there was a woman around. Barbequing was not considered "cooking". Professional chefs (generally men) were appreciated for their output, but rarely seen performing their craft and therefore not subject to effeminate ridicule over it.

    I cook. I like to cook... mostly because I like to eat and I'll be damned if the lack of a woman to cook for me means I'm condemned to starve or be at the mercy of what fast food I can afford to buy, But, still the questionable "manliness" (or not?) of cooking haunts me to this day, particularly if I produce something "dainty", like a desert. I therefore consider what kind of cooking might be worthy of the "manly" label, and have come up with the following:

    1. Crude cooking. You know, barbecuing: meat, raw heat and flame, and an estimate of when it's done.

    2. Extreme cooking. Searing a steak on a surface (cast iron pan at red heat), to the point where a drop of rendered fat will flare up. That super spicy chile, or curry.

    3. Difficult cooking. A paper-thin omelet rolled around yummy ingredients is damn difficult to pull off. This ain't your moma's "set the eggs, shove on plate, fill, and flip one half over" omelet. Bonus points for flipping the omelet to evenly cook the other side. Practice with flapjacks.

    4. Sauces. Hollandaise, Bearnaise, etc. Anything with eggs or butter that mustn't curdle. This is a subset of (4), above. The trouble is, to get it right, you have to coddle the food, and that looks, well, wimpy. It just has to taste soooo good, that people will forgive the wimpy coddling.

    5. Expensive. If it has saffron, truffles, or even vanilla, where a screwup will cost much money. It's the financial risk that makes it manly,

    6. Alcohol. And flame. I'm not talking about cooking with wine. That's soooo metrosexual. I'm talking cooking with booze and setting things on fire.

    7. Deserts. This is tricky. The idea is to come off as the one person who can provide what everyone wants at the end of a meal by giving the impression he pulled off the impossible to make it. Think creme brulee, not "Dunkin Hines". Caramelize the sugar with a damn blow-torch, not a wimpy culinary one that the "girls" use.

    8. Physical Effort. So, you wanna make a meringue. Better beat the sh*t out of those egg whites by hand and work up a sweat.

    9. Improvisation. Related to (7). Oh no! You are out of butter! No problem, shove a cup of heavy cream in the mixer, whip till it breaks, and strain off the buttermilk. This only works if you can pull off that you averted a major crises with quick thinking.

    10. Multitasking. Making more dishes at once to all be ready at the same time than seems possible. Last second special requests while the food is being prepared fall into this category as well.

    That actually covers a lot of culinary territory, but do note that baking and simple pasta dishes just don't cut it.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"