The kitchen needn’t be a scary place: Westchester resident Patrick J.
Burke, author of The Lazy Bachelor’s Cookbook: A Survival Guide for the Culinarily Impaired, goes boldly where no lazy bachelor has gone before.
(Tribune photo by Margaret L. Willis)
To order click: www.lazybachelor.com
By KEVIN NEVERS
Quick. A pop quiz.
Food is meant to be: (a) An art form, to be enjoyed with good friends and
good wine; (b) Fun to prepare and eat; or (c) I dunno. Just there.
If you answered (c), you’re probably a lazy bachelor, in all likelihood you
haven’t eaten anything more interesting than Ramen noodles since
Thanksgiving at your folks, and you’re in dire need of The Lazy Bachelor’s
Cookbook: A Survival Guide for the Culinarily Impaired.
The Lazy Bachelor’s Cookbook is the brainchild of Patrick J. Burke, a
Westchester Township resident, a software developer at the University of
Chicago, and—he’s happy to say—a lazy bachelor no more. A lazy bachelor he
once was, though—first as an undergraduate studying graphic design in
California, then as a graduate student studying English in New York—and from
those indolent unattached days Burke has culled his favorite recipes.
Well, no. Not recipes. Call them, as Burke does, “kits”: “foods you can
easily assemble out of ready-made parts,” like chili mac, hot dogs, and fish
sticks. Because lazy bachelors don’t actually cook. They heat. Burke’s
motto: NAB, short for Nuking, bAking, and Boiling. (It used to be
BAM—Boiling, bAking, and Microwaving—but then Emeril came along). Any dish
which requires complicated techniques like measuring or exotic ingredients
like vegetables is simply more trouble than it’s worth. “I bought flour when
I was single. It sat there for four or five years. It was useless to me.”
In short, The Lazy Bachelor’s Cookbook is not a cookbook at all. “There are
thousands and thousands of cookbooks out there that show you how to cook
delicious meals for two or more people,” Burke says, and not one of them
tells a lazy bachelor what he really needs to know: the difference between
good TV food (frozen burritos—“No dishes, no utensils, cooks fast, tastes
okay”) and bad TV food (crab and mushroom crepes—“Cheese congeals too fast,
so you have to pay attention to the food, missing valuable content on TV”).
Lazy bachelors don’t need cookbooks, no more than they need tissue-box
cozies, pillow cases, or vacuum cleaners. Lazy bachelors need to know how to
not starve. Burke’s other motto: “You know someone who needs this book.”
Like who? Like 90 percent of unmarried men, Burke guesses, and 50 percent of
unmarried women. (“I use the word bachelor as an unsexed term. I hate the
term bachelorette. It reminds me of The Dating Game.”) For Burke lazy
bachelorhood is less a matter of gender than of circumstance: people are
likely to become lazy bachelors when, for the first time in their lives, no
one’s around to organize their lives. Or as he writes in the Introduction,
“This is for the recent graduate facing the first apartment. Or their first
job out of the service. Or their first year without a dormitory meal plan.
This is for the single apartment dweller who eats soup every night simply
because she can’t think of anything else to buy when she’s at the store. The
guy who’s a regular at Burger King.”
Burke, 42, has been married for 10 years, has three children, and vows not
to have a nostalgic bone in his body for lazy bachelorhood. “I don’t miss
those days at all,” he says. “I’m so much happier being married than I ever
was single.” Yet Burke does have a retired professional student’s intimate
knowledge of making do, and that knowledge he wants to bequeath to the next
generation. “I was a lazy bachelor for 14 years, from the time my parents
dropped me off at the dorm until the time I got married.”
While well written and very funny, The Lazy Bachelor’s Cookbook is
also—truly—practical. More than anything else, it’s a crash course in home
•The tools of the trade: how to stock a kitchen.
•The grocery store: how to shop.
•Economies of scale: buying in bulk, cooking in quantity, and freezing.
•Eating on the fly: the ins and outs—and pros and cons—of your 15 favorite
fast-food joints. And Chinese.
•Green is good: how to trick yourself into eating vegetables.
•Food kits: 46 recipes for meals and snacks, from quesadillas to pasta
salad, from eggs to rice pilaf.
•In an emergency: how to cook two honest-to-God meals—Turkey with All the
Trimmin’s and Spaghetti with Sauce—when you need to reassure your parents or
impress a girlfriend.
The sort of stuff, in other words, it would take an undergraduate at least
five years to learn.
Lazy No More
Parents who’d like to stuff their college-bound kid’s stocking this
Christmas with a copy of The Lazy Bachelor’s Cookbook—at $12.95 it’s a
steal—will find it sold locally at The Bookstore in the Works at Lighthouse
Place in Michigan City or regionally at 59th Street Books in Hyde Park in
Chicago. They can also find it on the Internet.
And herein hangs a tale of its own. For, as it happens, Burke is not only an
author but a publisher. His own publisher. “I got some of the nicest
rejection letters I’ve ever seen,” he says, from publishers who would have
loved to publish The Lazy Bachelor’s Cookbook if only they could have
decided in which section of the bookstore to sell it: in cooking? in humor?
“They didn’t know where to put it in the bookstore,” Burke says. “Since they
didn’t know how to market it, it was valueless to them. They couldn’t put it
in their categories, so they didn’t want it.”
After spending a year writing the book, though—usually late at night after
his children and wife went to bed—and another year finding an agent and then
a third peddling it in New York, Burke was unwilling to let the project die.
So he founded Marram Publishing, his own publishing house, recruited a
friend to design it, and is now selling the rather handsomely-done finished
product on his own website: www.lazybachelor.com
Burke hopes that his website will one day be the nerve center of the
international lazy-bachelor community, where lazy bachelors from around the
world—and former lazy bachelors—can swap food kits, share house-keeping
hints for efficiency apartments, and remember what it was like to go months
without using a fork to eat.
The kitchen will never become the most important room in a lazy bachelor’s
pad, Burke says. But there’s no reason for the lazy bachelor not to visit it
now and then.