My 1974 cookbook “How to Eat Well and Stay Single,” originally just for bachelors, found a wider audience and eventually sold 6,OOO copies, a modest success by Canadian paperback standards. It cost just $1.95, so you can see I didn’t make much money, after the publisher had deducted printing and distribution costs, but I did make some. To set the record straight, I’m an entirely self-taught cook, with a library of very good reference books and a foodie’s life-long love of cooking.
The book hasn’t been available for years, although battered copies occasionally turn up in remainders bins and second hand bookshops. I have one virgin copy wrapped in plastic for my own archive (so don’t even think of asking to borrow it). Occasionally friends ask me to PDF the whole book and post it, but at 200 or more pages, it would be a singular chore. Five years ago, I even had a request for an original autographed photo from a young fiancée in Michigan, whose about to be husband had learned to cook from it. That was the point, of course, that young men, who’d never learned to cook at the parental home and found themselves out in the world, would have a starting point, with familiar recipes and simple to follow step-by-step no-fail instructions. Dining at home, rather than out in a restaurant, shows off one’s budding skills, and can lead to all sorts of things, including in this case apparently, marriage.
In June 2012, at a dinner to celebrate the late great author Pierre Berton and his writers’ retreat , a long lost acquaintance revealed he was still cooking from a crumbling copy of the book after nearly 40 years. Michel Choquette, editor of the brilliant comic strip compendium “The Someday Funnies,” sent along proof positive that these recipes have staying power. His battered copy of HTEW is tattered and torn and held together by a rubber band, but still much in use. I didn’t recognize him at first. Both of us had long hair in the 70s and less now.
All of which prompts me to share some of my favourite recipes from the book. I’m told this is the best recipe in the book, so here goes.
CHILI CON CARNE (page 87) © 1974 renewed 2012 Nigel Napier-Andrews
Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour minimum
Great on a really cold day, although presumably the Mexicans eat it on hot days too, especially if you’re having a bunch of people in for an informal meal. Eat it out of bowls with big crusty chunks of bread on the side and a robust red wine. Chili’s main advantage is that it can be made the day before and reheated, and it actually gets better. I always make a big pot even if it isn’t likely to get finished at one sitting because it lasts for a couple of quick meals during the rest of the week.
2 lb of ground beef
2 14 oz cans red kidney beans
19 oz can peeled tomatoes
5 1/2 oz can tomato paste
1 green pepper
1 medium onions
1 clove garlic
5 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (for the really fiery touch)
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp cooking oil
large cooking pot with lid
chopping knife and board
wooden spoon with a long handle (so it doesn’t fall into the large pot!) measuring spoons
PREPARATION AND COOKING
l. Fry ground beef in hot oil until well separated and lightly browned. Lift out of frying pan with slotted spatula so that the oil and juices remain and place the meat in the pot.
2. Remove the stalk and seeds from washed green pepper, chop into l/4 inch squares and add to the meat juices in the frying pan. Turn the heat down to medium. Peel and dice up the two onions and add to the green pepper, stirring from time to time. Slice clove of garlic very finely and add to the pepper and onions. When the onions are transparent, and before they start to brown dump the whole contents of the frying pan in the pot.
3. Add the 2 cans of red kidney beans and can of peeled tomatoes to the pot, stir together and place over a medium low heat so that it just bubbles. Time total cooking time of one hour from now.
4. Stir in each of these separately, until well mixed: 2 tbsp dark brown sugar, l/2 tsp salt and garlic salt, l/4 tsp crushed red pepper. Add the first 3 tsp chili, stir in thoroughly and leave the pot to simmer for l5 minutes, stirring every now and then. Taste a small amount of the sauce and if the chili flavor isn’t strong enough add another tsp and cook for a further l5 minutes. Taste again and if necessary add the fifth tsp. Once you have established how much you like you can, of course, add it all at once. Some people like chili so hot that it burns the roof of their mouth. You can add up to 3 more tsp chili powder to this recipe, but beware of your digestive system!
5. Simmer for a further l/2 hour, to make the total of l hour, stirring from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan or burn, and your chili con carne is ready. You can serve it now, or let it sit until cool and then store in the fridge until needed. To reheat, bring slowly to simmer on a very low heat and simmer for 3O minutes, stirring frequently.
The flavor of almost any vegetable will be destroyed by the powerful spices, so just serve a simple green salad with a sharp vinegary dressing (like vinaigrette) on the side with chunks of crusty bread.
A strong red vin ordinaire of the Burgundy type (a robust, peasant wine would describe it well), perhaps Pinot Noir, anything else would be overwhelmed. Or serve ice cold Mexican beer.
(TIP: since ground beef can be kept for several weeks in the freezer and most of the remaining ingredients are canned or, like the onions, can be kept fairly indefinitely, always make sure you have all the ingredients at hand and this can be an invaluable dish to serve in an emergency situation.)
PS: Please leave a comment, if you found something useful or interesting in this recipe. Or please add your own variations for others to share.