A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen: How Cooking Can Make You a Better Man

Several months back, I was sitting in a bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side engaging in a cocktail and conversation with several other patrons. After a bit of chatter, one of the gentlemen asked, “Where do you live?” Sensing he picked up on my slight Southern drawl, I proudly proclaimed Nashville, TN. To my chagrin, the lady at the end of the bar bitterly mumbled, “Ugh, who do you think you are, some sort of Southern gentleman?”

When I responded with a humble “Yes,” I followed up by asking why such a moniker carried a negative connotation. She replied, “It’s just so stuffy.” Instead of arguing, I did what most of us do in bars and pubs — I challenged her to a bet. The Southerner’s... Editors of Garden and Gun Best Price: $2.65 Buy New $12.37 (as of 11:38 EST - Details)

I would stop ten women on the street and ask them what first came to mind when they thought of a Southern gentleman; I wagered that 10 out of 10 would respond favorably. Bet made (i.e. who would buy the next round of beers), I put on my coat and stepped out into the chilly February air.

The result? I won. 10 out of 10 gals responded with unbridled enthusiasm to my question — most making references to the lost art of chivalry, and several others going so far as to say that they wished they could find a nice Southern gentleman in the city.

Back in the bar with a fresh (free) beer in hand, the lady and I had a good laugh over our little social experiment. To be fair, she had never been to the South. Her idea of stuffy was in reference to Southern Living A Sout... Moore, Matt Best Price: $14.65 Buy New $32.00 (as of 03:30 EST - Details) seersucker suits, bow ties, and traditional customs and etiquette. My oh my, those things certainly have their place in Southern society, but the “New South” is much more dynamic these days.

For me the modern Southern gentleman is an adventure-seeking man — one who values hospitality, generosity, intellectual curiosity, and yes, chivalry. Of course, these attributes are not exclusive to those of the Southern rite. Gentlemen the world over should seek to incorporate these traits into their lives.

To take it a step further, I believe all of these characteristics can be found, honed, and showcased in the most unlikely of places: the kitchen.

Adventure

For many of us, the adventurous stories of Mark Twain come to mind when thinking of adventure in the South. In fact, Huckleberry Finn still remains required reading in most schools throughout Lodge L10SK3ASHH41B Pr... Best Price: $24.71 Buy New $37.28 (as of 05:10 EST - Details) the United States. That said, something tells me that many of us are not causing a ruckus while rafting down the mighty Mississippi on weekends — so we must all find our own outlets to pursue adventure. Whether it’s a workout, an airplane ride, rock climbing, or exploring a new part of your city, we men should never stop seeking exciting and challenging experiences. And though it might seem strange at first, I quite often have these kinds of experiences in the kitchen.

Cooking should be viewed much more as an adventure than a task. Whether you are fishing, hunting, or simply acquiring goods at the local market — much of the thrill that comes from cooking lies miles away from any stovetop. For me, the idea of spending more time in the kitchen is all relative. My kitchen is sometimes at my home in Nashville, TN — but more often it’s on the road, afield at a hunting camp, or outside on the grill. To play off the title of one of Hemingway’s memoirs — A Movable Feast — a kitchen is anywhere you hang your cast-iron skillet.

Hospitality

Zatarains Gumbo Base, ... Best Price: null Buy New $6.99 ($1.55 / Ounce) (as of 11:35 EST - Details) Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon in my adopted hometown of Nashville. Though I’ve called the city home for the past 10 years, it seems to be the “itlocale these days, attracting not only country crooners but retirees, recent grads, and families — most of whom are not from the South. When I ask folks what brought them to Nashville, the most common response I hear is not just the BBQ, but that everyone is so nice down here. Such a statement is solid country gold to my ears; the South’s most regarded tradition — hospitality — is alive and well.

Cooking and sharing food with others allows you to perfect this centuries-old practice. Inviting others into your home to sit and enjoy a meal cooked by hand is one of the most simple, yet fulfilling forms of hospitality. My kitchen table serves as an open invitation to friends, family, and strangers — it’s a place where we’ve celebrated the joy of friendship, the miracle of new kiddos, and sometimes the sting of loss, or the settling of differences. Breaking bread with others is one of life’s most primal instincts. It fosters tradition and community, and creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere in your home.

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