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Man Made

Time columnist Joel Stein on Scotch, fatherhood & his favorite Houston foods

Joel Stein, Man Made, Times, food trucks
Columnist Joel Stein, who learned about barbecue from Chris Shepherd and Robb Walsh.
Joel Stein, Man Made, Times, food trucks
Man Made, A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, Joel Stein, book cover

Joel Stein's book tour is sponsored by Stark Raving Wine and his Houston appearance at Cottonwood featured a wine pairing competition between a trio of food trucks, so I thought it might be relevant to ask him about what kind of food adventures he had while writing Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity.

"There's no food component in the book," says Stein, a humor columnist for Time magazine. "I wanted to do really stereotypically masculine stuff . . . I'm a pretty good cook, for stories I've worked in restaurants for a night or two and I was trying to do stuff I didn't know how to do personally."

That list included things like hunting turkeys in Vermont, but not eating a 10 lb. cheeseburger Man vs. Food-style. "That stuff seems kinda pussy to me on some level," says Stein.

 The impulse behind writing Man Made started, Stein explains, when he first saw a sonogram of his child and found out he was having a boy. 

"I did learn how to drink Scotch. I invited a bunch of really wimpy, Jewish, sitcom-writing friends over who couldn't drink alcohol and had a guy come from Macallen and teach us how to drink Scotch. I like Scotch now. I learned you could put a little water or ice cubes in it and that's okay. I learned that it doesn't have to burn and that there's a lot of other flavor once you get past the burn. It's almost like drinking coffee, which I've just started to do. Once you accept that bitter and that burn you can taste other things."

The impulse behind writing Man Made started, Stein explains, when he first saw a sonogram of his child and found out he was having a boy.

"I thought I didn't care what the gender of my child was and as soon as I saw a penis I had not exactly a panic attack, but it was more of a freak-out," he admits. "I realized that a penis would want to go camping, and a penis would want to play baseball and a penis would get in fights, and I wasn't good at that stuff as a kid.  I had an Easy Bake Oven and I had a sticker collection, I had a glass animal collection and I listened to show tunes.

"I was not good at being a boy, so I thought I better learn so that my son, if he was into that stuff, wasn't going to go to the neighbor's dad or the coach to do it with him. Very American Male 101," says Stein.

While in Houston, Stein says he had a great meal at Underbelly on Wednesday and that Chris Shepherd took him to Asian Market for lunch. "It was nice, but I think I would rather have had Gatlin's instead."

Stein appears to have developed an addiction to Gatlin's BBQ last year, when he joined Shepherd at the RodeoHouston World's Barbecue Championship.

"Food & Wine embedded me with the team that won the year before, so I went around with Chris Shepherd to Gatlin's and a bunch of barbecue places. I met with Robb Walsh at his house and he taught me how to use a smoker. It was great. The story is okay but the experience was really great," says Stein. But unfortunately some Texas barbecue wasn't the only thing Stein missed on his brief trip to town.

"You know what I like to do when I'm here? Go to [brunch] at Brennan's. On someone else's dime."

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