Just before Christmas last year, the doorbell rang at our apartment in Brooklyn. It was UPS, bearing a large package for my partner, Josh. "Is that it?" he asked, bounding down the stairs, eyes on fire. "Is that my sous vide?" A flurry of paper and Styrofoam peanuts revealed a stainless-steel object, which Josh carefully lifted from its velvet encasement. The look of joy and reverence on his face as he held it aloft was not unlike the one worn by the father in A Christmas Story upon receipt of his famous leg lamp. Only instead of giving off the soft glow of electric sex, this contraption enabled Josh to cook food sealed in plastic bags in a low-temperature water bath for very long periods of time. "Look how evenly cooked they are," he exclaimed two hours later, while admiring the soft-boiled eggs it had taken that long to cook. "I'm going to sous-vide everything."
True to his word, nearly everything we ate in the first few weeks was cooked sous vide, which sat smack in the middle of the counter, gurgling placidly as if it had not a care in the world that dinner wouldn't be ready until 11. "Do you really have to " I began, after walking in on Josh sealing stalks of broccoli in one of the special plastic bags he'd ordered from Amazon, but the delight on his face stopped me.
You see; these are the things you deal with when you live with a food dude. Or, as I have come to call them, doodies. I know, it's an unfortunate term, but like its antecedent, the dreaded foodie, it is also extremely useful for summing up the characteristics of a certain breed of food enthusiast, the kind whose culinary preferences are intrinsically, classically male.
You know the type. Has Heat or Fergus Henderson's Complete Nose to Tail on his bookshelf. Can sustain a remarkably long conversation about knives. Is super into his grill. Likes pour-over coffee. Is, at this moment, really excited about ramps. I could go on, but I won't, because I am sure you know one. New York City in 2014 is rife with doodies: You can find them stalking around Smorgasburg, attending knife-skills classes at the Meat Hook, writing lengthy, tumescent odes to the Bo Ssäm Miracle in the paper of record. Indeed, it's tempting to think of doodies as a New York phenomenon, the natural outgrowth of a city whose restaurants are packed with famous alpha-chefs. But then you remember Portland, and Austin, and Los Angeles, the setting of Jon Favreau's new movie Chef, which early reviews indicate is basically a doodie version of Under the Tuscan Sun. Oh, and don't forget the guy in Denmark with the foraging, and Dario Cecchini, the Italian celebri-butcher, and the Spanish guy who orgasms over ham.
Doodies are everywhere. There may even be one in your kitchen.
If there is, chances are that he is cooking up something exceedingly complicated, possibly involving xanthan gum or meat glue, which he has sourced from the internet, because the doodie almost exclusively favors complex recipes. "I feel like these are the guys who invite you over for dinner and you end up waiting five hours because they read some blog post by J. Kenji López-Alt about the Only Way to Sous-Vide Porchetta or whatever," says my friend Emily. "And you end up ready to gnaw your own arm off because doodies never remember to put out cheese or snacks."
"It's not like when women cook, in terms of nurturing someone," says Adam Rapoport, who, having made the jump from style editor of GQ to editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit, is a member of the Doodie Elite. "Guys like to talk about what they are doing, and nerd out, and compete. It's cooking as sport: I'm going to deep-fry a turkey this weekend. I'm going to make a bo ssäm."
Bo ssäm is to doodies what boeuf Bourguignon was to women who read Julia Child: a classic, the mastery of which makes one feel complete. But if the doodie has time and space outside of a tiny New York apartment and is feeling festive, he will organize the roasting of a whole pig, ideally using the Hawaiian method of burying the pig in a hole in the ground and cooking it overnight with smoldering wood and rocks, a project that requires the true doodie trifecta: sweat, dedication, and Boy Scout know-how.
A doodie doesn't necessarily do these things because he is an exhibitionist. For him, it's a hobby, akin to building a model train. "It's very hands-on," says Rapoport. "You are building something. It's like wood shop, you have tools and gadgets, it's like a garage; and in the end there's a finished project."
"Last weekend, Oliver decided to make tortelloni en brodo," says Elizabeth, 31, of her husband, a classic doodie who cooks as a way to unwind from a high-pressure finance job. "I went out, got a manicure and a pedicure, went to a baby shower, and came back, hours later, and he was still there folding them." She sighs. "Sometimes I'm like, can't we just grill some salmon?"
No is the answer. Because another key characteristic of the doodie is that he cannot abide an unspecial meal. "Why are you against deliciousness?" Josh asked indignantly a few months ago, when I said I didn't think he needed to make a special trip to get soppressata for a salad that already had like 20 things in it.
Being in a relationship with a doodie can be great, because someone is always making nice meals for you. When Josh and I started dating, I cooked a little, and he was polite about it, but it soon became clear that he was just better — I was never going to put a beet salad in a ring mold, or freeze blue cheese so that I could easily shave it onto a salad. On a Tuesday.
It can also be annoying. Like when you find the turkey burgers you bought in order to have an easy dinner just once floating in the sous vide machine, doomed to be there for hours because "it is so much more precise." Or when you leap out of the shower in a panic because you hear yelling, only to realize it's just someone shouting, "Where is my motherfucking Microplane?!"
And if you have any pride in your own cooking, you would do well to steer clear of the doodie. "My ex-girlfriend fancied herself a good cook," says my friend Dan. "And she was," he adds. "But I was better." One night, they ended up in a standoff over onions. "I wanted a dice, and she was doing a rough chop," he says. His girlfriend accused him of being condescending. "She got really mad," he says. She was like, ‘If you ever talk to me like that again, I will fucking kill you.’ And I got defensive. I was like, ‘I won't, if you cut the onion right.’"
The episode ended in tears, and not because of the onions. "I've definitely been guilty of that," says Rapoport, who has found that he is "always sort of correcting" his wife when they cook together. Like a lot of men, "I tend to be more technique- and recipe-focused," he says. While like a lot of women, "She is more improvisational and creative." Focusing on different parts of the meal has helped avoid strife. But there, too, "We tend to fall along gender lines," he says. "I am very much the guy who is pan-roasting and all those kind of primal techniques, and she is making these wonderful salads."
Most likely, she has to. Most Women Who Live With Doodies will tell you that vegetables — non-soppressata-touched vegetables — will only appear on their table if they take matters into their own hands.
Though we've come a long way from the fatty, fratty days of early doodieism, characterized by the Bacon Craze, the Burger Wars, and Lardcore, the doodie continues to prefer cooking and eating protein and rich, heavy food above all else. (See a few paragraphs up re: orgasming over ham.) And a woman's metabolism can only take so much porchetta.
"Oh God, the meat," groaned my friend Abigail, an actress who briefly dated a guy who was always cooking her short ribs. "I gained ten pounds."
"You can't eat like that all the time," says Ramie Higgins, who bought her husband Damian Higgins, a.k.a. the DJ Dieselboy, a vegetarian cookbook not long after he penned one of Grub Street's most notoriously meat-filled Diet entries. "It's crazy."
According to Rapoport, doodies are getting less vegetable-averse. "All of those stereotypes, Oh, men just want pork belly and aged steak, are going out the window," he protests. "We've had this whole vegetable revolution. The men I know are getting much more health-conscious."
If this change is coming, its slower than sous vide. Not long ago, my friend Katie was invited to dinner at a male suitor's apartment. "He'd cooked a steak smothered in garlic-butter sauce, with bacon-flecked mashed potatoes and some farmer's market beans sautéed in duck fat," she says. "It was the father, son, and holy ghost of big, meaty food trends. And then," she adds, the horror of it all still fresh in her voice, "he wanted to have sex."