Here's a stereotype: Men can't cook. Here's a fact: Some men can cook, at least some men can cook some things, on occasion.
We're not talking professional chefs here. We're talking regular guys. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, which was one of many dishes available for sampling yesterday at the ninth annual "Taste of the Counties: Men of Prince George's and Montgomery Counties Who Cook" at Central High School in Capitol Heights.
The event, sponsored by the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association to raise money for its scholarship fund, proceeded from the admittedly sexist premise that when it comes to cooking, men are somehow, well, genetically deficient. There was at least some evidence to support this view.
Take the case of Leonard L. Lucci, Prince George's County's lobbyist in Annapolis. He showed up sheepishly late "due to technical difficulties," as he put it. Seemed his Lasagna a la Lucci had flopped.
"I was taking care of my kids, and it burned. I had to resort to Plan B: Italian beans." But Lucci shared one of the 31 tables in the school gym with Del. Rushern L. Baker III (D-Prince George's), chairman of the county's delegation to the House of Delegates in Annapolis, and thus Lucci viewed this as an opportunity to "lobby him all afternoon."
Baker's dish was chicken alfredo. "It's really chicken a la king," he conceded. "I cooked it myself, and it's really edible. This is special for me. Normally, I don't cook at all. This year, I took a cooking lesson from my wife. This may start something. Of course, now she's going to make me cook this for the kids."
Lloyd Johnson, retired from the Prince George's prosecutor's office, was another occasional chef. His specialty, he said, is chili. "This is the only dish he makes, ever," said Connie Johnson, his wife. "Once a year, he cooks chili, and I beg him to do this all year round. He doesn't even go to the store but once a year."
Same story with Joseph L. Gibson Jr., of the law firm of Gibson, Jones & Associates of Riverdale. According to his wife, Edith, "he can make bread pudding and omelets--that's the only things he can do."
Her husband protested. "That's not fair, Edith," he said.
"I taught him the [pudding] recipe," she continued.
"But . . . but . . . but," he said, "her friends now say . . . to me, 'Will you please make some Cajun bread pudding?' "
Said Edith with a shrug, "They flatter him."
The Bourne society, named after the first African American judge in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, has about 300 members, most of them African American lawyers in the two jurisdictions. More than 200 people yesterday paid either $15 (adults) or $5 (children) for the privilege of sampling the dishes, and prizes were awarded to the cooks for best entree, best dessert and best presentation.
The legal eagles included several judges, prominent members of the bar, and Prince George's planning board Chairman Elizabeth Hewlett, who cooked up the whole idea with two other members some years back. At first, she said, the men were reluctant to participate, but now some are really into it.
"You call them the night before, it's, like, 'Don't talk to me, I'm preparing my specialty,' " she said. "Traditionally, women have done most of the cooking at home, so when the guys come and cook, it's a little novel."
Unless you are, say, Simeon Deskins, an account manager for Motorola global satellite phones whose dish du jour was ginger chicken wings. "I cook all the time now, because I'm no longer married," he said. "I have to. I'm a single father."
More typical was Dwight Jackson, a former assistant state's attorney who now prosecutes terrorists for the U.S. Justice Department. "Do I cook at home? Rarely."
His culinary offering for the food-tasting event: D.J.'s (locally) Famous Arkansas (via Landover) Pit-Smoked (almost) Beef (sandwich).
"I have a water smoker at home," said this occasional cook in a full-length apron and chef's hat. "You can start food cooking, watch the game, go play a round of golf, come back, go to bed, come back. It's not a high-maintenance type of activity."
Robert Heffron, an assistant state's attorney in Upper Marlboro, another occasional cook, was particularly proud of his Defendant's Jamaican Jerk Chicken. But he took no credit for the recipe, which came, he said, from a defendant he is prosecuting.
"The Maryland state trooper busted a guy with 46 pounds of marijuana," Heffron said. "He developed such a rapport with the defendant, the man gave him his recipe for Jamaican jerked chicken. He's out on bond. No, I don't think he'll be here today, but he wholeheartedly approved of" using his recipe.