What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
A couple of months ago, Thrillest writer/brave soul Adam K. Raymond set out to eat nothing but food that was marketed to women for two whole weeks. It was a lot of Special K, Luna Bars, and, somewhat paradoxically, beef jerky.
This got me and Emily thinking: Could this work in reverse? Are there even enough foods marketed specifically to men? Would it just be Hungry Man microwavable dinners and crates of Dr. Pepper 10? Would all meat count?
There was no way I was going to do this for two whole weeks; I value regular bowel movements too much, but I was willing to see exactly how many "for men" foods and meals I could find and eat, so I took myself to Fred Meyer.
When it's considered very feminine to "not be that hungry," food that brings any enjoyment at all can feel manly. (On a personal note, "my type" of food writing is usually condemned as "gross" or praised for seeming like I'm "one of the guys.) Not even Mel B is immune. Check out her sad but very delicate and feminine diet:
As such, navigating the grocery store in search of "manly food" was kind of a mind fuck. Where were the lines? Should I stick strictly to those foods that had the word "man" printed on the packaging? Should I base it on commercials? Or should I just fill my basket with ribs and whiskey and call it a day?
In the end, I decided to include anything that was advertised to men, had the word "man" on it, had the word "bold" on it, or came in a very manly crate. Let's talk about that crate first:
Fiiinally, a company that gets it. Mantry fills the artisinal pepperoni-shaped hole in your man's heart by providing pantry items for the "modern man," hence the very clever name. When asked to comment, my husband said "Huh?"
Let's unpack this, literally. The two most intriguing items in the crate are the Halfpops (half-popped popcorn) and the Bittermilk. From what I can tell, Bittermilk aims to take the "woman's work" (you know, peeling oranges and touching sugar cubes, stirring, that kind of thing) out of making Old Fashioneds by combining all of the ingredients (except bourbon) into a single liquid. This liquid, which is simply bitters with sugar, orange oil, and water, comes in an amber bottle that just screams "masculine old timey apothecary."
I happened to have a bottle of cask strength Maker's Mark (which is very good and dangerously smooth for its 55.65% ABV) so I mixed up a lazy Old Fashioned.
It was fine. It was not the worst Old Fashioned I'd ever had, but it certainly wasn't the best. It was a bit too sweet, which goes against everything I thought I knew about men and their alcohol preferences. (They like their liquor to physically hurt them and their beer to taste of rice, according to the television.)
Moving on to our next crated good, let's discuss those Halfpops. It's no secret that men like things hard and challenging, so it makes sense that they would shun fluffy, soft, fully-popped popcorn; that stuff is for women and sissies.
The Halfpops were actually pretty good, kind of like fancy Corn Nuts, though I still prefer my popcorn fully popped. (This makes sense though: I am a dainty woman with fragile lady teeth.)
The rest of the crate was either meat, or meant to be put on meat. There was beef jerky, pepperoni, BBQ sauce, and "bacon spread" (all artisinal and small batch, natch). I'm assuming the bacon spread is considered manly because it requires a fair amount of bravery (a very masculine trait) to put it in your mouth. I mean, it tasted okay, like sweet bacon, but was missing the texture of bacon, which is 70% of the point.
Being me, I combined them all to make the ultimate man snack.
It was not good. The pepperoni (from Vermont Smoke and Cure) was some of the best I've ever had, however, and was the only item in the crate I found myself coming back to again and again. The jerky and sauce were fine, though made no strong impression on me (probably due to my feeble female mind).
Dr. Pepper 10:
I actually enjoy this marketing campaign. Dr. Pepper seems to realize that marketing a 10-calorie soda to men is ridiculous (as is the concept of as soda in which 10 calories are needlessly inserted) and really lean into this excessively gendered commercial in a delightful way. (Much like Old Spice before it.)
I have nothing negative to say about Dr. Pepper 10 except that drinking three of them a day for four days will give you four headaches. It is however, delicious.
Moving on. No discussion of man food would be complete without the inclusion of Hungry-Man, which I enjoyed immensely as a growing girl. Surprisingly (well, not super surprisingly) I still found the frozen entree to be quite tasty, in the way McDonald's chicken nuggets are quite tasty. Nostalgia may have played a part, but the salty pucks of chicken, dehydrated corn, and somewhat grainy mashed potatoes were quite satisfying. Only the brownie was inedible.
So we know what men are eating for dinner, but what do they eat for breakfast?
OIKOS Triple Zero Greek Yogurt and Planters NUT-rition Men's Health Recommended Mix
This came as a surprise to me, but it turns out that men are also expected to eat terrible, non-fat, violently pink yogurt, a privilege which I assumed was reserved for the ladies. How did I know that this particular chalky yogurt was for men? It's all in the black packaging, the bold font set in steely silver boxes, and the little NFL logo. (I know that women enjoy football too but, let's be real, the NFL doesn't give a shit about women.)
I knew the nuts were for men because they have the word "men" on the label, and because the pistachios are pre-shelled. Men don't have the finger nails required for prying open stubborn pistachios.
The yogurt was terrible, as all non-fat dairy is, so I added some man nuts to try and make my breakfast more palatable. I mostly just ate the nuts.
Campbell's Chunky Soup
Oh hey it's football again.
I didn't think this one would be that bad. I like soup. I like split pea soup a lot, though it is less than visually appealing. Campbell's Chunky version was the ugliest soup I had ever seen.
It also smelled like dog food, so much so that the dog was sure it was for her, and was a little weirded out when I heated it up and ate it myself.
I had about three bites and then wept for all the poor NFL players who have to pretend to enjoy the chunky slop.
Nitty Gritty Wine
After a hard day at the office, a man needs to get his drink on, and as long as his beverage isn't sweet, pink, or fruity, a dude can pretty much imbibe in any alcoholic beverage and still conform to his traditional gender role. (Exception to the "sweet, pink, or fruity" rule: Adam Carolla's Brosé).
When choosing the "manliest wine" for this article, I went purely off of packaging. This wine looked like it was modeled after those Dennis Leary truck commercials, so I went with it. It aims to be simplistic and it is just that: really dry, kind of jammy, not much else going on. Sorry dudes. I didn't know your wine was so boring.
Doritos Jacked Spicy Street Taco
These aggressively flavor-blasted corn chips sure seemed like something I could get behind but sadly, all of the flavors were so intense, they ended up canceling each other out, and the result was a flavor I can only describe as "vague tongue pain with lots of salt."
Considering the fact that men eat mostly cured meat, dried meat, or BBQ meat, it makes sense that their chips would have to be over-seasoned to compensate for the inevitable flavor fatigue.
STRONG & Kind Bars
I don't even know if these qualify, but they have the word "strong" and they proudly proclaim how many grams of protein they contain, which seems like a tactic you would employ to attract consumers who wish to get "swole." In reality, they're just spiced nuts pressed into bar form, which is impossible to assign gender to, which is really the point.
Gendering food is silly. Meat isn't masculine, salads aren't feminine, and Dr. Pepper 10 is delicious no matter how you present. Expecting women to "indulge" in low-cal frozen breakfast sandwiches and "skinny" cocktails while men "enjoy" pre-packaged, salty, BBQ and bourbon-soaked nonsense is the culinary equivalent of the "hot, smart woman married to a dumb slob" TV trope.
It's completely contrived, beneficial to no one, and none of it tastes that good. I guess it's not that surprising, but food marketed to specific genders usually ends up tasting as bland (at best) or as offensive as the tired cliche on which it is based.