The Can Man Plan

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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Oprah Winfrey can shut down her book club if she wants, but Jim's Book Club isn't going anywhere.

That's bad news for the fairer sex on two counts. First, Oprah's Book Club had legions of loyal, mostly female members who dutifully bought the featured book which, more often than not, was uplifting and inspirational.

And second, Jim's Book Club is dedicated to books espousing the guy point of view and various male causes and interests. Its books are seldom inspirational and nearly never uplifting.

This time, loyal members of Jim's Book Club, we are featuring a new tome called "A Man, a Can, a Plan," by David Joachim and the editors of "Men's Health" magazine (Rodale/St. Martin's Press, $15.95).

Even though "A Man, a Can, a Plan" is a cookbook, we must ask all women to stop reading at the end of this sentence. (Right here.)

That's because this is a guy cookbook, and does not follow accepted procedures commonly found in female cookbooks such as precise measuring of ingredients. With the exception of some "big-flavor" foods like canned jalapenos, Joachim writes, "an ounce or two variance won't make any difference in the dish."

As the title suggests, "A Man, a Can, a Plan" contains recipes (the plans) that feature things in cans as their primary ingredients. In fact, the book is a celebration of the lowly can.

"The can is fast. The can is healthy ... The can holds the secret to every great guy meal," writes Joachim in the book's preface.

He and the editors then proceed to lay out 50 recipes using foods found in cans, organized according to the nine basic food groups that comprise the guy food pyramid ham, chicken, fish, chili, beans, SpaghettiOs, veggies, fruit and beer.

Here you will find the recipes for culinary delights such as Border Patrol Casserole, Cluck Finn on a Raft, Pig in a Pinwheel, Game-Day Stew, Weenies with the Works, and Mexi Can Pie. The latter, for example, combines two cans of chili, one can of beer, one jar of green chilis, and one container of refrigerator biscuits into a delicacy fit for five guys so desperately hungry they'll eat anything.

Splattered throughout the book are healthy eating tips and other tidbits of information about how good canned goods are for you.

Did you know, for example, that each can of SpaghettiOs has 10 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and just 5 grams of fat? Or that canned foods have, for all practical purposes, the same nutritional value as their fresh counterparts.

For sure, you didn't know that while the average can has a shelf life of two years, a can of roasted veal taken on an expedition by Sir William Edward Parry in the 1820s was opened and fed to a cat in 1938. The cat, Joachim reports, "had no complaints." He does not indicate if the cat lived to meow another day.

"A Man, a Can, a Plan" has some other nice features, which make it a must-own book for your average single guy:

While the book is an inch thick, it only has 43 pages because it is printed on really heavy, splatter-proof card stock. None of those wimpy 3-x-5 index cards or loose-leaf Betty Crocker pages for this two-fisted man's cookbook.

All the ingredients are pictured for each recipe, with big plus (+) symbols indicating that they should be combined. Then, after a big equal (=) sign is a full-color photo of what the finished dish is supposed to look like. This is a fail-safe cookbook that an idiot or even a guy can follow.

Guy language is employed wherever possible. For example, ingredients are not "added," "combined" or "folded into," they are "dumped together" or "plopped onto" and then are "nuked" or "stuck" in the oven.

If you thought the can had become a quaint relic whose halcyon days were past, think again. Joachim puts it this way:

"You don't need a culinary degree to make it. You don't need any fancy ingredients. All you need is a can opener and an appetite."

Best of all, he says, "...it tastes damn fine, too."

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