Xtreme Cuisine

by Robert Earl

Published by HarperCollins

205 pages, 2002

Buy it online




Dinner With Dudes

Reviewed by Adrian Marks


Fortune Magazine once called Robert Earl the "Martha Stewart of youth culture." In Xtreme Cuisine you see that they weren't terribly far from the mark. While the action-packed cover, on-the-edge design and past-the-edge prose could hurt your teeth under certain circumstances, Robert Earl -- a 15 year veteran of the extreme sports beat -- not only knows his stuff, he cares about it enough to give it to us straight and straight up.

"This book is a little Martha," writes Earl in his introduction, perhaps with the Fortune wags in mind, "a little Wolfgang, a pinch of Miss Manners, and a whole lotta me, taking wacked little tidbits that can actually help with your overall sweetness factor."

Xtreme Cuisine is the real deal. A book you can give to teenagers with confidence and that 20-somethings can give to each other with aplomb. As Earl says, "Surfing, skating, snowboarding, skiing, riding a bike, a MotoX bike, eating and its presentation and delivery: you've got it all right here, one-stop shopping on how to be an extreme diner."

OK: so some of the recipes are facile, to the max. Mike Vallely's White Trash Casserole, for starters or Dave Seoane's Cinema Zucchini. But even the facile recipes work here. For instance, a tuna noodle casserole that calls for noodles, a can of mushroom soup, a can of tuna and "4 handfuls of potato chips" makes total sense next to Dave Mirra's "The Mirra Mix Light," an outstanding marinated pork tenderloin dish that is foolproof and sublime.

Between the recipes, Earl has sandwiched the type of material that has earned him the Martha Stewart comparison. Take, for example, "Etiquette 101 With Robert Earl: Top 10 Dining Mistakes." Earl says:

There's probably more than ten but we'll keep it simple. In typical Letterman fashion, here's the top ten list of dining mistakes. And remember, if all else fails, resort to K.I.S.S. -- keep it simple, stupid. You can't lose. Like a squirrel in winter, just pack in knowledge and it will keep you warm and fed all season. Everybody loves somebody with great manners.

This particular top ten must now be reproduced here so that the world at large can share in Earl's wisdom. Plus, it gives potential readers a pretty good idea of what they have in store:

1. Speaking too loudly.

2. Playing with your hair, picking at your face, touching your head.

3. Using your cell phone at the table.

4. Bad posture.

5. Elbows on the table? Absolutely not.

6. Picking your teeth or your butt.

7. Chewing or talking with your gullet open.

8. Pushing the bowl in front of your neighbor when you are finished.

9. Eating too fast. Slow down. Enjoy.

10. Leaving anything on the table (this includes the cell phone you won't be using).

There are tons of others, but if you can remember these you'll be in great shape for any company.

The truth is, in other hands this material could be irritating and wannabe. Earl, however, knows his stuff. Whether or not he is the Martha Stewart of youth culture, he certainly understands it. Especially since, seasoned with his very real and very edgy wit is some genuinely useful stuff. Lots of food prep tips, of course, but also, "what to do if a dinner guest is choking," how to "avoid being a total kook at the beach," (don't carry your board with the wax side against your body is fairly high on the list here), how to "fart in the kitchen" (this one appears under the "kitchen emergency" header), and even "The Dinner Table and How to Set it." Earl includes a line drawing of a perfectly set American place setting, and includes some profound advice:

Sounds like bunk and trivial info. However, this will come in handy, and may even score you some points (or get you laid)...

I could go on, quoting Robert Earl's extreme wisdom, but I think I'd best stop now. Suffice it to say that, for laughter or learning, Xtreme Cuisine is a big thumbs up, dude. | April 2003


Adrian Marks is an author and journalist.