Kitchen Pimpin’ Obesity

The Lonestar State has the highest percentage of overweight adult males at 75.5%, only second to Alabama’s 75.9%. There are plenty of attempts to educate the population on how to eat — nutritional charts and dietary recommendations, for instance — but these are not solutions. The majority of us know that we need to consume more vegetables, but we are less compliant to do so because we don’t enjoy being told what to eat (maybe more so what NOT to eat). Our diet is really a personal relationship with food. We need personalized methods to improve our individual ways of eating. Instead of a massive health campaign telling people to eat healthier and exercise more, a more impacting solution would be to create a healthier environment that empowers people to learn and care for themselves. In other words: get cookin’. In particular, get young males like myself into kitchens to cook for our family and friends.
I got the idea from Coolio’s recent (and amazing) cookbook, Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price. The former multi-platinum rapper grew up poor with little knowledge about food, stating that he had the skill of making something out of nothing. He learned how to cook, probably something unique amongst the male youth of his childhood community. What is cool about Cookin’ with Coolio, is that it empowers young men to build confidence, take control of their health, and potentially prevent obesity by learning how to successfully cook real food at home on a tight budget. By presenting his personal story as a living example, Coolio shares his recipes and cooking techniques so that people in lower-income situations can utilize their resources to become successful “Kitchen Pimps”. Taken at face value, this cookbook might seem like a comical sales gimmick, but Cookin’ with Coolio is a masterpiece for public health and could benefit thousands suffering from malnutrition and obesity.

Click the photo to check out his cooking show!

How does Kitchen Pimpin’ prevent obesity?
Cookin’ with Coolio helped me realize that home cooking is more than a luxury; it is an approach to solving the obesity epidemic. There are many people that are too reliant on fake industrial foods, and “[Coolio] want[s] people to know that just because you’re poor, you don’t have to eat fast food every day.” Eating healthy food is more complicated when you are in a difficult economic situation. Some people insist that we need to eat only vegetables grown locally and spend a lot more for our food. Coolio argues that is not necessary for most: Whole Foods and Gelson’s have a lot of great stuff, but [normal grocery stores] have everything you need to make haute cuisine at home.” Kitchen Pimpin’ and learning the art of “The Ghetto Gourmet” brings awareness to the more realistic problem and solution in our national obesity epidemic that people need to learn more about food and how to cook at home. Instead of focusing all of our attention on paying more for ethical foods (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), we should educate the population about food and create the environments and resources needed to get people cooking.

Why home cooking?
Coolio’s approach is pretty simple: cook food at home. Unlike nutritional charts telling people what to eat, the Kitchen Pimp approach works because home cooking utilizes ingredients that are easily accessible. Without getting scientific, he advocates eating whole foods that contain all the vitamins and nutrients we need to prevent obesity. Cooking at home also removes some of the reliance on technology and other processed convenience foods that cause problems if eaten in excess. Cooking encourages learning about food, its science and its history. Finally, the act of cooking requires us to take the time to eat, which will create a less stressful environment, and hence be beneficial to health.

If we want to find solutions to tackle the obesity epidemic, we must know and appeal to our audience. Cookin’ with Coolio can pimp the whole family, but the goal is clear: get men cookin’. On the front cover the famous rapper is shown fryin’ up some bacon and eggs making his stance known. He lights up the kitchen, pimpin’ his gas stove/turntable as the stove burners/subwoofers blast some tasty eats. Coolio’s confidant face shouts his inspiring words, “I am a Kitchen Pimp. You can be too!”

4 little circles on the side of the book
Kitchen Pimpin’ summarized in four circles: I’m Coolio. Man Food. I be rockin’ dis. It’s cookin’!

Coolio empowers men to cook by presenting his cookbook in a way that is entertaining to men’s masculinity. His charisma is directed towards “real” men, “[t]he kitchen ain’t just for the ladies. In fact, the ladies all know that a real man knows his way around the kitchen.” He goes on to state that men should be proud of their culinary skills and hints (not very discreetly) that being a pro in the kitchen can get a man laid. “Well, let me guarantee you this: If I can get a woman to come over to my house, and I can get her to eat some of my food, I can get her to take a three-hour tour of my bedroom too… and back for dessert.” The cookbook is informal, logical and goal-orientated. All things to make young males like myself more comfortable to enter into the home kitchen to prepare some “Drunk-Ass Chicken” and “Hit-the-Deck Shrimp”. Even though men have been more culturally defined to be the masters of meat, Coolio’s book challenges us with a larger variety of dishes, including healthier options in chapters such as, “Salad-Eatin’ Bitches” and “Vegetarians? Okay, Whatever!” By presenting new foods in a way that is appealing to men, he empowers men to diversify their diets.

Obesity is a complex issue that doesn’t require a complex approach. Coolio promotes the proactive strategy of creating Kitchen Pimps to address our nation’s weight issue. In other words, the government and public health agencies can better address the obesity epidemic by providing the environment and resources needed for people to create a culture of cooking. I say “Let’s Move!” to First Lady Michelle Obama and honor Cookin’ with Coolio as a creative way to reach an audience that is suffering greatly from food insecurity. Empowering young kitchen pimps to cook real food is a quicker, more effective way to change for the nation than a White House organic garden. There are many problems associated with malnutrition inside homes across the world but it is the lack of food education and home cooking that is killing our society’s health.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. I love this post because it encourages people to take a more holistic approach to nutrition and diet. Local, organic, pasture-raised, farm-fresh, “sustainably-grown” food is not, and will never be the answer to everyone’s dietary needs. I like that you recognize that fact and note that different approaches to addressing better health are needed in a country as diverse as the one we live in.

  2. Naya says:

    An interesting post and book. I do think it’s a shame this book does not engage with a more empowering image of Black men and food – and that Coolio (re)produces troubling language and stereotypes. Perhaps some Black people/males in particular may identify with this book, but even so there are other ways to reach the Black community about food and health issues. Like, for instance, just talking to people about their own histories with gardening and cooking traditions, and collecting those stories to make a healthy cookbook. While considered “urban” African-Americans are sometimes just a few generations away from having a rural background that includes some kind of farming themselves. Even if they are not, there are stories among family members. Also, in terms of outreach, there are other cookbooks written by Black authors that do focus on history, story, healthy “soul food” cooking, and more – without the *pimpin’* language. (Language that comes with other issues). I have to see if there are some geared toward young people. The focus on young men here is innovative. I’m a PhD student at UT Austin who is working with Black youth and food issues as part of my community work and dissertation. I look forward to seeing what my young co-researchers have to say about this book. More importantly, I wonder what kind of cookbook they would write?

    1. Asiago says:

      Hi Naya!

      Thanks for commenting. I enjoyed writing this post. To be honest with you, I don’t even believe this book was targeted at Black youth but actually White males. But your comments are really important none the less. I would love to meet up and learn about your food studies!

      I feel that Coolio and his publisher did not actually have a blunt social concern when creating this book but I am not sure. The idea just came out of my personal belief that if we got more young men cooking that there is a chance that we would improve the health and lives of families across the nation.

      I thought Coolio’s Kitchen Pimpin’ was a clever way to market cooking to young men (sex, comedy, confidence building). It is not girly, and it isn’t MAN food (big, large portions, meat, spicy, BBQ etc). It is havin’ fun with Gourmet, and gettin’ some booteh.

      I would love for you to connect with UT Professor Kevin Thomas and Local Food Entrepreneur Hoover Alexander if you have not already met them. Great colleagues for your research!

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