I couldn’t wait to show my coworkers the new cookbook that arrived in the mail several weeks ago.
“Look what I got!” I said while waving my copy of “Shaq’s Family Style” in the air.
They all had the same, kind of pleasantly shocked response to basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal’s new cookbook.
“Let me see it.”
We flipped through the pages together and admired the pretty food images and recipes from best buttermilk fried chicken thighs to Oreo cookie brownie sundae.
Yes, the cookbook is filled with recipes I’d like to try, but there’s much more to the book.
Shaq tells stories about his history with food throughout the 232-page book. Much of it is a tribute to his mama, who kept Shaq and his family fed.
“Even though we didn’t have much, we always had good meals,” he writes in the introduction. He calls his mama a “stretcher” because she knew how to “make a lot from a little.”
A few years ago, Shaq decided to learn how to cook. He said he learned from some all-stars, including his mama, Lucille O’Neal; his personal chef, Alex Conart; and his executive chef partners, Matt Silverman and Matt Piekarski. The “Matts” comment on most recipes with tips or ideas.
Shaq said he learned to cook by trying simple recipes from his childhood and following directions.
It’s many of those straightforward, no-fuss recipes that you’ll find in this cookbook. Recipes that his mama made, including meatloaf and banana pudding, are sprinkled throughout the book.
The recipes are accompanied by a little commentary from Shaq, along with some humor. In this case, the humor is at the expense of another basketball icon. He says smack ramen chicken Alfredo is so easy, “even Charles Barkley could do it.”
It’s fun to read Shaq’s many references to his favorite foods, including boneless chicken thighs, pancakes and Frosted Flakes. His favorite cereal appears in a few of the recipes. Shaq also references his line of kitchen appliances and his chicken restaurant.
I really enjoyed reading this cookbook. I’ve marked several recipes to try and have made the slow-cooker Southern mac ’n’ cheese. Shaq says in the cookbook that it’s his mom’s recipe and one of his favorite things to eat.
“She called it ‘Li’l Shaq’s Easy Mac,’ and when I was a kid, she made it for me after every game,” he wrote.
We enjoyed it. I do like my baked recipe better, but it’s a good quick and easy option.
I think this book would make a great gift for a basketball fan or anyone who’d like straightforward and tasty recipes such as Southern-style turkey chili with cheddar cornbread waffles, traditional beef stew with sour cream dumplings or Frosted Flake Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Lisa Boykin Batts has been writing a weekly food column since 2001. Her column includes recipes she and her family enjoy.
Slow-Cooker Southern Mac ’n’ Cheese
1 pound elbow pasta
1 pound Velveeta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Lightly coat the insert of a 6-quart cooker with nonstick cooking spray. In the prepared insert, combine the pasta, Velveeta, whole milk, evaporated milk, butter, salt and pepper and mix well to incorporate. Cover the slow cooker and turn the heat to high. Cook, covered, for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. Top the pasta with the cheddar. Replace the cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Serve the mac immediately.
— “Shaq’s Family Style”