My wife loves cooking.

She likes to read books full of recipes.

She even likes books with photographs of food.

She likes to watch TV shows where people travel the world cooking.

She likes to keep up with latest culinary trends.

She likes the latest restaurants.

I’m not interested in any of this.

In a restaurant, she looks at the menu while I look at the wine list.

In the supermarket, she looks at the cheeses while I look at the beers.

On TV she watches the Cookery Channel and, when she goes out, I flip to the Military Channel.

You get the idea.

But a while back I found a book that changed my attitude.

It was a great example of recombinant thinking.

Recombinant Thinking is based on the view that there aren’t any new ideas.

Just new combinations.

Surprising combinations that create something you haven’t seen before.

And that in itself is something new.

The book was called ‘The Mafia Cook Book’.

It was written by a New York Italian hit man, who loved cooking.

And it explained food in a way even I found interesting.


Suddenly, taking an interest in food started to make sense.

For instance, one recipe began like this.

“Little Tony and me gotta do a hit in New Jersey. Now before a hit, you don’t want nothing too heavy. You gotta be able to think and move fast.

So I’m thinking, maybe I’ll make some Pasta Fagiolli, followed by a little Scampi Gambino.”

Then he lists the ingredients and gives the recipe.

With a few caveats.

“Remember, go easy on the garlic. You gotta coupla guys on their way to a hit they’re gonna be a little nervous.

You don’t want their breath stressing each other out.”

Useful information.

You can see his point.

Another one of his recipes begins like this.

“Sal is about to go off on a three-stretch upstate.

He’s gonna be away for awhile, so his last meal on the outside should be something traditional. I’m thinking a nice Veal Osso Buco. Real homey and comforting.”

Well that makes sense, too.

You can’t argue with that.

Another of his recipes goes like this.

“We’re having a sit-down with Joe Doggs and his crew.

Now a sit-down can be a tense situation, and one thing you don’t want is a nervous Joe Doggs.

So I’m not taking any chances, I’m staying traditional, with Pasta Marinara followed by Veal Marsala.”

And again, he gives you his recipe with a few provisos.

“The secret to the sauce is the Grand Marnier. But you gotta be sure and burn all the alcohol off. You don’t want no one getting twitchy.”

Fair enough.

Very reasonable.

Yet another of his recipes begins this way.

“Little Dom just got out after a three stretch, so I’m going for Steak Florentine. I know when a guy gets out, the first thing he wants is a steak. Here’s a tip: any guy wants to join your crew and tells you he just got outa the joint, take him to dinner. If he orders anything but steak he’s lying, and probably a Fed.”

Very useful advice, very practical.

A great book in fact.

And proof that, with recombinant thinking you can make anything interesting.

Even a cook book.