If you’re not already familiar with Joel Stein, LA Times columnist and writer of the “Awesome Column” in Time magazine, here’s a little tidbit to help get you up to speed: He once wrote a column about a “placenta lady” coming to his house to cook his wife’s placenta after she gave birth. (She put it into capsules for Joel's wife to eat.)
Disgusting, yes, but also hilarious.
Stein recently hit the road to promote his new book, “Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity,” which chronicles his attempt to attain manhood through various testosterone-fueled activities. His tour was sponsored by Stark Raving Wines, a line of equally irreverent wines – non-traditional blends, no vintages – made by Rosenblum Cellars winemaker John Kane.
I caught up with Stein at his San Francisco book-signing/food-truck-and-wine-pairing event in early November to talk about what it means to be a manly man. That, and the best placenta-and-wine pairings.
Tina: What are some of the things you did for the book, to learn how to be a real man?
Joel Stein (JS): Well, I did three days of boot camp at Fort Knox. As far as the Army can tell, I’m the only civilian to ever have fired a tank. I fought a UFC fighter, Randy Couture, for one round. A day trader gave me $100,000 of his own money to trade with for the day. This isn’t about bragging, but before fees I was up about $50.
Tina: So what did you learn from doing all that crazy stuff?
JS: I guess when I started the book I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to go through all these experiences, and in the end I’m going to learn that these things aren’t what make you a man – that caring about other people makes you a man. But no. Getting punched in the face makes you a man, firing a tank makes you a man.
Tina: Did you feel manly doing those things?
JS: I mostly felt scared. But after having done them, I definitely felt a sense of self sufficiency. I used to think I was self-sufficient because if something broke in my house, I made money and I could pay someone to fix them. It turns out that’s not what self-sufficient means – it means actually being sufficient (to do it) yourself.
Tina: Your book tour is being sponsored by a wine company. Is drinking wine manly?
JS: No, absolutely not! I’m a good wine drinker – I drink wine almost every night with dinner and I have a cellar. But I learned to drink scotch in the book, which I now can appreciate and enjoy. That’s a little manlier.
Tina: What about collecting wines? Isn’t that manly?
JS: It’s definitely a biggest-penis contest. At that point wines become like baseball trading cards – it’s all about how much you know, and showing off your collection. So there’s something guy-like about that – whether it’s wine or baseball cards or cars or guns. That part of wine definitely skews male.
Tina: When you’re at home, being unmanly, what wines do you like to drink?
JS: I drink a lot of European wines, but when I drink American I want the wines to be really big.
Tina: Having read your placenta column, I have to ask: What would be your wine pairing for that?
JS: I didn’t actually eat it, but from the smell and the look of it – because I saw (the woman) cook it in my kitchen – it was like a hard-core organ meat. So what goes with that? Maybe a Cotes du Rhone or some kind of rugged Spanish wine, like a Garnacha.