There Is Now a Cookbook for Bears
Hairy gay men, get excited: Photographer Angelo Sindaco's "Cooking with the Bears" is dedicated to the large, hirsute hunks of Italy and the food they love to eat—giving a middle finger to accepted body standards and homophobia at home.
In the past several years, the ever-expanding sea of cookbooks has become quickly polluted by the flotsam of unnecessarily niche titles. Are you looking for cookbooks on flavored butters, semen, or Haylie Duff? What about recipes for white LA hipster vegans who style themselves "thugs"? Indeed, they're out there.
But now there is a cookbook that rises above the junk—and it's specifically designed for a subculture of hirsute, hyper-masculine homosexuals. That's right: Bears just got their very own cookbook.
Photographer Angelo Sindaco's Cooking with the Bears: Healthy Recipes by Hairy Men (published by Drago) is dedicated to these furry fellows and the food they love to eat, and I'll be damned if it isn't delightful. The 32 recipes in the book—covering everything from tagliatelle alla Bolognese to "Chumbo Cupcakes"—come directly from Italian bears themselves, photographed in their own home kitchens.
And even though many of the bears included in the project were shot in various states of undress, this isn't a just coffee table tome for fetishists. Writing in the book's foreword, AccidentalBear.com founder Mike Enders notes: "By my own observation, bears love to cook, and eat, hence their voluptuous, sexy, furry curves. Viewing the bear scene in a different way, not necessarily related to sex or erotica, leather, or cigars is quite refreshing. I'm told that they thought those themes had long been exploited and played out."
While there is plenty of testosterone on display in Cooking with the Bears (the sheer size some of those biceps make me blanch with envy) there is also tenderness. Consider Enzo, a fast-food worker who has collected over 400 Barbie dolls. There's also Flavio, a "Queer Mountaineer" who never leaves the house without his leather braces, but still dreams of being photographed naked like Mena Suvari in that iconic image from American Beauty—but covered in tortellini rather than rose petals.
Eager to learn more about these lovable cubs, I got in touch with Sindaco to ask him about the genesis of his project, and which of his bears' recipes make his stomach growl.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Angelo. So, why bears? Angelo Sindaco: The idea came to my mind about two years ago. I wanted to explore a world that is mostly still unknown, especially in the straight audience, by using a universal key: food. Andrea Signori, one of my best friends, has been a great help in focusing the project. We spent months (and long dinners) discussing how to develop it without falling into erotic gay stereotypes. It's funny that a lot of women are buying the book worldwide and supporting it enthusiastically.
What about otters, twinks, and other gay subcultures? Don't they need their own cookbook? I don't think so. The project included muscle bears, polars, otters. But I think that being a "bear" is a new way of accepting your body as it is—giving a big middle finger to the idea of beauty or wellness imposed by the mainstream. In these days, where Photoshop is 80 percent of the [photographic] result, showing your hairy belly with pride is a sign of distinction. I was a skinhead in the late 80s, and I can relate with this sort of radicalism somehow. Plus I can't use Photoshop. I'm a total jerk at it so I don't retouch anything. If the picture is shit, I'll do better next time.
How did you meet the bears? Here comes the funny side of the project: Andrea I approached the cooks via Growlr and other apps. Some of them didn't want to be shot because of jealous boyfriends. Some others thought it I was trying to approach and fuck them—like, "You know, I'm a fashion photographer, I'll make you famous." But it worked! They opened their houses to perfect strangers and cooked lovely meals.
Are any of the bears in your cookbook professional chefs? We have a wide variety of cooks in the book: a multi-millionaire, the guy who sells street food behind the Coliseum in Rome, some who run well-known restaurants, a disco queer, and so on. One of the few rules we imposed was: if you can't cook, forget it.
Do you think cooking is an erotic experience? Yes, definitely. But when I eat I don't wanna be bothered!
Some of the photographs are really erotic, like the one with Enzo rubbing basil on his chest. Enzo is the funniest of the lot. He works at McDonalds! During the photo session I couldn't handle my camera correctly because we all laughed so much. Frankly, I don't find those pics erotic at all.
I guess I'm a bit of a basil fetishist, then. Who were some of your favorite bears? The best part about doing this book is that I met so many lovely guys. Each has a strong, interesting story to tell. I heard stories of broken families, bitterness, and hate. Being gay in Italy is still a hard issue. It's been very intense to create a connection with the cooks in short time and create a relaxed, intimate atmosphere.
Only once did I have a very awful experience. One guy rented an apartment for the shoot to give a cool image of himself. Afterward, he insisted that I retouch the images and remove wrinkles from his face. He's a well-known fashion designer but I don't give a shit. I kicked his pictures out of the book.
The subtitle of your book is "Healthy Recipes by Hairy Men," but are cupcakes, cheesecake, and pasta really all that "healthy"? The whole book has a high percentage of irony, so I decided to describe the recipes as "healthy," which are the quintessential idea of food porn. In Italy, we say: "If it doesn't kill you, it makes you more fat." That means that as long as you enjoy it, it's fine. And, by the way, pasta is very healthy!
What's your favorite recipe from the book? I consider myself a professional gormandizer. If I have to choose just one, I'd say the Sicilian Lasagna. I hope you'll experience the recipes by yourselves and learn a bit of the Italian food culture!
Thanks for chatting with me, Angelo.