Harvey Mannes is a fascinating foodie.
Judging from our animated gestures and excited verbal exchanges over lunch at , you might have thought we were recreating the famous restaurant scene from the movie, 'When Harry Met Sally."
Actually, we were just two overzealous food fans trading wild stories of the most unusual dishes we’ve eaten during our travels - guinea pig in Peru; goat in the Caribbean; fresh eel in Vietnam and other exotic delicacies that might be featured on "Fear Factor" or "No Reservations" with Anthony Bourdain.
Besides possessing an extensive knowledge of all things culinary, Harvey could be described as having movie star qualities. Imagine Billy Crystal’s wit and frizzy hair, Woody Allen’s creativity and intellect, combined with Clint Eastwood’s way of talking by hardly moving his lips… all rolled into one. (If that’s too much of a stretch, see attached photo.)
What I found most intriguing about Harvey, other than his willingness to eat almost anything, is his life-long passion for good food.
Born and raised in a New Jersey household eating no-frills meals, he decided to teach himself how to barbeque at the age of 15. His repertoire expanded to recreating the Chinese and spicy dishes he enjoyed during occasional family outings to New York City’s Chinatown.
He sheepishly admits, “I attempted more advanced cooking in college as a way to entertain girlfriends.”
Harvey and his wife, Eve, an artist and fellow food enthusiast, have lived in Sandy Springs for over 36 where they raised their two sons. "After marriage, Eve and I got our first cookbooks and started making all kinds of international foods. And, the rest is history,” he recalls.
They made it a priority to have daily family dinners which always included a variety of fresh vegetables. Harvey laughed remembering his sons searching the pantry for canned vegetables to donate to their school food drives.
He says, “They only found obscure canned goods like water chestnuts or bamboo shoots since we seldom ate canned vegetables."
Today, Harvey and Eve are “driveway gardeners” who enjoy growing fresh vegetables and herbs along the driveway of their manicured yard and stylishly contemporary home.
Since they are often away globe-trotting and tasting the world, they offer a "U-pick" invitation to their neighbors. Folks are welcome to share their bounty in exchange for watering the tomatoes, herbs, Japanese eggplant and extensive variety of hot and sweet peppers, the latter he uses to bottle into sauces.
Harvey, a retired urologist and surgeon who practiced for 36 years, is working on creating a digital cookbook. It will include recipes he’s accumulated for more than 40 years from his voluminous cookbook collection, magazines and newspapers, old family favorites and his own creations.
It’s a tedious labor of love requiring each recipe be scanned, categorized and cross-referenced before compiled on CD.
After two years, the project is 85 percent completed and already contains over 2,000 recipes. They range from appetizers, salads, vegetables, subcategories for meats, fish, and pork, a separate section on Asian foods and several categories of desserts. Harvey’s cookbook offers a wide variety of unique recipes but also ones suitable for all levels of cooking abilities, from his young granddaughters who are learning to cook, to his sons who are already accomplished in the kitchen.
I was curious if Harvey found any similarities between his skills as a former surgeon to the cooking skills required in the kitchen. With Billy Crystal’s style of deadpan humor, he nonchalantly replied, “A knife is a knife. But you’re a little more careful during surgery than in the kitchen. When you cut meat, it usually doesn’t bleed.” Ouch!
In honor of Father’s Day and the summer grilling season, Harvey shares his favorite recipe for BBQ sauce. But, watch out. The zesty sauce has a kick to it, just like my friend Harvey.
Harvey’s BBQ Sauce
(The sauce is great on grilled salmon, chicken or pork; apply in the last few minutes of cooking to avoid burning. Serve extra on the side at room temperature. This recipe makes about a half gallon of sauce which keeps well in the refrigerator or is great to share with friends.)
1 ½ c. finely chopped onion
1 T. minced garlic
½ c. canola oil
Sauté 10-15 minutes on low heat. Do not brown.
1 c. tomato paste
1 c. cider vinegar
1 c. honey
½ c. Worcestershire sauce
1 c. Dijon mustard
½ c. soy sauce
1 c. hoisin sauce
2 T. chili powder (I suggest using 1 T., add more if needed)
1 T. cumin
½ T. red pepper flakes (I suggest using ¼ tsp., adding more if needed)
Simmer sauce uncovered for 30 minutes. Cool completely.