By Kay Steiger
I’m a bit new to this whole “foodie” thing. Honestly, I resisted the notion of knowing my way around the kitchen for a long time. If you want to get Freudian, my attitude toward cooking probably had a lot to do with my childhood. I was raised by a single mother who owned her own business, someone who was too exhausted at the end of a 10-to-12-hour workday to make an elaborate dinner. I’m eternally grateful that my mother spent her extra time with us, and not in the kitchen, slaving over a gourmet meal.
When I was in high school, I read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, and my world was opened to feminism. I began to see all things related to the kitchen as a historical burden that women still bear today. For decades, women were expected to be good at cooking, and judged for it if they weren’t. I resented that expectation, so I more or less stayed out of the kitchen. Hell, I was proud of the fact I didn’t know my way around the kitchen.
I’ve read enough studies about women having a disproportionately larger share of household responsibilities to know that this isn’t a problem that’s going anywhere anytime soon. Men and women should be allowed to pursue gourmet cooking if they want to, but those that don’t shouldn’t be forced. Women and men should equally share household responsibilities — including cooking. If men aren’t willing to share the cooking duties, they should be prepared to eat takeout for their entire lives. It shouldn’t be up to women alone to do cooking at home because everyone should understand how to make a basic, healthy, balanced meal.
To make matters worse, professional cooks are almost always men — the glass ceiling exists there too. We all remember that last season Stephanie was the first woman to win on Top Chef (this Q&A in New York Mag asks female chefs why there are so few of them), but there are still very few professional chefs.
But despite all these stereotypes, over the past year, I’ve begun to revise how I feel about cooking. My friends, the people who have been kind enough to allow my novice cooking skills here on the IFA, have showed me that cooking can be an intellectual pursuit, much like discussing politics or art. On this blog alone, there’s roughly the same number of men and women contributing, and I think that’s hope that this is a signal of a new generation of men willing to share in the labor and joys of cooking. There’s joy in the kitchy nature of my hometown comfort foods like tater tot hotdish and my fancier endeavors at asparagus souffle. Ultimately what I’ve discovered is that cooking is an experience best shared with family and friends.