by Hannah Lank
What always irks me about cooking? It’s widely accepted that women are the “family chefs,” figuring out what to feed the kids every night for dinner, but when it comes to restaurant chefs—well, that role is for men. Unfortunately when I think ‘chef,’ I envision a white-clad, spatula-wielding man. Not a woman. Even though in my own life women—typically mothers, my own included—have cooked most of the meals I’ve eaten.
These conventions are no longer acceptable. I, for one, enjoy cooking AND grilling—I make a delectable marinated grilled chicken—but in no way do I associate my proficiency in the kitchen with my femininity. Nor do I understand why it’s deemed conventional for men to be restaurant chefs but not home cooks. The problem here isn’t that women are cooking at home, rather that men are not (or at least not as much as their female counterparts). As a woman, I understand that society places certain demands on each gender: mostly, that it is acceptable for women to cook at home, but not as acceptable for men to do so. And that needs to change.
When I think of my female cooking role models, like Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, I picture them baking Bundt cakes and roasting chickens. When I think of male celebrity chefs, like Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay, I picture them butchering meat, grilling meat, marinating meat, and maaaybe making guacamole.
In my opinion, the modern female cook does not shy away from any area of the kitchen. She is as capable icing cakes as she is in grilling steaks on the barbeque or preparing a roast (if she so desires to do so). She reads a recipe, and makes it. No questions asked. My vision of the modern male cook is the same. He bakes, fries, grills—all of it. He reads cookbooks. He makes complicated—and simple—dishes. And if he has a female partner, he doesn’t expect her to make their meals rather, he expects that this will be divided equally, unless otherwise agreed upon.
There is most definitely a role for feminism and gender equity in the kitchen. I want to see upcoming generations learning from their mothers and their fathers how to cook and bake. I hope that when elementary-school aged children imagine chefs, some imagine men and some imagine women.
I do not resent the idea of the female family cook. Instead I resent the expectation of the female family cook. I love cooking—but not all women do. I’m happy to keep Pinning recipes for future preparation, but never should this be expected of me. So with that I ask: what’s for dinner, boys?