the genderfication of food

 

it's 2004—

no, wait, 2005—

no, wait, 2006.

i'm waiting tables at lucille's—

no, wait, mondo bondo—

no, wait, mick o'shea's.

almost all of the waitstaff are girls like me, just getting into their early/mid/late 20s and 30s, just trying to pay rent/finish school/get a "real" job. no one seems to want to do this professionally.

almost all of the kitchen staff are guys, just getting into their early/mid/late 20s and 30s, just trying to pay rent/find a career/get their own kitchen to run. one guy has a goal to make every waitress he works with cry.

almost all of the bartenders are hardened but still witty, just getting into their early/mid/late 20s and 30s, just trying to pay rent/finish school/get a "real" job/find a career/get their own restaurant to run.

almost all of the bar backs are guys. almost all of the head bartenders are girls. almost all of the managers are guys.

only individual personalities and shared experiences keep work from dissolving into a homogenous blur.

 

it's 2004.

i'm in culinary school.

almost all of the students in my classes are girls.

one of our instructors tells us not to mop like "susie homemaker" when we clean up after our cooking lab classes.

he feels a need to give mopping demonstrations.

 

it's 2009—

no, wait, 2010—

no, wait, 2011.

almost every food blogger/writer i follow, read, or am friends with is a woman. they're smart, funny, inventive, and on point.

almost every beer, wine, pizza, or burger online food magazine i follow is written or run by a guy. they're smart, funny, inventive, and on point.

 

it's 2010.

i'm stumbling online because that's the sort of thing i do when i have nothing to do.

it's a learning experience.

i learn that there are ten foods every man must eat before he dies. there are also ten commandments for drinking like a man. and twenty-five gourmet sandwiches for guys to go with those drinks. a study says seeing meat calms you down — or, at least, it calms men down.

women get a list of nine foods for headache relief.

these all appear within thirty minutes of each other.

i can't fathom what makes a food or a drink particularly male or female.

i also lose a good bit of respect for mark bittman for joining in this nonsense. that makes me mildly depressed. i don't read his blog for over a month.

 

it's 2004—

no, wait, 2005—

no, wait, 2006—

no, wait, 2007—

no, wait, 2008—

no, wait, 2009—

no, wait, 2010.

spicy food is for guys.

girls order salads.

mixed drinks are for girls. guys are told to "man up" if they order one.

restaurants serve oversized portions. everyone comments on this. i am still told i'm "being a girl" if i don't finish everything on my plate.

it becomes popular for guys to tell girls to go make them a sandwich because girls aren't professionals, you know. they belong in the kitchen. at home.

 

it's 2009.

michael pollan writes an excellent piece for the new york times.

in it he talks about the advent of the kitchen stadium spectacle.

he says:

in prime time, the food network’s mise-en-scène shifts to masculine arenas like the kitchen stadium on "iron chef," where famous restaurant chefs wage gladiatorial combat to see who can, in 60 minutes, concoct the most spectacular meal from a secret ingredient ceremoniously unveiled just as the clock starts: an octopus or a bunch of bananas or a whole school of daurade. whether in the kitchen stadium or on "chopped" or "the next food network star" or, over on bravo, "top chef," cooking in prime time is a form of athletic competition, drawing its visual and even aural vocabulary from "monday night football." on "iron chef america," one of the food network’s biggest hits, the cookingcaster alton brown delivers a breathless (though always gently tongue-in-cheek) play by play and color commentary, as the iron chefs and their team of iron sous-chefs race the clock to peel, chop, slice, dice, mince, cuisinart, mandoline, boil, double-boil, pan-sear, sauté, sous vide, deep-fry, pressure-cook, grill, deglaze, reduce and plate — this last a word i’m old enough to remember when it was a mere noun. a particularly dazzling display of chefly “knife skills” — a term bandied as freely on the food network as “passing game” or “slugging percentage” is on espn — will earn an instant replay: an onion minced in slo-mo. "can we get a camera on this," alton brown will ask in a hushed, this-must-be-golf tone of voice. it looks like chef flay’s going to try for a last-minute garnish grab before the clock runs out! will he make it? [the buzzer sounds.] yes! (pollan 2009:4-5)

i like shows like iron chef and chopped. i don't like cooking shows like rachael ray's whatever or paula dean's butter.

as a woman, this clearly means there is something wrong with me.

 

 

it's every year since i can remember.

my dad makes cacciatore for dinner.

my mum makes meat pies and meatloaf for dinner.

my dad bakes shortbread.

my mum bakes towering chocolate cakes.

my parents cook together. they cook alone. they take turns.

there are no assumptions or assigned gender roles.

 

this is the way it should be.

each to his or her own.

mutual appreciation and respect.