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The Man of the Stove: How Manly is Everyday Cooking?

The Man of the Stove: How Manly is Everyday Cooking?

I have a friend who takes on the task of cooking in his home that he shares with his wife, with a level of chauvinism not seen since the early 1960s. He himself is a bit of an idiosyncratic character to say the least, but he holds fast to the belief that his wife, or any other woman for that matter, has no place in (his) kitchen. Many of their friends find his insistence on being the designated cook to be something refreshing, if not remarkable, while others see it as an exclusionary tactic to demarcate the male terrain from the female terrain. For me, also a dedicated male home-chef for my family, I find his enthusiasm a little off putting, not to mention exclusionary, but can’t overlook the growing trend of man chefs working the domestic stove.

While there is no shortage of male rock star celebrity chefs out there mugging for the camera on various food shows, or just in their high profile downtown restaurant, the male home chef is somewhat of a new(ish) animal to be reckoned with. Since the 1960s, and the call to unchain women and housewives from the drudgery of the stove and sink, the rights to the kitchen has been somewhat up for grabs. Men who elect to be the designated cooks (and I am not talking about those vanity cooks that grill every once in a while or will only compose that dish that makes them look like an artist) who cook morning, afternoon and evening for their loved ones, are the new self-proclaimed heroes of the kitchen.

Much can be said about feminism paving the way for this pursuit, male posturing and ego, and the widening of the culinary world to involve elements of competition and personal achievement, but the fact is more men are home and more men are cooking, as is evidenced by the recent book, Man with a Pan edited by John Donohue. This collection of essays from men who cook (no surprise there) explores the culinary adventures of men, fathers, and working chefs who faithfully and frequently cook for their families. The book contains essays (and recipes) by such heavy hitters as novelist Stephan King and chef and restaurateur Mario Batali, but also has notable contributions from firefighter Josh Lomask and author Peter Kaminsky who writes about learning to cook for his two daughters.

Beyond stunt cooking and macho pursuits, like whole pig roasts and shucking 20 dozen oysters with a hunting knife, these man chefs are doing, not women’s work, but just the elemental work that is feeding and providing for a family, that was for much too long seen as gender specific and menial. Are you one of these guys? If so, what (besides food) do you get out of the experience? Do you live with one of these many chefs? Is it as great as it sounds or kind of a beneficial curse? What gets you into the kitchen and what keeps you miles away from ever putting on an apron?

Related:
Man with a Pan: Dads Who Cook

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

77 comments

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9:00PM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

Hmmm! I first began cooking for my younger siblings - which turned out to be seven - when I was about twelve years old out of necessity rather than desire. Dad was working two full-time jobs and mom always seemed to be pregnant and/or ill.

After I married and we had our own two children, My experience in the kitchen was well-appreciated. I was working day shift steadily and my wife was working evening shift just as steadily. So when I got home it was time to prep, prepare and serve supper for the two children and I. And - I'm not speaking of "Top Ramen" or things that come out of a can or such.

My children appreciated my work in the kitchen well and developed their favorite meals which they will request when visiting my home today.

5:13AM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

Thank you

11:25AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Thx for sharing :)

8:40AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

I used to live with one of such chefs.. my father.
Learned most things from him cuz mommy is working harder and has no time to cook much.
Those men who don't help their significant others with cooking are just lazy and stuck in the old times. They just think it's only woman's responsibility. But we don't live in old times when men were working and women stayed at home. Often the roles are turned other way around as more and more women work nowadays.
Besides, it is so much fun to cook together (and if man is enthusiastic about it then even better).

3:07AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

What ever works in their house... Their business.

11:35AM PDT on Jun 18, 2011

Men cooking is great and very modern in Bulgaria.

5:53AM PDT on Jun 16, 2011

Thanks for the article.

4:59AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

I'd rather someone do the dishes. Cooking and dishes is even better. But, not done territorially, that wouldn't end well.

11:21PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

I wish my guy was more experienced in the kitchen/cooking department...

7:45PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

More and more men should learn to cook for their families. My mum sadly still sees it as a women's role to cook for her husband and family, whereas I believe it is a role to be shared between husband and wife.

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