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?
Man with a Pan: Dads Who Cook