Men (in the most general of terms) have been wandering into the kitchen, with a sense of distinct purpose and not just to raid the fridge, for at least a decade or more. What used to be a characteristically feminine arena, with technology and gadgetry marketed to simplify and ease the drudgery of cooking, is now a masculine proving ground with all manner of gear, gadgets, and hardware (Case in point: I have a friend who recently used a bone saw in his kitchen to do some unspeakable act to dinner). Cooking shows, which also used to be dominated by chatty hostesses offering daytime companionship and a plethora of time-saving kitchen tips and tricks have been replaced by firebrand chefs/hosts with Hummer-sized egos, creating and prompting culinary challenges more than promoting ease of use. The kitchen is now officially a battleground for the hearts and minds of American men, offering adventure, achievement, and triumph, as well as dinner for the hungry masses.
Say what you will about this trend/development, but I would like to think that it is an improvement upon the days where most men wouldn’t darken the kitchen door except to pass through to gain quick access to the garage. In the last 40 years, the average amount of time American married men spend cooking has tripled, from seven minutes a day to 22, according to time-use surveys. I happen to be one of these enterprising home chefs, although to a far lesser degree than many, and have inadvertently shoved my wife out of the kitchen door and established it as unmistakably my domain. This was not my intention, and has rendered me as the sole cook for the entire family, without exception.
This phenomenon has been the source of amusement for many, a means of culinary pleasure for some, and just over the last few years, has become the object of disdain for a few cultural critics that find men in the kitchen to be downright obnoxious. Hanna Rosin, a columnist for the Atlantic Monthly, recently penned The Rise of the Kitchen Bitch, a half-hearted smug attack on the male invasion of the kitchen, and the lost female dominion over the kitchen. For Rosin, who refers to this new breed of culinary men as “Kitchen Bitches,” (not her coined term, but one she uses playfully) sees this newly cultivated interest as part liberation (for women) and partly an affront to feminism. “The first wave of feminists considered liberation from kitchen duties, along with liberation from housework and enforced vapidity, an absolute must.” Rosin muses, but male cooking, for Rosin and a few other dismayed women, is turning out to be one of those feminist-friendly changes that come with an unexpected, bitter aftertaste. As Rosin cites, men cook “to show off for an admiring crowd or simply for the pleasure of it. Women cook because they’re expected to and because the people around them have to eat.”
Now I am unable to be wholly impartial on this one, seeing as I am one of the offending perpetrators, but in my own defense hardly as domineering and “x-treme” as some men I know, but does this argument ring true for anyone, or is it simply grousing and ritual dissatisfaction? Is the presence, if not dominance, of a man in the kitchen a good thing for everyone, or an unfortunate stress on the relationship? Can this be chalked up to gender growing pains? Do gender rules even apply anymore?
Home chefs, and former home chefs, are encouraged to serve up some hot commentary and remarks on this one.