Food for thought: Who does the cooking?

Mar 12, 2023
Source: Getty

Lately, the issue of cooking has come up frequently among my retired friends. I hear stories about people who now embrace the kitchen with gusto. Because they have the time, they are cooking up a storm.

My brother-in-law is one of these people. He is always experimenting with new recipes and trying them out on us. We are happy to be his guinea pigs.

His wife enjoys cooking as well, but she prepared most of the meals over the years, so she’s happy being his sous chef now, and taking care of the dishes afterwards.

Although I love food, I am not very talented in the kitchen. My partner largely creates the main meal. I do the side dishes as well as the clean-up afterwards. Besides, I’m also not good at multitasking.

I was in the restaurant business for many years, and occasionally I had to cook when the chef did not show up. I remember trying to coordinate omelettes, soups, and many other types of items. A few times I burned myself and sliced my fingers. It was traumatising for me, so I tend to avoid preparing meals whenever I can. 

But working in restaurants brings back an interesting memory; the head chef was often a man.

According to statistics, 29.8 per cent of all cooks are women, while 70.2 per cent are men. The average age of an employed cook is 38 years old. The most common ethnicity of cooks is White (58.1 per cent), followed by Hispanic or Latino (17.2 per cent), Black or African American (10.2 per cent), and Asian (8.5 per cent).

So why are most chefs male? Perhaps it’s because being a chef is considered a “profession.”

Male chefs are presented as artists and innovators with technical gifts and extraordinary creative skills. Women cooking at home are presented as doing something out of instinct and love: I’m just nurturing my family, it’s no big deal!

When I was growing up, women were expected to cook. This task largely fell upon my mother, as there was only one parent in the house, and there were six kids to feed. Somebody had to do it.

Although my older sister assisted at times, largely my mother was in charge. My brothers were absent when it came to preparing meals or cleaning up afterwards. 

Anything related to the kitchen was handled by the women in the family unless there was grilling involved. It seems as though grilling has largely been a male-dominated task that carries a bit of prestige. 

I think the gender rules are changing though. I hear quite a bit about men staying home and doing more domestic things, and women pursuing their careers. That’s encouraging. Perhaps there are more options for both men and women to break out of gender stereotypes now.

But in my age group, many retired women I know confess that they hate to cook. They did it for so many years that the idea of continuing it in retirement doesn’t interest them. If they can afford it, they often go out to eat, do takeout, or have microwaved meals.

What has been your experience with cooking? Did you enjoy that or was it something you felt obligated to do? And how do you view cooking now?



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