UPDATE: Some content from this post appears in my article, “Not Just for Cooking Anymore: Exploring the Twenty-First Century Trophy Kitchen,” published in the Graduate Journal of Food Studies, Winter 2014, pages 1-8!
The expanding role and rate of men cooking in the home, referred to as the “dudification of cooking” by Helen Rosner, the online editor for Saveur, changes the role and meaning of the kitchen itself (McArdle 2011).
Warren Belasco contends that, “Food scholarship has been hindered by [a] Victorian relic, the ‘separate spheres’ – the idealized bourgeois division between the private female sphere of consumption and the more public male sphere of production” (2008: 3). The kitchen has followed a similar separation of the genders with women primarily responsible for cooking in the home to feed the family, while more often men, rather than women, cook professionally as chefs in restaurants.
Trends reveal, however, that more men are taking on the role of home cook. A 2007 Los Angeles based study reported that men prepared one of every five meals in the home (Sullivan 2007). A 2006 Pew Research Center study found that 32 percent of men say that they very much enjoy cooking, an increase from 25 percent in 1989 (Jenkins 2006).
Interestingly, however, as more men have taken on the role of family cook, it brings with it the distinction of a higher level of cooking. While a woman who cooks for her family is viewed as unexceptional, a man who cooks is viewed as a celebrity within his own home. Some have attributed this to the number of male chefs featured on the Food Network who have turned cooking from a feminine duty into a masculine performance (Guzman 2002).
Increasing male interest in cooking is exemplified in cooking show viewership. The Food Network estimates that men now make up 42 percent of their viewing audience (Guzman 2002).
The increasing male interest in cooking influences the kitchen. Hugh J. Rushing, the executive vice president of the Cookware Manufacturers Association, states, “Growing male interest in cooking is one of the bright spots in the kitchen retail market. Men tend to have no problem buying a special pan for paella, if the recipe calls for it, whereas women will make do with a regular skillet or pan” (Guzman 2002). He provides support for this male consumer behavior, stating, “Specialty cookware sales are up 17 percent since 2000” (Guzman 2002). Dr. Ross Koppel, an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, traces the rise of male family cooks to the 1980s, and contends, “It’s only since men have been cooking that you can justify the $275 knife” (Guzman 2002).
Guzman extrapolates, saying that male interest in cooking is part of what has contributed to the growing trend of trophy kitchens. He cites “the replacement of trophy heads on the walls of the den with glistening granite trophy kitchens packed tight with All-Clad pans and stainless-steel professional-style appliances” as evidence (Guzman 2002). One of the men who Guzman profiles, says, ”Cooking is theater—I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that. You love the applause when you see people smiling after taking a bite” (Guzman 2002).
Thus, gender not only impacts home cooking, but also the role and meaning of the trophy kitchen.
- Belasco, Warren. 2008. Food: The Key Concepts. Oxford: Berg.
- Guzman, Pilar. 2002. “Hey, Man, What’s for Dinner?” The New York Times. August 28.
- Jenkins, Maureen. 2006. “Real Men Can Stand the Heat: More Guys Step Up to the Stove These Days – and Like It.” Chicago Sun-Times. August 10.
- McArdle, Megan. 2011. “The Joy of Not Cooking: High End Retailers Are Counting on Us to Spend More Money on Our Kitchens – Even As We Spend Less Time in Them.” The Atlantic. May.
- Sullivan, Meg. 2007. “Working Families Rely Heavily on ‘Convenience’ Foods for Dinner, But Save Little Time, Finds UCLA Study.” UCLA Newsroom. August 7.