English chef Gordon Ramsey started a campaign last year to Get Women Back Into The Kitchen. As one would imagine from the sound of it, it has caused a stir. I’ve been watching his show The F Word wherein he mentions this campaign often, trying to understand his angle.
Gordon has a soft spot for women. He’s not a cheeky flirt like Jamie Oliver, but he seems to soften a bit when they’re around, so my immediate reaction to hearing the name of that campaign isn’t one of offense but one of curiosity. He often sings the praises of women’s attentions to detail and natural grace, but is quite offended observing what women are cooking for themselves and their families. I presume he sees those talents being wasted and misdirected – or rather, not directed in as useful a manner as they once were.
Entire cupboards are filled with Baked Beans, freezers bursting with frozen dinners, and woman after woman that does not know how to make a basic bread or omelet. Now of course knowing these things does not make you more or less of a person, but what Ramsey is saying is that not knowing them does mean you contribute to the dying art of home cooking. Men dominate the cooking shows and professional kitchens, and I believe that is due in large part to the natural competition that has been created in the industry with Michelin stars and television travel programs. Even Ramsey’s wife has stated that she thinks he is in part to blame for women’s intimidations in the kitchen. Cooking from scratch is daunting, especially when you see people on tv saying things like, ‘all you need are five fresh porcini mushrooms and some fennel tops’. If you don’t know where to even get those things, you won’t know what to do with them; and having some gorgeous, smug chef telling you ‘it’s dead simple’ makes a person give up and turn on the microwave.
Our mothers wouldn’t dream of serving us meals out of boxes and bags almost every night of the week – just as they wouldn’t allow us to eat them in front of the television or up in our rooms. The new generation of mothers and families it seems have to be this way because of a dual income household, or just the many things that sidetrack us from being able to eat together. I believe like in all things, there will be a return to tradition, but I do get a little sad that women are naturally offended by the simple and factual statement that there just aren’t that many of us that embrace cooking as a legitimate and important expression of time and care – let alone the simple economic sense that cooking makes rather than buying all our food out.
Ramsey is onto something. It begins in each home and I’m not sure his national movement is going to spur anyone into the kitchen, but I get where he’s coming from and I agree with him.