Hermits Rock

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Round these parts of cyberspace, someone’s always gonna be talkin’ ‘bout cookin’.

My last semester in college, two very good male friends of mine exclaimed: you cook like a woman. Given that they were both 20 and from the backwoods of different places and hunters of bambi, it was not fully meant as a compliment. Instead, it was much like calling Sor Juana a phoenix. When men of the baroque period were called phoenixes, it was fully complimentary. The monstrosity of their genius simply made them super-men. Calling a woman a phoenix, and thus a monster, as Sor Juana well recognizes in Romance 49 (I will translate it one day, I guess, since neither Trueblood nor Sayers Peden do so) is something quite different. There is a veild threat in being praised a monster—women, any other for that matter, can so easily move from celebrated to reviled. Of course, their homosocial chiding of me, their recognition of my (at the time paltry) culinary talents did not involve the threat that the celebration of Sor Juana’s monstrosity did. But, that was only because they were rather certain of my orientation. My African refugee friends, however, mock me every time they come over. I cook and set the table, while my wife does other things. This is undeniably a woman’s job to them.

I learned a few years ago from someone else that I have now fully transcended the you cook like a woman comment. Now, as someone close to me has said: no, you don’t cook. cooking is what women do. cooking is casseroles; cooking is simply getting a meal on the table. you don’t cook; you chef. (No they didn’t use chef as a verb, but that is they said.) But, the world of professional chefery is a man’s world, as is the world of sommeliering.

It seems that the boys are the ones that sing anything you can do, I can do better. And, once they do, they close the doors to the girls… and, any other non-boy or not-boy-enough.

The you don’t cook comment relates directly to cooking and its relation to existence . At a certain point, cooking becomes a form of action and not a mere task. This is especially so when good food and civilization are equated, and when one considers the socio-political implications of breaking bread with someone. (Now, of course, the two clauses do not imply that those who cook have achieved a certain status, because, though the function of breaking bread is community, those who make the meals are not always allowed at the table—though if they are men and not women, they are granted a modicum of respect.)

All this to say, tasks, beyond the biological act of reproduction, are not ontologically gendered; they are, as has been said in various ways, hermeneutically gendered.

But, it is the hermeneutical gendering of cooking and other tasks that either deny entrance into community or embrace and validate others.

Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment.
Baltasar Gracian



i might’a should’a said sexed rathar than gendered

A beautiful woman should break her mirror early.
Baltasar Gracian

This nom nouveau thing is a little weird. I’m sure there is a good (probably professional) reason behind it.

When I worked in that kitchen back in Oxford, the head chef said something very similar to me. One day I had idly asked how many cooks were coming in to work tonight. He wadded up a stray apron and threw it at my face. “HEY! Women cook! Men are chefs. You better learn the difference in my kitchen!”

I don’t see how anyone can see cooking as women’s work. A professional kitchen is only a slightly less masculine work environment than a pirate ship or an off-shore oil rig.

This is where K needs to regale us with stories from Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.

P.S. This is the reason.

As to 3, I’d rather not. Anyone who happens to have the stomach for AB can read it him/herself, if he/she can figure out which pronoun really applies to him/her.

This post makes me want to see Eat Drink Man Woman again…