In this age of celebrity male chefs, I’m always baffled when I hear guys classify cooking as women’s work.
I do most of the cooking in our household. My wife and I never actually discussed who would do all of the cooking. Our division of labor evolved naturally without regard to gender. I cook because I enjoy doing it and I’m the better cook. My wife handles the finances and schedules home repairs because she is much more organized than I am.
In my previous career, I was a construction project manager and my male co-workers couldn’t understand our non-traditional roles. One day at work while I was enjoying my lunch of left-over gumbo. Smelling the aroma, one of my co-workers walked over to my desk and said, “That smells good. Your wife must be a good cook.”
“Actually,” I said. “I cooked this.”
Looking at me dumbfounded, he stood silent for about a minute then said, “If you’re gonna cook, why in the hell did you get married?”
His ignorance troubled me. Although women have made tremendous strides in social, political, and business arenas, they are still expected bring home the bacon and cook it. Times have changed and household duties have evolved beyond gender specific roles.
For me, the kitchen has always been a special place. During holidays, when the women migrated towards the kitchen to begin preparing dinner and the men plopped down in front of the television, there I was (much to the chagrin of my male family members) chopping onions, basting the turkey, and enjoying the vivid stories. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy spending time with my uncles and cousins. I did. It’s just that the buzz of the kitchen was so much more exciting than football games.
It is where my mother and I grew the closest. Sitting at the table, I would watch and learn as we discussed the important issues of our lives. We spent many nights talking and nurturing our relationship while my mother baked, sautéed, and stewed delectable dishes that nurtured our bodies and souls. Our sessions not only taught me how to be a better cook, but also how to be a better man.
“You need to know how to take care of yourself,” she’d always tell me. “So you won’t have to depend on anyone else.” Through these stove-side lessons, I learned to be self-sufficient, independent, and creative.
Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve learned how to perform some of the more “traditional” male tasks such as changing circuit breakers and repairing leaky roofs. But none of these things will ever replace my love for cooking. It is a passion that I share with my sons. They are eager to help and I’m happy to spend time with them and pass on the lessons that my mother taught me.