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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are you a real man or a gastrosexual?

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The Guardian recently published an interesting piece by Tim Lewis about the latest nontraditional male type: the gatrosexual. The term refers to serious male home cooks, not the men who have dominated restaurant kitchens for generations.

Much of his article is devoted to the way male home cooks differ from their female counterparts. Among his many observations:

The idea that food might take second billing to the overall experience is heresy to any self-respecting male cook. In the domestic context, an invitation to eat has become an opportunity to flex culinary muscles or make a statement of intent to his rivals (sorry, guests). Ben Miller went to a dinner party recently where the host, a stay-at-home dad, offered a fully organic rabbit stew cooked from scratch, only to be trumped by Miller bringing his Ramsay-humbling sponge and the other male invitee whipping out a Bavarian apple strudel. And the legacy of Come Dine With Me means that you can be assured that the evening is ruthlessly dissected on the way home.

The essay prompted Amy Benfer of Salon.com to write a reply, that concludes this way:

I won't argue with the (female) chef who laughingly points out that "molecular gastronomy" -- the test tube style of cooking with liquid nitrogen and the like pioneered by el Bulli chef Ferran Adria (incidentally widely considered the greatest chef in the world) -- seems like a stereotypically masculine way of cooking (if one is the kind to think that little boys are the most natural audience for chemistry sets). And I'm pretty sure that Alton Brown's fondness for bringing power tools into the kitchen and invoking food science explains a lot of his appeal to my boyfriend, but then again, I've rarely seen him (the boyfriend, that is) consult a recipe when making family dishes -- like baked ziti, chicken cacciatore, marinara. Then again, he learned those recipes from his mother, an old-school Italian cook of the intuitive variety. It seems to me that the allegedly "male" cooking style sounds like the kind of cuisine that comes from thinking of food as a pleasure, a hobby or a performance, rather than an obligation, a job or a chore. And it doesn't take a whole lot of analysis to see why those different perspectives might fall along disproportionately gendered lines. Still, as long as I have that ride from the boys at the bar to hunt down smoked almonds and French breakfast radishes -- and a live-in partner who can make an awesome pizza crust while I pontificate on gender -- I'm not complaining about much.

(Photo courtesy of Americanata)

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