Domestisized cooking (as opposed to professional cooking) has long been considered the domain of women. In recent years, as the roles of men and women as breadwinner and homemakers have become more fluid, men have begun to take on more of the responsibility of preparing food for their families, and women have begun to dominate professional kitchens. The lines have become appropriately blurred. Yet there are still area where the gender roles seem to be set in stone, such as baking and grilling.
Baking, or the use of an oven to heat and dehydrate things over a prolonged period, is more than meets the eye. Meats and vegetables can, of course, be roasted in the oven, but I’m speaking more of the cupcakes/cookies/bread variety of baking, the kind that leaves the baker elbow-deep in flour and fills the house with sugary aromas. There is something naturally feminine about the production of tiny, delicate sweets, but baking isn’t always delicate (think ten minutes of violent bread-kneading) or tiny (ain’t nothin’ tiny about a giant pan of cinnamon rolls). Most of the baking blogs I have ever come across have been run by women, and kitchen gear tends to be unavoidably cutesy, like the wide selection of bizarrely fetishized aprons that have taken the internet by storm (ish), armed with ruffles and cupcake-printed fabric.
On the other side of the coin, grilling has always been a Male Territory, No Girls Allowed. Despite the fact that most men I know have never produced anything on the grill that wasn’t charred on the outside and raw on the inside, they are determined that this task should only fall to those members of the party with penises. Companies have corroborated this notion with grilling products designed and marketed to men, with delightful aprons of their own.
I’m sure you know men who can churn out a mean babka. And I’m sure you’ve met women whose sweat and tears have splattered their Big Green Egg in the name of the perfectly seared kebabs. So why these associations – ovens are for women, grills are for men?
It hasn’t been so very long since men were going out on horseback and killing something to bring home and eat. In fact, many people are still doing it, but originally it was always a male custom, since women riding horseback had to retain their feminine sensibilities and keep their legs together, which wasn’t very conducive to shooting. Plus, the hunt was more of a social experience than anything else, the equivalent of a Super Smash Bros. party today. Men would gather on a weekend to show each other how manly they were, how many deer they could kill, and how many they could carry back to their house. Testosterone coursed through their veins like Venom courses through Bane’s. Eating the animal wasn’t really the main event; it was all about getting covered in as much blood as possible to prove how big your balls were. Then in the 1950’s, the grill we know and love today was invented by a dude, who then was given a certificate of Testicle Fortidude, and the rest was history.
As for the noble oven, its usage was almost daily for the last thousand years or more. Most people couldn’t afford to buy expensive bakery goods, so they made their own at home. And because home-baked breads and cakes didn’t have any preservatives in them, they had to be made in small quantities every single day, or else they would go bad. The only person who was available around the house every day to bake bread was the wife, who, in Western culture at least, was not expected to work until the last few decades. So she got saddled with the job of making sure the family had carbohydrate-laden goodness every day of their miserable lives.
The funny part is, don’t you just love a man who can bake? It’s a terribly handy thing to have in a guy. It requires precision, attention to detail, patience – all good qualities to have in the bedroom as well as the kitchen. I mean, just look at this adorable article about how baking brought a man closer to his daughter. I can only assume they feel the same way about us and grilling. If you don’t know your way around a grill (I sure don’t), then maybe it’s time to learn! How hard can it be, really? Now that the weather has gotten summer-y (read: revoltingly moist), people everywhere are dusting off their grills and whipping out the tongs. I personally aim to give it a go sometime soon.