A sharp intake of breath as we ask the contentious question: are men actually better cooks than women?
My boyfriend is a better cook than me, hands down. Come to think of it, my last boyfriend was a better cook than me. Aaand the one before that. Just a coincidental pattern, or a sign of the times, written in flashing neon? As one who doth hate to be outdone, this thought has been a source of great consternation lately, so it came as a great relief to find out I’m not alone. It seems thousands of females are bucking the traditional trend, and not necessarily through any fault of their own.
According to several recent polls, most women admit that their spouses are more of a dab hand in the kitchen than they are these days. Online marketing company Conversion Hub recently asked 2,806 American women whether they thought their husbands were better at cooking, and quite a whopping 58% of them confirmed Nigella’s worst nightmare. A further 78% of women were reported to enjoy cooking up a storm, many of them simply lamenting that they lack the time.
What’s more, apparently these women were so out of practice that they could barely whip up six dishes from memory. Staggering numbers struggled with a standard curry or carbonara; some with roast meat, omelettes and even boiled eggs. Another 78% confessed that their mothers could easily knock up these dishes and many more besides, without a second thought, let alone a rifle through the recipe book for guidance.
Another study, called Generation X, carried out by the University of Michigan – which has followed 3,000 men and women born between 1961 and 1981 – has found that men are enjoying more time experimenting in the kitchen, and are much more food-conscious. Yet more research has revealed that many men really rate themselves in the kitchen, believing themselves to be more adventurous than their female counterparts.
I’m all for equality in the domestic sphere, but steady on – let’s not give the blokes anything else to brag about…
After hearing these shocking stats, I made my weekend challenge one of the culinary variety. The goal? To conquer the risotto (notoriously tricky, or so I’d heard). I was secretly a little worried that this would prove a Herculean task for as rookie a cook as myself, but under the watchful eye of a supportive pal, I set out to prove the boyfriend wrong.
Having decided this would be the king of risottos, bursting with sweet potato, chilli and sausage, I began browning the sweet potato cubes with diced onion before adding the Arborio rice and gradually stirring in stock, chilli and seasoning. Like a dedicated nurse at the bedside of an unstable patient, I dared not stray from the hob until the rice had taken up all the stock and was looking safely risotto-like. All that was left was to add in the sausage and then I could relish the preservation of my feminine pride, and park my smug self on the sofa until the boy conceded victory.
There’s no denying that men dominate the world of television and celebrity cookery – where there is more power to be ascertained than in the humble domestic kitchen. And according to the Michelin Guide, just eight of its Michelin-starred UK restaurants have female head chefs, compared to 161 restaurants with male head chefs. It’s all very well going after success in masculine roles and proving ourselves in their traditional fields of work, but as Nigella so rightly says, feminism isn’t about women making themselves more like men. It’s no good just doing a Hilary Clinton or Deborah Meaden, we’ve got to reclaim and champion the things once so readily dismissed as simply ‘women’s work’ – especially the business of cookery.
So to any of my fellow ready-meal-guzzling girls out there, it’s certainly not too late to re-cultivate our kitchen skills of yore – even go pro – and make old Mrs Beeton proud up on her saucepan-shaped cloud. Go on, make it a New Year’s resolution.