Thursday 18 January 2018

Praise be to the new men who love to cook

I grew up in a traditional Irish home where my mum did all the cooking. In many ways, it was the norm and, when I think back to my childhood, I can only recall one friend's father ever being let loose in the kitchen. After tasting his food I began to understand why.

Or should I say, misunderstand why.

You see, the first time I was ever served a meal cooked by my friend's dad he asked me if I liked Yorkshire pudding. Having been brought up to eat everything I was served I graciously nodded, despite not having a notion what it was. Pudding, I figured, was dessert, so it was bound to be something sweet, which is always good, in my book.


I could barely disguise my shock and confusion when my roast beef dinner was presented to me with what I thought was dessert on the same plate. I watched my buddy, Gail, tuck contentedly into hers, and, not wishing to be rude, followed suit, albeit in a more gingerly fashion.

It wasn't until a few years later, and after many more meals cooked by Gail's maligned dad, that I realised that a) He could cook perfectly well and b) Yorkshire pudding is, in fact, not a dessert.

Gail's dad was unusual enough in the eighties. In most homes it was the women who fed their families while their husbands sailed through life without a notion of how to prepare a meal from scratch.

To this day my father is one of those men.

Happily, though, that stereotype is changing, with guys realising that cooking is a highly prized social skill. Jamie Oliver had a lot to do with convincing a whole generation of men that cooking is cool and he almost singlehandedly spearheaded a revolution that got boys into the kitchen for the first time in their lives.

Despite Jamie's mass appeal and impressive sphere of influence, both of my brothers avoided falling under his spell. Not only did they miss out on the cooking gene but they have somehow managed to get well into adult life without ever inviting friends -- or me -- for a home-cooked meal.


Happily (for me and my children) I married someone who does enjoy cooking, and, up until recently used to share the task 50:50. Not only is he a good cook, but he's great at baking, too.

I feel fortunate that my kids are growing up in a house where gender roles aren't as defined as they were in our day. Many of our male friends are superb cooks, several far better than their wives, and I think it's brilliant for all of our kids to see that.

On Christmas Day this year we're going to my mum's, so we won't have to cook, though when we do host, my husband does all the work. For cooks, December 25 is arguably the most stressful day of the year, which begs the question why an inexperienced person would decide to undertake the most labour-intensive meal.

But, if they do, give them as much help and encouragement as you can. Cooking is not rocket science, and some men, as well as kids, need to learn that from early on.

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