The 21st century cook is well-dressed, with iPhone in hand (to read through the recipe), peppy music playing in the background, excited about the task at hand. And male.
There has been a massive upsurge in the number of men who’ve taken on cooking duties in the last few years. A large part of that credit goes to the different social media platforms that allow everyone to put their creations out there. Our timelines are proof of that – they have been flooded with culinary creations – many good, some better left forgotten.
It has long since been a popular paradox that more home cooks are women while most professional chefs are male, so it’s reassuring to see this trend challenge the status quo. To find out more about this trend on social media, #QueMag spoke with clinical and behaviour psychologist, H’vovi Bhagwagar, who runs her private practice, Manashni, in Mumbai.
Social media is flooded with photos of food creations, in turn making it more acceptable to cook.
Add A Pinch Of Social Media
In the last 10 years, social media has become such an integral part of our lives that it’s hard to think of a time when it wasn’t. But for all the complaints that we have about the all-pervasive nature of social media, it would be remiss of us to not acknowledge just how much it has helped to break down numerous social taboos.
The ease with which you can capture a moment and share it with a massive audience has made it very easy for men who’ve taken up cooking to share their achievements with their friends and family. Cue the flood of #foodstagram posts which capture every culinary adventure that a new chef embarks on.
And as much as people hate to admit it, validation is a big part of whether you stick with something new. New haircut? Better check what other people think of it. New outfit? Let’s see what other people say. It’s no different for cooking – being paid a compliment for your efforts on social media can be just what you need to go back into the kitchen and try creating something else that’s worthy of praise. “Social media has a huge role to play. Men like accolades, so if any hobby gives them this, then it is attractive,” H’vovi confirms.
However, posting pictures of your gastronomical successes on social media serves one other purpose as well…
Competition Is The Best Seasoning
Men are competitive by nature; it’s built into our DNA. “The need to compete is much higher in men due to the male hormone testosterone which is aligned with aggression and competition,” says H’vovi.
There’s something very primal about being able to put bread on the table and in this case that’s quite literally what we’re doing! Being able to show off our kitchen creations on social media offers us one more venue to compete with our friends. “Any place where men can feel high-drive energy and the competitive spirit typically will make them try more of any activity- be it sports or cooking,” says H’vovi. The ability to compete on this level, without the fear of being judged by others, makes it far more likely that men will choose to turn to the kitchen as the site of their latest proving grounds.
How else do you explain the massive corresponding surge in popularity of competition-based cooking shows such as Masterchef and Top Chef over the last ten years, especially among the male demographic? In fact, in many homes, the daily viewing of these shows has become something of a family affair, with both husband and wife paying equal attention to the goings-on. “These shows have made it more acceptable for men to cook and not be laughed at, especially by their own counterparts. Men swapping recipes has become part of party talk and no one takes digs at men who cook any more thanks to the competition angle,” says H’vovi.
Shows such as Masterchef portray cooking as an ultra-competitive sport, making it easier for men to get involved.
Strain Out Any Gender Stereotypes
The definition of manhood is constantly evolving in today’s world. There is no longer one specific way to be a man. Being able to provide for yourself and your family, in the capacity of a cook, is a truly rewarding experience.
The media and society itself have begun to show men in a different light. Men in movies are macho while also being sensitive and they know how to take care of themselves and others. The line that separated ‘man things’ and ‘woman things’ has thankfully become increasingly blurred recently.
“Defined gender roles have been part of Asian culture since the Aryan age. We can’t completely do away with it. However, with advent of social media, men doing household chores or women earning big bucks has become a lot more common, especially in the age group of 25-40,” says H’vovi.
And it’s about time.
Because we’re tired of hearing that only women belong in the kitchen. As the old joke goes, “Women belong in the kitchen. Men belong in the kitchen. Everyone belongs in the kitchen. The kitchen has food.”
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