The ability to navigate a culinary environment with moderate ease is a skill most often associated with those of the female persuasion. By the time a young girl enters the daunting world that is adolescence, she is faced with some expectations. One of these being, learning most, if not all, the skills associated with cookery. However, gone are the years where education was reserved only for those with testosterone while the girls sat idly by, tending to the home and preparing meals for the husband. The stereotypes set in place by the cultural norms of earlier decades have begun to fissure, as more and more women find themselves immersed in the dog-eat-dog world of business. In my personal opinion, I strongly believe with this newfound equality between the forces of testosterone and estrogen, it is imperative that boys and men alike learn how to cook for themselves. The ability to navigate a culinary environment is one of the most important skills any individual, regardless of gender, can possess, because it nurtures an invaluable independence in the individual, ensuring their success as they leave the nest of their parents and enter the real world for the first time.
Nowadays, boys are often dependent on their mothers, older sisters and later on, if they choose to get married, their wives, to cook for them. They grow accustomed to having food readily made for whenever they are hungry and if their meal is a delayed or they happen to miss it, they can get cranky and irritable. A personal example of this occurrence is found in my brother. If more boys were to learn how to cook for themselves, beyond the standard of scrambling eggs and toasting bread, they would not have to endure the wait for their food to be made, as they would be able to make whatever they want to eat and prepare it exactly the way they want it. It was not long ago at all that this was all boys were taught how to make. In his article, “Cooking is Freedom”, Jim Sollisch recollects that, “girls took home economics. Boys took [wood]shop. Girls learned to cook lasagna and bake chocolate cake. I would be learning to use a lathe…”. Mr. Sollisch goes on to say that he preferred lasagna to lathes, but at the time, home economics and woodshop were considered single-gender classes. However, recently, fewer and fewer people in the United States are choosing to get married, so this type of gender-discriminatory thinking would not be as advantageous as it might have been in 1972, as there are now more single U.S citizens than there are married couples, the numbers of which are “far below the seventy-eight percent of households occupied by married couples in 1950” (Tavernise). With so many people choosing to remain single, those who have never had a lick of culinary experience are left with very few choices. I think this could also be related to the country’s growing obesity epidemic as well, as when people have neither the ability nor the will to cook their own food, they turn to fast food to satiate their need for sustenance. In my own personal experience, this can swiftly grow out of control, as well as very costly. Even if someone frequents a McDonald’s for all their meals, that $1.00 menu that once looked so promising quickly begins to add up. I personally do not consider fast food to be conducive to a healthy lifestyle by any means, though that does not mean I will not indulge in it from time to time. However, my first choice before I even consider a stop at a Wendy’s or McDonald’s is finding something somewhat healthier to make. If both genders were required to learn some semblance of the culinary arts, meals would cease to become a source of worry for a lot of people. After all, watching Rachael Ray and other cooking shows will only get you so far. You need firsthand, on-site experience to actually acquire these skills.
A common trait in young boys is their activeness in their preferred outdoor activities. They are often more physically active than girls, and as a study by Liverpool John Moores University found, girls take part in six percent less vigorous playtime activity than boys. As Jim Sollisch states, “after all, I was a 14-year-old boy. I played sports and was constantly working out. I could eat every hour”. I agree with Mr. Sollisch’s statement, as it has been proven that being more physically active is inevitably going to make you want to eat more, as you have the natural impulse to replenish the calories you just burned in your vigorous workout. This leads to another reason why boys should learn how to cook, because if they do not, they will usually spend their money on takeout. But the thing is, after an intense, calorie-burning workout, you do not immediately get a green light to go to town at the nearest Taco Bell as a reward. If more boys, who are more often the ones frequenting the gym, knew how to cook, they would not give into the demand for sustenance, because they would know how to fix their own meals. The purpose of working out is to maintain good health, and in order to get the results you want, it is best to steer clear of the foods you might know and love, which are filled with fat and sugar and instead focus on balancing the workout with “the right combination of protein and carbs”. Cooking your own meals is incomparable to eating takeout, because not only is fast food not good for you and maybe it does taste good, but you have no idea what went into making it and how much of it is just pure fat or sodium. If more boys knew how to cook, then they would be able to make food at home, and they would know exactly what their dish contains and make it healthy for themselves.
Nowadays, it is also fairly common for both spouses to be employed, which leaves the house vacant for the majority of the day. In fact, Liana Sayer notes that, “the widespread entry of women into market work since the 1960s has challenged the presumption that women’s primary adult role is that of caretaker for the home and family…” (1). As such, there is simply no benefit to be had in expecting a hot meal to be ready and waiting when one returns home from a stressful day at the office or wherever you work. However, if both individuals know how to cook, the stress and crankiness that was earlier mentioned that inevitably accompanies the feeling of being hungry can be avoided. Additionally, if both spouses know how navigate the kitchen in a successful manner, instead of one depending on the other for every meal, this would give the other spouse more time to rest and relax, which would make both spouses happier in turn and thus, fewer pointless quarrels can be expected to erupt. After all, not only does knowing how to cook grant an individual with an invaluable sense of independence, but studies have shown that the ability to cook also makes an individual more attractive and desirable to the opposite sex. In fact, Jim Sollisch recollects how he managed to woo his wife, Rique, with the help of his drawer full of spices, as he was “in the process of roasting fragrant Indian seeds – cumin, coriander, fennel, black mustard – when she walked in. I ground them with a mortar and pestle and let her take a whiff. She was mine”. I’m personally not sure about how I would feel about roasted Indian seeds, but I agree with the sentiment that the ability to cook is rather charming. After all, I know how to make my way around a kitchen with little catastrophe taking place, I am by no means a professional. The attractiveness that accompanies being able to maneuver a culinary setting without completely burning the place to the ground is especially true if said individual happens to be courting someone who does not understand the importance of tasting the concoction as it simmers or regularly experience their pizza rolls puking their little tomato paste guts out in the oven and their gingerbread cookies gaining some undesired holiday width while baking. These kinds of culinary mishaps are commonplace, as Jim Sollisch recollects one of his more memorable accidents in the kitchen; “I concluded that if a recipe called for two of something, then those somethings must be pretty uniform in size…so I proceeded to blend in about forty-five cloves of garlic. Lesson learned”. Culinary mishaps like this and many others, many of which I have personally suffered through, could easily be avoided if people of both genders were required to take classes on cooking, and learn proper kitchen-related strategies.
An individual who possesses the skills necessary to traverse a culinary environment and succeed in doing so has many advantages over one who cannot do so. If he or she is a latchkey kid, they do not have to buy food for themselves each time they wish to rid themselves of the nagging pains that accompany hunger. The microwave is, naturally, always a stable option, but nonetheless, they are still capable of throwing something semi-healthy and simple together for themselves. When one is able to cook their own meals, they become independent, and they become able to decide for themselves and their families what it is they wish to eat. Knowing how to cook is an important ability, regardless of gender, because food tastes better when made by skillful hands, and food does not know nor care if the hand preparing it is male or female.
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