A couple of Y&H’s favorite foodies, Kim O’Donnel at A Mighty Appetite and Lynne Rossetto Kasper from The Splendid Table, have been harrumphing recently about the sexist connotation of “gastrosexual,” a word that practically has more definitions than “set” or “run” or “dick” (small “d” version). The definition that has these fine foodies up in arms is this one, according to Urban Dictionary, that OED of the online word:
“Gastrosexual Men who use their culinary skills to impress their friends and potential love interests.” (Don’t ask Y&H why this word is capitalized, as if it were the proper name of a department store where men could shop for all their gastrosexual needs.)
The definition they downplay, however, is the more telling one:
“Gastrosexual [There’s that damn cap letter again.] A man who sees cooking as a hobby and not just a chore. Deeply passionate about analysis and innovation and creativity in cuisine.”
This definition, in other words, has little to do with sexism and everything to do with the still-lingering idea that male chefs—-despite a long, long, long history of men as cooks—-might as well wear a tutu in the kitchen. There’s a contingent of males out there who haven’t watched Iron Chef , read Kitchen Confidential, or learned to equate cooking with 12-inch knifes, scars, and butchering large bloody carcasses. They still think of a chef as Felix Unger in an apron, trying to explain the difference between spaghetti and linguine to the big bad brutes around him.
The term “metrosexual” was created as a way to describe men, both gay and straight, who were interested in satisfying their own pleasures, whether shopping, dressing, clubbing, or getting their hair done. The term, of course, was particularly helpful to marketers who wanted to target straight men without suggesting they were (gasp!) feminine or gay. Suddenly, there was a whole sub-genre of American males, heterosexuals who could shop their brains out without fear of being denied entry to the country club. The self-denying man of the ’50s was dead.
Gastrosexual is obviously an extension of metrosexual. It de-stigmatizes the idea of straight men who love to cook. It tells them that they aren’t Felix Ungers. Frankly, I think the term is both unnecessary and infantile; it assumes that men are still afraid of aligning themselves with a skill, an art even, that is nurturing, satisfying, loving, and passionate—-that they still need a term to distance themselves from these touchy-feely emotions.
Folks, can we please grow up as a culture?
Frankly, if I were O’Donnel and Kasper, I’d revel in the fact that no one needs to apply a new word to women who love to cook or love to cook for others, seduction or not. It’s just part of the female DNA. I wish it were considered part of the male DNA.
Photo by Tracy Hunter