Men who can cook

And those who can – and don’t.

Or to put it another way:

Men who can cook, do. Men who can cook, don’t. As for men who can’t cook, they don’t either. Fortunately.

With apologies to George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman):

Bob: I’m so discouraged. My writing teacher told me my novel is hopeless.

Jane: Don’t listen to her, Bob. Remember: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

It’s another of those pesky quotes that has stayed with me over the years. I knew it was someone smart, which usually means Oscar Wilde, Shaw or Noel Coward.

Sadly it also influenced my youthful views of teachers, and I was determined never to become a teacher. To date I haven’t.

I was probably influenced by our appalling physics teacher who confessed in class one day that she did not want to teach at all, she had wanted to be a researcher but hadn’t been accepted. Thereby totally validating the Shaw quote in my mind.

But cooking men are interesting. Back in Sydney I had just moved out of the hostel and in with Partner to a sort of cross between a room and a flat. It was a two bed room with a kitchen section, ie a table and a two ring burner plus grill. The shower was next door in the hall, and the toilet was out in the garden. Not much fun when it was raining and you went just before bedtime. It was obviously a house at one point. The owner lived in the front room, which is why it was more like lodgings.

I came in from work one day and he’d cooked potatoes, veg and the steak. We tended to eat rump steak and lamb chops a lot as they were relatively cheap. Leeks were not. I nearly died when I worked out that two pre-packed leeks cost around a quid back in 1985. I can get three organic ones in Morrisons 27 years later for not much more.

What else we ate is lost in time, pork chops occasionally? Spaghetti bolognaise? There are seven days in a week though and we can’t have eaten the same thing all the time.

Anyway, back to the steak. It seemed it was taking a long time to cook. As we ate our rump steak rare to blue, this was unlikely. I looked at it. Suspiciously.

‘Is this rump?’ I barked.

‘Um.’

‘Well? Looks like stewing steak to me.’

‘No.’

‘What was it called?’

‘It was cheap,’ he beamed. ‘Chuck steak.’

Great.

I took it out, chopped it up, threw some veg in a pan, and we waited an hour or two for the casserole.

He got his revenge though. I bought a chicken and was debating what to do with it.
(We’d moved into a real flat with an oven by then).

‘Roast it,’ he said.

‘I can’t do that.’

In fact I had never cooked a roast meal in my life. The nearest I got to it was being ordered to turn over the beef after 30 or 40 minutes and baste it when my mother had put it in the oven and then gone for a drink with my father.

But roast lamb, pork, chicken? No idea at all. Still haven’t actually.

My partner, however, along with his brothers, had learned to cook every roast under the sun because his mother liked to be waited on had arthritis so found it difficult.

Whereupon he took charge, anointed the chicken with butter and cooked a perfect meal.

A year or so later, back in the UK and at my parents for Christmas Eve, he dished up roast pork. Equally perfect. At which point I think my mother realised what a superb gem I had discovered, as my father’s idea of cooking revolved around a boiled egg, toast and a tin of tomato soup. He did make sandwiches which invariably resembled not just doorsteps, but the walls of Gibraltar.

Some years ago, my partner was in the UK and stopped at his brother’s house. The brother has lived with the same woman for twenty something years. The two bros went off to the supermarket together to buy some veg food for Partner.

Wandering around Tesco, the two were chatting away and catching up on life.

‘Oh by the way, don’t tell L I can cook, she doesn’t know,’ said the brother. He took a jar of hot spicy sauce off the shelf and Partner bought some burgers or something.

Back at the house, he cooked his food, and they ate instant potatoes and some microwave slop. The brother took one spoon out of the chilli sauce and decided it was too hot and passed it to Partner who polished off the lot.

That story fascinates me. There is a man who can cook decent food, living with a woman who can’t, and he has no intention of starting to cook because he knows he would end up doing it all the time. Amazing. He likes an easy life, so he’s prepared to eat shit rather than do the cooking.

Speaking of more women who can’t cook, I was staying with friends from university and she was sick when I arrived. Her partner did the cooking, Coronation Chicken as I remember. It wouldn’t have been my choice. At that point, I hadn’t been to India so hadn’t really got into curry.

It was, however, beautifully presented, well made, and tasty. He did a great job. I went to stay with them some years later, and she was in hospital so he cooked our evening meal. We drank lots of red wine and had some excellent food, can’t remember what, probably due to the red wine. The next night she was better and the food promptly slumped.

One of the few decent meals she ever managed was salmon with hollandaise sauce. That was because when her boyfriend at the time arrived (different one) they cleared off for a bath for an hour or so and left me in charge of the salmon and sauce. I think she cooked the potatoes. Got to laugh at going to stay with someone and being asked to cook. I guess it was a compliment in a way.

We had a teacher friend at one point. He would cook the boys’ meals when they came in from school. Sometimes he would hold formal and informal dinner parties. She would contribute a host of ready-made goodies from Asda eg quiche, hummus, guacamole. He would poach a salmon and make a variety of fresh salads.

The last time I stayed with friends in the UK, both sets of partners shared the cooking.

I’m left wondering if there is still a class issue or an upbringing issue around this. The boring old ‘woman in the kitchen’ syndrome. Do working class men cook? If they do, do they do it occasionally as a grand gesture? Do men choose to cook if they were brought up with a woman consistently cooking good food? Do middle-class/upper-class/professional men not see it as an issue?

I normally cook. I like cooking. When we both worked, it tended to get shared a lot. Who got in first, cooked (preferably not grilling chuck steak). He works, I don’t, I cook. I collapsed in a small heap yesterday afternoon after a 24 hour turn-round journey back to Spain, and there was a casserole ready and waiting with some potatoes. I’d come back from London after business meetings, and the same thing. Always something ready.

My neighbour over the road had a stroke. Her husband said to me one day – ‘I’ve had to learn to cook!’ Apparently he was getting quite good at making soup. I’m not sure if he meant opening tins or cartons, I think he actually meant making it. He’s in his sixties.

What is strange to me, is that in the selection of random examples above, three of the men can cook better than the women and didn’t normally do so. Or in the case of the brother, ever.

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About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in food, friendships, life, musings, thoughts, vegetarian and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Men who can cook

  1. I have some experience in that area and can assure you that at least some of us do it–and like it–just as long as we know we won’t get stuck with it all the time. No–strike that–doing it most of the time is not even the problem. Getting stuck with all the dirty dishes in the wake of an entire family that suddenly…vanishes when fed, is. Oh, and I especially like to cook with rum. Once in a while I even use it as an ingredient :>)

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  2. Well, it’s the men who hold the prestige places in fine dining – why is that, I wonder?

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    • I wonder that too. Because some of the best places we have eaten at were in restaurants where the women cooked. And back to basics, the cooking in spanish bars is often done by ‘a little woman out the back’.

      Men who hold the prestige places in .. everything?

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  3. Totty says:

    My Swiss mother-in-law was a good cook, and taught her son well; he still consults her spidery handwritten notes interleaved in her immense household management/cookery book. She died in the 50s, and by the time J had got himself back to Lucerne from the UK, his half brother and wife had stripped the house of anything of any ‘value’, but had left all her kitchen equipment untouched. We still use much of it today; original Dr Bircher graters for making authentic muesli, an enormous tinned steel mouli for rice potatoes and soups, a large variety of baking tins and cast iron pans that would break a foot if dropped.

    Now we are retired we have a simple system for cooking. He always cooks breakfast, whoever gets hungry first cooks lunch, and we generally alternate cooking in the evening, with a few exceptions, such as when we have steak or fish or anything that requires the short perfectly timed treatment; that is my department. He is in charge of everything else, his favourite being anything that requires 35 different ingredients and a bottle of wine…

    We never did tell his half brother that there was a full set of solid silver cutlery hidden in the bottom of the bread bin…

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    • My mother had some hand-written recipes too, although not many.

      As for her – one – cast iron pancake pan, she must have chucked it out. But not to worry, as I bought lots of my own later. I did inherit a fair few Le Creuset pans from her though, so all was not lost.

      He cooks breakfast too. If I’m hungry at the same time, he will cook mine, otherwise I have brunch which can be anything.

      I tend to do lunch, and if he is working an evening meal, otherwise I’ll make salad of whatever. Last night I made soup that he didn’t want, potatoes and salad that he did. As you say, simple, and what works for us. I tend to be the 35 ingredient bottle of wine cook though.

      There was not!!

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  4. I really enjoyed that. My niece’s husband is a very inventive cook and a blooming good one. Honestly, if you saw him he is the epitome of the ‘Heavy Metal’ musician. (He’s in a HM band) but put him in the kitchen and he’s as happy as Larry. I always say men make the best cooks, hairdresser, interior designers. And make-up artists. πŸ˜€

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    • Thanks Jessie. It started off as part of a different post and I thought it merited its own. My brother-in-law is the classic I think, can cook perfectly well (like my partner) and chooses not to, prefers to eat rubbish. Unbelieveable – to me. Closely followed by my university friends, she’s never been able to cook well (thinks she can) whereas he just has a flair for it but only cooks when she’s not available.

      I think it is slightly bizarre. In a relationship you do what suits and what fits. The expectation that women cook because that is their role in life, strikes me as outmoded and stupid (particularly when they can’t cook well).

      As for creativity, maybe they are all left-handed. My best hairdressers have always been Spanish women. My partner is good on interior design but that’s cos he works in it anyway. I wouldn’t say gender determines creativity, rather, a lot of other factors.

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  5. cobbies69 says:

    I started off as a chef, but health stopped me pursuing it, but I do all the cooking or most of it and do generally enjoy it. My mother was an excellent cook she did it f or a living cooking for private parties and theme nights. She taught me to bake cakes and decorate them, this was my aim but as I say health issues stopped me.. πŸ™‚

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    • Oh that’s a shame 😦 sorry to hear that Gerry. I enjoy cooking. I used to stick to recipes but these days, I have an idea in mind about what I want to eat and just make it. yesterday’s soup was cauliflower, and I added some courgette and an apple that needed using up. Figured the flavours would work.

      My mother baked cakes and her mother before her (grandma did bread too) but as I don’t have a sweet tooth it’s not my thing. Never made a decent scone in my life!!

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  6. Vicky says:

    I think a lot of the ‘can cook, but won’t cook’ with men is age related.
    Years ago, women stayed at home and were housewives and men worked, they expected a meal on the table at the end of the day.
    I never fell into that stereotype, but T did, which caused no end of arguments between us.
    Eventually T started cooking, which he excelled at, and now I can’t keep him out of the kitchen, and I’m chief bottle washer πŸ˜‰

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    • Totally agree with the mentality. Laughing at the arguments between you both, sorry πŸ˜€

      Ours was usually, who gets in first, cooks. And of course, I had my nice organised menus for the week list, so we all knew what to cook on what day!

      I’m not too good at washing up. Tends to be A’s area rather than mine. I’m still a bit in charge of the kitchen thing, I like to think I can do it better πŸ˜€

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  7. EllaDee says:

    Another post from you I enjoyed luxuriorating in πŸ™‚
    There’s an old saying I heard somewhere… “never admit you can cook or type…” I’m grateful to be self sufficent at both but I’m not a star so it’s unlikely my life would be consumed by doing either for someone else.
    The G.O. is a adequate cook but he considers me ‘foodie’ so is a bit [conveniently?] daunted I think.That said, he makes great mashed potatoes inc peeling the spuds, will cook whatever I want on the bbq at TA, and is a much better washer upper than me… I’m an adequate washer upper… so we muddle along.
    And yes, whoever cooks does not wash up.
    All the men in my family can, and do cook. I think they have my grandmother to thank for that. Even though their wives are perfectly good cooks, they like to cook and be a bit adventurous… cooking meat & 3 veg every night for the fam I think killed a lot of cooking adventurousness in women of that era.
    I thought it was lovely that you came home to a Partner cooked dinner… and I’m truly a little envious. I take heart though that even now, the G.O. is mellowing and changing… there’s hope for me yet πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks. Yes, I remember the typing one too. Or you will forever be labelled as someone’s secretary. But of course, growing up in journalism/PR, everyone typed. It was only later when you realised it could be a disadvantage to type quickly and accurately.

      Ha! I’m so crap at washing up, so we sound like mirror images there. And with the cooking too. I do it differently to him, as Tottie said above I am more the 35 ingredients type, but still, whenever he cooks I appreciate it, especially after travelling.

      All the men in my (pre Partner) family didn’t cook that I knew about. Too many intimidating good women cooks. But as society changes, so do attitudes, and I discovered a few years ago that both my uncle and my older cousin on my mum’s side were perfectly happy cooking. And cleaning. And everything really.

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  8. bluonthemove says:

    My mother was a dreadful cook. By the time I was eating adult food, she’d learn’t how long a leg of lamb, leg of pork or chicken took to roast, and that was her repertoire. She would put raw unpeeled potatoes in with the meat such that the resultant roasties were harder to break into than Fort Knox. Vegetables were boiled to a sure and certain death, usually in the pressure cooker.

    It was such a shame as we had a maid 6 days a week, who was French and an excellent cook. However she was banned from cooking or teaching us children the French language.

    My father was no cook either, soon after mother’s death I found him putting two eggs on to the kettle element, then boiling it. It was before the days of the ones that switch themselves off. However his cooking skills developed and within a few years he was having dinner parties for some of his golf/bridge buddies.

    I cook, but then the alternative would be starvation. Quite adventurous, enjoy all sorts of Asian foods. I look at cook books in the shops, to get an idea of flavours that go together but never follow recipes.

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    • How fascinating about your mother. Now we had roast potatoes in from raw too (I par-boil them and fluff them with a fork) but they were always cooked, even though our meat was rare. Perhaps your mum didn’t cut them to the right size? Overboiled veg are vile. My mum used to do the salt with the veg thing until my father and I complained, so that soon stopped.

      Biggest laugh was my MiL (appalling cook) who insisted on cutting those stupid crosses in brussell sprouts and then boiling the hell out of them. Sheer slop.

      So what did the maid do? !! A maid who could cook, speak French – and just cleaned? !!

      My dad was obviously ahead of yours as he used a pan to boil his eggs in.

      I cook because I can and I think it is better than pre-made meals – and fresher, and cheaper etc. I’m more adventurous these days, and I’ve learned a lot from my partner.

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  9. I’m not sure what point you are trying to make here. The post seems rather sexist. I am sure the ‘can cook, won’t cook’ issue applies each way in equal measures!

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    • Ha! I’m not rising to your sexist allegations.

      My point arose out of thinking about my brother-in-law who can cook equally as well as my partner and chooses not to, preferring to eat crap food. Then I thought about the men who can cook better than the women, the ones who share the tasks and skills equally, but yet, in most cases there is a societal expectation that women are still expected to cook for most of the time. Now that is sexist.

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      • Apologies for trolling.
        Actually, I am sure you are right and there are left over stereotypes of man/woman relationships. Men chop wood, women cook! I hasten to add however that since retirement then in this household I do about 80% of the cooking and chop the wood!

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        • I didn’t say you were trolling, just that it wasn’t a sexist post. Merely observations about who could and did cook, and who couldn’t and didn’t and who couldn’t and sadly did!

          We all have the stereotype relationships. He always mowed the lawn and still trims back the shrubs with the strimmer. I normally clean, iron. He hangs out the washing. He chops wood too πŸ˜€ And does any construction and mechanical work. I sit there with the manual telling him what to do! I do paperwork. He cooks rice and pasta.

          I think most couples find their own level. But some still live on the old stereotypes and that was part of my point. If men can cook, and well, and a woman can’t, why on earth would you expect her to do it?

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  10. angryricky says:

    I think our gender training is not as strong in the area of cooking as it once was. Many men enjoy cooking and do it a lot; I don’t think anyone likes being expected to do anything all the time, even if it’s something he likes to do.

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    • I think it has improved, and it’s not just cooking, it’s the whole aspect of household related chores and tasks. And you can split them further into drudgery chores and ‘creative’ chores, eg cooking is clearly creative, as (IMO) is gardening – but others would argue. Cleaning and ironing are def drudgery, but I actually like ironing (she says looking at an unironed pile of clothes in a heap).

      Cooking is so fundamental to existence though (unlike ironing), so you might as well enjoy what you eat, which is why I find it difficult to understand why people are happy to eat what to me, is neither tasty nor nutritious.

      Yesterday for example, i’d cooked some burgers and salad for brunch. Then I started doing some extremely tedious cleaning, and when we were discussing the next meal – which I had no intention of starting to cook while cleaning – he just got on with it. The stereotype image of household tasks would be that I was expected to cook when I had finished cleaning.

      I don’t think it is just gender training though. It’s also the environment, class, society you grow up in, and what is accepted as a cultural norm within that. And life has changed so much that most families need double income earners (when they can get jobs that is) which has probably contributed as much as anything to the more flexible approaches some couples take.

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      • angryricky says:

        Yes, I was reading an article on wives who outearn their husbands a few years ago, and it pointed out that in the United States, lower income families are more likely to rely on two incomes, and the men are becoming more likely to share household chores. Forty years ago, men doing chores were almost all educated and securely middle class. Now, even working-class high-school dropouts are likely to wash clothes and cook food.

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        • Thanks for that comment. It’s interesting to hypothesise – and even better to get it reinforced! And even in middle class families, people often have two incomes. I always earned more than my partner in the UK, but he’s earned more in Australia, Spain and here in Gib (although that last one isn’t difficult as I can’t get a job).

          I think you are right about the men doing chores years ago. My partner was probably an exception learning to do everything as a kid, but the reason for that was that his mother developed severe arthritis in her 30s. Worked out well for me though πŸ™‚

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          • angryricky says:

            My mother insisted that we learn how to do things, so by the time I was fifteen I could wash my own clothes, cook my own food, and clean my own house. It took a few more years before I was actually motivated to do these things, but I had the training. Jennie was grateful for it.

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          • I think that’s pretty sensible, after all, everyone really should learn what are very basic skills. I knew how to put clothes in the washing machine, was crap (still am) at washing by hand, could cook fancy french food (but not roasts πŸ˜€ ), managed to dust and vacuum – but wasn’t too fond of it. Just had a conversation with my partner who accused me of not learning to clean. My reply – ‘I did, I just didn’t like it.’ Him – ’27 years and now you tell me the truth.’ As he looked at the dusty furniture and the floor that needs mopping .. and .. and.

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