Recently out was an article in Arre by Gobshite McWhinePalooza which had the teasing headline, ‘Sexism in the Kitchen’. It put forth the notion, very delicately, that one time, he had tried nicely to make his grandma a birthday lunch as an eight-year-old, and she had shooed him out of the kitchen for being a boy.
This enormous trauma resulted in our man being incapable of setting foot in the kitchen again except to heat up his gastronomic amulet Maggi, with a side helping of nazar-na-lago in chicken sausage. Our protagonist keens with angst as he chops up garlic to put into his pan with the sausages (sometimes). He succumbs, a fit of strong manly tears dripping into whatever khaana he is currently destroying, and says to his lady, “I can’t do this anymore. You will have to cook, and manage the kitchen, delegation and execution. Unless you want to eat my completely shite cooking.”
In his childhood, both of his arms had been cut off at the elbow, and on one hand was attached a large foam lobster claw, and on the other, a baby grand piano. Waving his monstrous arms at each other, the lobster claw thwacking mutely at his girlfriend’s face while the piano spills a scream of notes, he shouts, “My grandmother never! Let! Me! Cook!!! She let my LITTLE SISTER COOK! FOR the BIRTHDAY LUNCH that I wanted to make her!! I THINK. I’m NOT sure because I was shooed out of the kitchen and presumably my younger sister was not, resulting in MY LOBSTER CLAW AND BABY GRAND PIANO HANDS, BLEEDING INTO THIS GARLIC. I wish I could overcome my traumatic childhood and its legacy to be the bare minimum partner that women in the twenty first century deserve, but you know you wouldn’t want to make that sacrifice, probably. Because you wouldn’t want to eat the food of my MONSTER HANDS.”
Presumably his girlfriend is at this point unimpressed, but by virtue of living in a sea of male failures, has to make allowances for the indignity of man, as must we all. Girlfriend, I see you. I see the shitty pat on the back your love thinks he deserves as he masturbates furiously into his Maggi, slapping its face and calling it boiled cardboard in one breath and splooging seasoning into his saucepan the next. I can almost hear him mutter, “You’re the only thing I know I can count on,” looking deep into the Maggi’s eyes. I can see in his sweet boys-will-be-boys face how he must fondle his boiled eggs, crooning, “You’ve never let me down, baby. You’re so easy. You always taste so good.”
Insaniyat and insanity have only a flimsy vowel to keep them apart, and is it any wonder that men have driven us all slightly mad.
To cover the facts: sexism in the kitchen, is very much one that has privileged men. It has allowed them to live lives outside the kitchen – some of them have used this to build huge legacies that the business of managing a kitchen would have severely impeded both in time and focus. Others have leveraged it to come home from their pedestrian, mediocre lives, put their feet up on the table, look into their newspaper and affectionately call out, “Babe, what’s for dinner?”
The kitchen, our beloved beta says, is a place he has been disbarred from. In this land, women swan in and out of its magical doors. If he had been writing a novel rather than an article, maybe he would have talked in private, hushed tones about kissing his lover’s fingertips and being intoxicated by the scent of kothmir lining her skin, the tadka smoke he will release from her hair when he opens it. Alas, if a woman writes it, this will happen with a harried expression of absent fondness as she brings to mind the thing she is so good at – making f***ing lists of kaunsi bhaji khattam ho gayi hai.
“So kind, so kind,” she will say to him in this universe, “for you to not inflict the fucking embarrassing incompetence you are clearly incapable of doing anything about as a grown ass fucking man, on me, by making me have to do it instead.
It’s a thing of particularly ripe irony – the poor girl must do the cooking, and also be grateful for it. She must do the work, and be grateful for the kindness her man is bestowing on her by refusing to do the work.
In the age of the Toxic Woke Bro, you see, you’re not just allowed to say “Bitch make me a sandwich.” You have to have guilt about feeling it. You have to have guilt about thinking it. You have to channel this guilt into the nearest available female to bear and to acquit you of it. Because of course, she has to understand why you felt it. How you are, inevitably and always, part of the patriarchy. You can see it. You can quote Beauvoir at it. Poor you.
We are living in 2018, where the idea of sexism in the kitchen being a system failure among the absolute highest in destroying the lives of women and empowering those of men has been established. Yet our little chunnu boy can come to us, pull our apron strings and say, “My grandmother cooked for me my entire life. My significant other probably will continue to do so. Look at this – is it not a case of SEXISM? Look at how I have been marginalised by not being able to comprehensively signal the fact that I am the Wokest of Bros! I wouldn’t mind eating Maggi forever, and the only reason I have to care about this business about developing basic habits of responsible adults is because I have to look at myself in a mirror, and see a man who cannot cook! Even if he wants to! And the worst part – what if everyone else sees that too?”
I feel like these boys woke up one morning, and found that in order to live up to their idea of decent in their heads, they had to suddenly become something else, and their idea of how this would be done, was to just decide to do it. Not actually do it. Just decide. As though deciding to be a better person, that arbitrary impulse was stronger than a lifetime of privilege past and present, stronger than systemic structural constructs that define the foundations of how humanity has functioned and seeped into every single aspect of being alive – they thought that because they just realised, that would be enough, no? It should be enough that he wants to cook for his beloved – can he help it that he can’t? That he wasn’t equipped for this? That he cut his finger?
If you kiss the booboo it makes it go away.
Would that it were that easy. For better or for worse, we want our boos to stay.
While we’re feeding their stupid faces, provide the dessert for ego. Perhaps say, “Yes, your grandmother. Of course you can’t cook now. You never had the chance to learn. It really is her fault. You know what this was? Sexism. You’re a victim of sexism. Chal baby, tomorrow we’ll go and get that Sanjeev Kapoor book that hurt you so much and we’ll face it together. When you cook na, kuch bhi banao, I will eat it because I love you. And if you don’t want to make, koi na, main hoon na? Do you think I’d let you go hungry? A 2018 girl like me?”
I think about how Kapoor, a man who is a world famous cook, is the only reference this poor boy can consider as a means to exit his prison of experiential ignorance. Of course, his grandmother and lady love won’t be up to scratch, despite doing it for his entire life.
I like to think of hummus, a dish made of pulverising chickpeas into nearly liquid, in a time before electric mixers, and who had to do it. I wonder how long it took. I think about hamara desi masala, a million hard dried spices ground to dust on rock by a single human. Not always a single human though – my aunts used to take turns doing it when they were eight and ten respectively. “You do ten rounds, and then I’ll do ten rounds.” If they didn’t, their mother, my grandmother, wouldn’t be able to manage to make a good lunch for a family of seven because she was too busy also beloing fifty rotis for every meal.
But not to make it personal, okay – I’m sure if she wanted to she could manage with Maggi, chicken sausages and boiled eggs. Grandmothers, right? Sexism in the kitchen.
Naomi Clarette Barton tweets at @la_d0nna_mobile and blogs here.