Thursday, November 6, 2008

National Men Make Dinner Day.

From figleaf comes a link to something called National Men Make Dinner Day.

Whoah! Put on the brakes! Stop right there! Freeze! Ask yourself THIS QUESTION: Are you a man who makes dinner on a regular or semi-regular basis? If the answer is ‘YES”, do not go any further!
National Men Make Dinner Day is NOT for you! May we suggest another website. Something like Its really funny.

No, it's not for me (and no, fark isn't all that funny); I can't remember the last time anyone made dinner for me at my apartment and I didn't at least help. (Probably happened at some point over the last year when I was sick or exhausted and Keri made me something.) But it's arguably for the 18-year-old me who hadn't learned to cook yet, and the 18-year-old me would be really put off by it:

Ok, now since you’ve continued reading, we assume that you are a man who NEVER cooks. And that you fit the profile of the ‘men’ who have inspired this once-a-year occasion. The ideal participant in ‘National Men Make Dinner Day’ is the man who:

helps with household chores
has a sense of humour and is a great all-around guy
loves his wife/girlfriend, kids and pets
…BUT NEVER LEARNED HOW TO COOK, and is somewhat afraid of the idea.

Officially celebrated on the FIRST THURSDAY OF EVERY NOVEMBER, ‘National Men Make Dinner Day’ is for you!!

One guaranteed meal cooked by the man of the house one day of the year!

Okay, maybe it's not exactly for my younger self; back then I was living in dorms and getting my meals through the university cafeteria. I didn't cook much at first because the dorm kitchens weren't very good, and later at St. A's because it was intimidating to share that kitchen with folks who knew a lot more than I did. I certainly wasn't in a live-in het relationship (gay men are born knowing how to cook, apparently) at the time, or anything resembling "the man of the house."

Figleaf argues that this is a good idea, as a way to get past the intimidation factor:

But here's the thing: if, as they say, the day's not for me I think it really is a great idea for men or for that matter *anybody* who's intimidated by cooking.

And here's the other thing: it's pretty clear *they're* not assuming one meal a year *makes up* for anything. They're certainly not saying cook one meal and you've done your part for the year.

Instead it looks like they're talking about helping people get over the intimidation hurdle. Because with even minimal help from partners, family, or friends (i.e. not complaining it's not like dad used to make or getting impatient and saying something like "oh men! Here let me do that") it's *waaay* easier to cook the second, and all subsequent meals, *after* you've cooked the first.

I'm not so sure it's not implying "you've done your part." There's way too large a helping of 50s-style stereotypes in there:

Rule #2: Man agrees to participate in national men make dinner day. Bonus points if he does so without seeking promise of night out with boys in return.

Rule #8: Following recipe carefully, man starts to cook dinner! Apron is optional, tool belt is not allowed. (bonus points if recipe includes one of the following: capers, saffron, or the word 'scallopini').

Rule #12: After meal, table is cleared by man, dishwasher is loaded. Man returns to table for stimulating after-dinner conversation. At this point, man is told how much his meal was appreciated. He, in turn, describes the joys and challenges of the experience. He is given a hug, and his TV remote is returned to him.

This is straight out of a bad sitcom--big strong man, probably played by Tim Allen or whoever's doing that sort of thing now, tries to make some effete dish! (Also, way to assume that they have a dishwasher as well as a spouse.) (Also also, it's probably a bad idea to give saffron to the sort of guy they're talking about.) Seriously, guy cooks one meal and gets lavished with praise (as part of the "rules" of the event, no less)?

If we really want an "intro to cooking" type event, I'd suggest the following:

1. Make it gender neutral. There's no basis for assuming that women are all familiar with the kitchen and men aren't. (Yes, socialization trends that way, but I've known plenty of men who are excellent cooks and plenty of women who live on takeout.)

2. Make it friendly. In their attempt to make things easy for the neophyte chef, the site's tone actually comes across as condescending--which itself can be intimidating.

3. Make it its own reward. The enjoyment should come from the experience and from the end product. (If you want a cookie, bake it yourself.)

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