Gender food, if you didn’t know, is a legitimate area of culinary history research and scholarly papers. I touch on it in Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? I thought it was important, in following the paper trail for sociable bridge. That trail led to old cookbooks and women’s magazines because that’s almost only paper trail I found. And that led to Laura Shapiro’s Perfection Salad, a classic of food history. It is widely available in libraries and the book to read if you want to know more.
In 2007, there was actually a weekend of seminars and speakers at Radcliffe for a conference titled Women, Men and Food–Putting it on the Table at which Laura Shapiro spoke. Who knows, perhaps that Wall Street Journal article will catch the eye of a culinary historian and there’ll be a scholarly paper some day–as a sub, sub, sub topic of gender food–on Ladies Bridge Lunch?
There’s another book on food history I quote in my book by Jessamyn Neuhaus, with this intriguing title: Manly Meals & Mom’s Home Cooking. Neuhaus questions the concept of gender food and writes of the role of cookbooks themselves in creating a myth.
All I know is anecdotal.
When I think about lunches I’ve offered over past decades–if for women the menu will be quite different from what I would serve to a mixed group of men and women. It’s a
kind of unconscious “acceptance” of a clutch of menus that I somehow know will please the ladies!
Chicken salad with fruit or tomato aspic; a creamy seafood dish served in pastry or as a filling for crepes or in a quiche with lemon-lime tart aspic recipe. Things like that.
I remember the first ever holiday party I gave on Christmast Eve of 1949, after getting married and moving to Corte Madera, California. I’d made a mold of tomato aspic as part of a buffet supper. In the center in a small bowl to fit was an avocado dressing to go with it. Abundance of avocados in California was a new treat for me. And it was presented on a huge round platter, with watercress, and some garnishes. NOT ONE MAN PRESENT WOULD TOUCH IT!
Were we all brainwashed by cookbooks having convinced our mothers and grandmothers that only women want to eat jellied molds no matter how attractive? Culinary history tells us that women were some how convinced in the 19th century there were ladylike and unladylike foods. But today women will eat everything, seems to be just men who–perhaps scared off by that “real men don’t eat quiche” of a few years ago–stick to “manly meals.”
I certainly know women as well as men I’ve shared a pizza with for lunches OUT. But I can’t imagine that if I still planned lady’s bridge luncheons at home–I’m too old to do that anymore–I would send out for pizza.