Laura Miller and the Misogynist WSJ Cookbook Roundup
Laura Miller's recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "A Recipe for Escapism," is a recession-themed cookbook round-up awkwardly grouped by "the inner cravings they cater to," such as "Toxic Nostalgia" and "Southern Fried Schtick." It would be benign enough, if a bit condescending and poorly-researched, if not for the following:
For one segment of the cookbook audience, however, such ruminations on food and feelings hold little appeal. For the sake of convenience, we'll call these people "men."
This is Miller's idea of a transition between two sections: The Cook Next Door — food bloggers' cookbooks — and We Have the Technology — Alton Brown and Grant Achatz. There are, of course, many reasons why assigning each of these two categories a gender is absurd, but let's focus on what is really potentially harmful.
In The Cook Next Door, Miller praises female food bloggers- — "the Bridget Jones of the kitchen" — for their innovative use of new-fangled internet technology to become our "vicarious best friend." That is, these women (and they are all women, from Julie Powell to Molly Wizenberg) keep Miller's interest because they are accessible, imperfect and, most importantly, amateur. No one is going to be threatened by a silly blog, especially not a silly woman's blog about her trial-and-error approach to cooking*.
On the other hand, there are the men-folk who hate feelings and love science. Miller is condescending regarding Alinea, tossing around the usual insults such as "unidentifiable morsels suspended on wires and platters lowered onto pillows that release clouds of perfumed air." Achatz and his compatriots are "nine-year-old[s] holed up in the basement with a chemistry set": boys with toys. Still, notice that they get the exact opposite of the women. These men are ludicrous because the methods are less accessible, complex, sophisticated, and the epitome of professional.
In a round about way that I'm not entirely sure is devoid of contempt for the cookbook medium, Miller is latching onto every gender stereotype to ever worm its way into a kitchen. Men are ridiculous hot shot chef-pirates, and the ladies stay at home and burn the meatloaf because they're too busy updating the twitter. Talk about innovative journalism.
*Please don't think that we share Miller's opinions — Julie Powell and Molly Wizenberg are kick-ass bloggers who deserved their book deals. We're just proving a point.