When I close my eyes and picture my mother in my head, I almost always see her in the kitchen. See, she has always been a housewife and did lots of work in the house all day, but her personal kingdom was always the kitchen. My father, on the other hand, I always picture him in the living room, watching TV or reading newspapers. The only times he’s ever been inside the kitchen are probably the meal times.
But this kind of task division in a household has always been the most common type in traditional Turkish families, even in some of the more progressive, or modern ones today. Seeing a woman, a wife, a mother, in the kitchen, is so usual and ordinary that what she does is most of the time taken for granted. But when the man, the father cooks, and he cooks well, it is a great thing, a celebration; when he cooks, he does his special thing, whatever that is, on special occasions etc. “Oh and he can cook!” When you’re seeing a man and he cooks well and he cooks for you, this is a perfect “uuuuu” moment when you tell that to your girlfriends.
And we kind of see this reflected in the professional level: we see male chefs being the stars of gastronomy where women are most of the time hidden cooks. The Goddesses of Food documentary, which is part of DocPoint Festival in Helsinki this week, tackles with this issue and looks for those innovative female chefs, sous-chefs etc. who are changing people’s lives through food, while it also tries to find out why men are so much in the front row in that profession.
Surprisingly, it is a question many people are unconsciously aware of, but have never really asked themselves. Why didn’t life in the most traditional sense with the most traditional roles of men and women in households transfer to the professional life? It’s not that women started to become chefs only in the last few years or something. There have been many women in restaurant business since early 20th century. The movie gives quite good examples of that. But as some people interviewed in the movie say, most of the time women preferred to do their thing and thought that this would be enough to be recognised. Men, on the other hand, has done a lot of marketing – and also, the professional food world mostly rises on other men’s hands.
Now I will be honest here. I have never been a fine dining person. I don’t like the presentation of food in fine dining. I feel very uncomfortable in this kind of restaurants. My perfect eating date is not in one of these restaurants, but more like in a little, cosy local one instead. Even some street food together is better. But that’s just me of course, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the work. On the contrary, I have the highest respect for chefs all around the world. It’s just that fine dining is not really my cup of tea.
That’s why I don’t know for example the names of the most famous chefs in Finland. I know just a few, like Richard McCormick or Sami Tallberg. I quite like McCormick’s food and his entrepreneurial spirit. And yet, as we can see, my limited knowledge of chefs also show the male side of this world.
However, many people I’ve met here in Helsinki who have been more or less interested in food, like bloggers, like food journalists and writers, have been women. I remember that when I was working in Turkish Culture and Tourism Office here, we made a workshop in a Turkish restaurant (owned by two Turkish guys!) about mezzes for about 10 Finnish journalists. They were all women and some of them became my friends later on. Some of them interviewed me when my blog started to be known. In the discussions with these women, there was always a side of the food that I love most – the biggest reason why I am full-time doing a food business today: the stories of food and the social and cultural sides of it.
What I liked a lot about this movie is that it doesn’t force you to see the things. Instead, it introduces you to these amazing women and through their stories you make your own point of view. They are truly changing the world in their own unique ways and they are showing the possibilities you have when you have food as your material. As a food blogger and entrepreneur myself, I very much got inspired by their stories and felt more excited to go even further in my own business. Certainly, at its core, the movie is asking a huge, important question, the issue of gender differences in this world. I think, in the end, it’s all about changing the mindset. The world needs to stop taking a woman cooking in a kitchen for granted. Just because of traditional gender roles taught us that way, it doesn’t mean that food becomes creative only when a man does it. Just look at the amazing chefs, activists, sommelières, sous chefs featured in this movie, and you will see: One, two, three, Women!
(You can see The Goddesses of Food as part of Docpoint Festival this week on 31.1. and on 4.2. For more info about the movie and screening times, click: https://docpointfestival.fi/en/tapahtumat/films/the-goddesses-of-food/)