A woman's place is in the kitchen?



In honour of International Women's Day, we decided to get the (all female) Epigram Food Editorial team together to write some pieces about women, food, inspirations, and what we've still got to fight for in the kitchen...

Jane Cowie, Food Editor

With the coming of International Women’s Day, I stopped to consider: who inspires me? And, in particular, which women most inspire me?

It’s a difficult question, with so many people to choose from. I could choose strong female business women, such as Arianna Huffington, CEO of the Huffington Post, a woman with an extraordinary personality and even more impressive work ethic. I could choose J.K.Rowling, Michelle Obama, Jessica Ennis, the list goes on. To have some focus, I’ll channel my energy in to all things food.

Last year I attended BeFit London, an event that many famous foodies attended. They ran workouts, carried out cooking demonstrations and held Q&A’s. In amongst the crowds scattered the likes of Zanna Van Dijk (with her fellow ‘Girl Gains’ founders), Clean Eating Alice, Madeline Shaw, Grace Fit, and The Food Medic.

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For those who, like me, incessantly scroll through Instagram foodie feeds, watch vlogs and read blogs this was a treat. These bloggers promote healthy, sustainable eating, along with working out to feel the healthiest, happiest version of you.

For a long time, women have been subjected to inordinate pressure regarding the way they look. The expectation of how their body is ‘supposed’ to look changes in flash, according to current trends. Not only does this place too much importance and value on one’s image, it also precipitates the rise of mental health issues. 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, with 89% of those affected being women. This is a truly terrifying reality.

Foodie bloggers attempt to promote healthy values, reject detrimental societal ideals, and empower women to be healthy in mind and body. One who I feel particularly inspired by in Zanna Van Dijk. A personal trainer and global Adidas ambassador, Zanna spends much of her time promoting equality, female empowerment and a positive body image.

The Girl Gains movement she has founded with Tally Rye and Victoria Spence promotes these same messages, and combine food and fitness as a healthy passion, rather than all-consuming obsession. Zanna educates her fans on food, sharing the experience she has had and the macro-split she follows now. Zanna cooks plant based meals for herself, offering a variety of recipes on her vlogs, blogs and Instagram, and when she goes out to eat she mostly opts for the vegetarian option.

Zanna is someone that promotes feeling good about oneself, feminism and equality, optimism and positivity, tackling mental health issues head-on, creating a more sustainable world through food choices and being active in a world that is (terrifyingly) more and more sedentary.

As far as foodies go, I couldn’t think of a better person to inspire me day to day.

Holly Penhale, Deputy Food Editor

Prior to the recent scandal in which the apparent need for lady-friendly snacks – of the deliberately-stale-and-flavourless variety – emerged, one could be mistaken for thinking that food was ungendered and indiscriminate! As it turns out, it’s not just Yorkies that are ‘not for girls!’ It would seem those chunky squares of chocolate and intensely crunchy tortilla chips are too much for our dainty frames to handle after all! It’s a wonder we’ve made it this far with such physically challenging snacks!

On a more serious note, whilst food is not the first thing to spring to mind when discussing feminism, it is certainly not a topic that should be left out of the rhetoric. Historically, a woman’s ‘place’ was thought to be in the kitchen, and it’s a pigeonhole that we have spent centuries trying to escape. However, whilst I am firmly of the belief that a woman’s ‘place’ is wherever she damn well wants it to be, if that place happens to be the kitchen then this is something we should celebrate, and more importantly something that should be celebrated in equal measure to that of her male peers.

Female contribution to the food industry is no small thing, traditional icons like Mary Berry and Nigella Lawson are now being joined by the likes of Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) and the Hemsley sisters in the limelight but the prevalence of male figureheads in the celebrity chef world is still alarming in what should be a gender-neutral industry.

On the Epigram Food editorial team have we have often discussed our frustrations with a lack of male writers, and how this seems at odds with the celebrity chef industry in which women are fighting to keep their place alongside Jamie, Gordon, Heston and now Joe! However, my intention is not to frame this as a battle, or to ‘reclaim the kitchen’ or to promote any other adversarial motive, but simply to stress that food is something which can be and should be enjoyed irrespective of gender and to acknowledge that women are still, and always will be making a considerable impact in the kitchen despite continuing to debunk the myth that that it is our ‘place’.

Sarah Roller, Online Food Editor

'A woman's place is in the kitchen': or so the old saying goes. Apart from the fact that a woman's place is wherever the hell she wants it to be, women can actually cook up a storm equally as capably as their male counterparts. However, much as I have unending respect for the toughness shown by female chefs in high-pressure kitchens, my ‘inspiring’ female foodie goes out to Mary Berry – who else? I have an incredibly sweet tooth, and Mary Berry’s recipes hit the spot perfectly every time. They have never failed me, and believe me that’s quite a feat. Her recipe for malted chocolate cake gets me salivating at the very thought of it. I love her for the fact that she has given credibility to my theory that recipes are just guidelines for cooking. But beyond her culinary skills, she’s a pretty great woman.

Not only is she 82, she’s just so wonderfully, completely with-it. If I live to be 82 and am anywhere near as energetic, lovely and fashionable as Mary Berry, She won the nation’s hearts and stomachs as they watched the Great British Bake Off, and she won my respect too, when she refused to move over to the new Channel 4 series, citing her loyalty to the BBC over an increased pay packet.

And if you didn’t love her enough already, the GIFs she has spawned can’t fail to make you smile. Here’s to you, Mary.

Featured image credit: unsplash / Joshua Newton

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Sarah Roller

Online Food Editor 2017/18, final year History student & enthusiast about pretty much everything except mushrooms.