Yesterday I learned a new term on Grub Street: “food dude”, or “doodie." Apparently, a food dude “Has Heat or Fergus Henderson's Complete Nose to Tail on his bookshelf. Can sustain a remarkably long conversation about knives. Is super into his grill. Likes pour-over coffee. Is, at this moment, really excited about ramps.”
And, crucially, the food dude is male.
Hey, that could be me! I’ve cured and smoked my own bacon. I’ve got ramps in my fridge right now (and I’m pretty juiced about it). I’ve got more than three kinds of ice cube (and sphere!) molds for cocktails. And coffee? Let me tell you about some cuppings I’ve attended.
But please don’t call me a food dude. Because the food dude is an asshole. Let’s go down the list:
He never puts out snacks even though dinner won’t be ready for five hours. Asshole.
He publicly declares that his ex-girlfriend “fancied herself a good cook…But I was better." Asshole.
He yells “Where is my motherfucking Microplane?!” Asshole.
He describes his cooking as “not like when women cook, in terms of nurturing someone." Asshole.
He is “‘always sort of correcting’ his wife when they cook together." He cooks what he wants, when he wants, with no regard for the needs and desires of others. What an asshole!
The food dude is nothing new. He’s just a jerk who learned to cook. He’s taken what could be a force for good—feeding loved ones well—and made it into yet another thing that he can claim to be better at than his wife or girlfriend. (Apparently, food dudes are all heterosexual, too.)
Here’s what the food dude doesn’t do: He doesn’t spend his Sunday afternoon planning practical dinners for the week; he doesn’t make sure there’s milk in the fridge; he doesn’t make something the baby is going to eat. He might as well be building train sets in the basement. Even for people like us who love doing it, getting dinner on the table is, among many other things, a chore. And guess who’s doing the chores at Food Dude’s place? Women.
I know what I’m talking about because I have been asked, politely, if it’s really necessary to have bacon, cheese, and cream in a Tuesday night dinner. I have spent twenty minutes making a seven-ingredient cocktail when I know my wife just wants a whiskey sour, like, now. This doesn’t make me a terrible guy, but I wouldn’t brag about it either.
These days it’s cool for men to cook. More and more of us are doing it, which is great, except that this trend isn’t always leading to a more equal division of labor at home. Men, women, jerks, normals—we can all enjoy obsessing over elaborate projects, but that’s not the only measure of a cook. A great cook can make something exceptional out of two or three simple ingredients. A great cook can make a satisfying meal in half an hour from what’s left in the pantry. And the most pleasurable part of cooking isn’t the glory of topping yourself or your peers, it’s making people full and happy.
The food dude is an illusion. We can all enjoy braising hulking cuts of meat. Let's just be kind to one another and do it ahead of time. No one wants to eat dinner at midnight.