Commentary

Pro Chefs Balance Work and Family in the Kitchen

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

On Thanksgiving, cooking the feast remains women's work for those who get paid top dollar and for those who do it without pay. Could it be because the holiday is really about maintaining relationships? Also, thousands in Mexico protest unsolved murders.



Courtney Febbroriello

(WOMENSENEWS)--As a restaurant co-owner with a chef for a husband, I already knew that most male chefs sit back and enjoy their turkey without lifting a knife unless they are working during the holiday. Tales of the 900 turkeys frantically cooked at restaurants past are flung throughout the living room like war stories at my in-laws' house, where all three sons are chefs and my mother-in-law prepares and serves the traditional meal.

I guiltily sit there too while she insists on doing everything herself. I probably should make more of an effort to help, but I spend a good portion of my time waiting on tables at our restaurant. The thought of doing it on a rare day off is unappealing, even if it is a holiday.

I wish my husband and two brother-in-laws would cook the meal together and we could all just eat standing in the kitchen like we do every other day, but it seems that female home cooks don't want to give up the pleasures of feeding family on Thanksgiving.

I believe it's ironic that professional male chefs have achieved such success in magazines and television but they still haven't earned a place in the warm Thanksgiving kitchen. And even though women have accomplished so much in restaurant kitchens they still have to act as dishwashers instead of lounging on the couch.

Tradition in the Pro Kitchen

Claire Criscuolo, chef co-owner of Claire's Corner Copia in New Haven, Conn., and author of three books on vegetarian cooking, agrees. Her restaurant is closed for the holiday and until recently she hosted 20 to 24 people in her home every year.

"I love to cook for Thanksgiving," she says. "It's not like work. It's small cooking. It is refreshing to prepare dinner for a small group." Claire's Thanksgiving menu has been mostly traditional, with "little twists" like broccoli rabe with grape tomatoes and cranberry stuffing with limes or blood oranges. The largest difference in her meal was the lack of turkey but no one seemed disappointed with the tofu-filled acorn squash she used to serve instead. After the meal Claire found that her brothers would take the traditional nap while the women of the house cleaned up.

"This was the only holiday the men took off," she says. "Every other holiday they were the first to get up to help. My brother even hosts brunch Christmas Eve every year." I wondered why Claire doesn't serve a Thanksgiving meal anymore and she told me that her nephew's schedule made it hard for the family to get together.

"I also discovered a better Thanksgiving tradition," she whispered. "My husband and I go to the spa."

Annie O'Hare, chef of the Lenox Room in New York, spends her holiday in the kitchen of the restaurant. This year she will be serving a traditional, three-course Thanksgiving menu with a choice of five appetizers, five entrees, and five desserts for $48.00 per person. The restaurant is expecting 250 people with more than half enjoying the turkey entree.

Annie doesn't get a chance to celebrate with her family since she seems to always be on the schedule for Thanksgiving and she doesn't have time to reschedule the holiday on a different day like some chefs have been known to do. But the Lenox Room makes the day special for her by serving the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and all the other side dishes to the entire staff just prior to service. All of the wait staff, kitchen staff, and managers enjoy the Thanksgiving meal together as a family in the dining room.

"I remember when I used to celebrate with my family we would go around the table and say what we were thankful for. Almost everyone said that they were thankful for each other. Thanksgiving is about being together and eating great food."

So it turns out that professional women chefs and home cooks like my mother-in-law usually spend more time in the kitchen on feast-filled Thanksgiving than the men, who linger on the couch. Despite the labor-intensive meal and the lack of help these women have decided that sharing their love for family through food is the real reason to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Courtney Febbroriello is co-owner of Metro Bis restaurant in Simsbury, Connecticut with her chef husband and author of "Wife of the Chef" to be published in January 2003.

 

 

For more information:

Women Chefs and Restaurateurs:
http://www.chefnet.com/wcr

Les Dames d'Escoffier International:
http://www.ldei.org/homeFrameset.asp

 

 



Thousands in Mexico Protest 285 Unsolved Murders

MEXICO CITY (WOMENSENEWS)--An estimated 8,000 people marched here on Monday to demand justicefor the unsolved murders of more than 285 women in Ciudad Juarez, a town bordering Texas, over the last decade.

Woman during march

Shouting "Justice! Justice!" and "Not a dead woman more!" relatives of the victims, students, professors, members of human rights organizations, artists, politicians and citizens--mostly women dressed in black, wearing dark veils and holding candles--marched to denounce the government's lack of action "to punish and put an end to these murders," said Patria Jimenez, member of the Closet de Sor Juana, a Mexico City-based lesbian and feminist association. The protest commemorated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua, more than 285 women have been murdered and more than 800 have been reported missing since 1993. About 110 of their bodies were found raped, mutilated or tortured, suggesting they could be the victim of a serial murderer or murderers.

Veiled women during the march

Even though the motives for these murders are unclear, authorities have said they could include drug or organ trafficking, as well as prostitution or pornography. Two more female bodies were found in Ciudad Juarez last Friday.

"We were unfortunate to be poor and have a young and beautiful daughter," Norma Andrade, the mother of one of the victims, said, sobbing to the gathered crowd. "And in the state of Chihuahua, being a young, poor and beautiful girl is being a perfect target for the murderers."

Relatives of victims during the march

Similar marches took place in other cities of the Mexican Republic and in front of Mexican consulates in foreign countries. Also, the United Nations announced that Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of United Nations Development Fund for Women, will be visiting Mexico this week to analyze the situation of women in Ciudad Juarez and make recommendations to the Mexican government on how to fight violence against women.

Laurence Pantin is the Women's Enews correspondent in Mexico.

 

 


Also see Women's Enews, December 21, 2001:
"250 Murders Prompt Mexico Anti-Violence Campaign":
http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/763/

Also see Women's Enews, August 20, 2002:
"Film on Deaths of Mexican Women Indicts Corruption":
http://www.womensenews.com/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1011/

Por Nuestras Hijas (For Our Daughters)--Campaign against
the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez
(In Spanish):
http://www.geocities.com/pornuestrashijas

 

 

 
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