Kitchen And Women in Cultural Discourse


Despite the fact that percentage-wise there were more famous male celebrity chefs on telly than female chefs, kitchen has always been associated with women. The never ending, and a little bit tired joke about sending women back or chaining them to the kitchen doesn’t help either. I don’t mind being in the kitchen here in my house in the UK, but somehow I feel slightly uneasy to visit the kitchen of our family home in Solo.

I did not understand why. I thought it was just merely because we had a couple of helpers to do all the cooking and cleaning, and our grandmother was pretty strict about who’s being the queen of the kitchen — that I tend to leave the kitchen alone. But I realised that that was not it after being unemployed for some times and spending many hours watching architecture and house moving programme on telly.

I realised that kitchen functions quite differently here in the UK and in Indonesia.

In the UK, kitchen is considered as the heart of the house. It is something to brag about. It is located usually quite close to the main entrance or just next to the garden. It is the place with the highest activity rate: breakfast bar, cooking, coffee-chatting, etc. You would not think twice to invite your friend to see your kitchen, showing off your new hob or just for to get a cuppa. You love your kitchen, everybody loves your kitchen.

In Indonesia, kitchen is a hidden place. You don’t speak kitchen in the living room. It is in the back of the house, where all the dark secret of the house is kept. You would not ever invite friends to have a chat in the kitchen. You would not let her see your new shiny oven, because all your friends need to know is that you can serve them seven dishes meal in the dining room. And that’s it.

How it’s supposed to reflect the society attitude towards women then? It’s pretty obvious isn’t it?

Whenever kitchen is associated with women, how the family’s attitude towards kitchen is very relevant. My husband would never mind coming in and out the kitchen. He wouldn’t mind washing the dishes, and sometimes even getting me a cup of coffee when I was too comfy in the sofa with my knitting. My father, on the other hand, has never set foot in the kitchen since we finished building the house and the kitchen started to function as a kitchen.

The kitchen also reflects how women see their role themselves. When they cook they see it as their duty to provide, and the family has taken for granted the special skills needed to process the raw vegetables to yummy in the tummy. But here, everyday… every single day, Mr. Fix It would thank me for every meal, every cake, and bites of biscuits. Kitchen is where challenges, achievements and fun happen.

In a more modern Indonesia, houses has an open kitchen, but women don’t cook as often. The attitude towards women has shifted with it as well as their role in providing for the family and the households. When we lived in an apartment complex, we ordered delivery more often than we cook, and it was just the norm for every young modern families living there.

In communal place such as student dormitory, kitchen is where the gossip and drama is expected to emerge. It’s where you show off power to tell people who rules the student hall. Although that’s not always the case. The kitchen would be in the middle. It shows how equal everybody was (or should be) in the community.

Isn’t it amazing how kitchen has changed and shaped our perspective of the world? Of ourselves? And wouldn’t it answer my hesitation to start chop chop where I was in Indonesia? Why wouldn’t you take a look in your kitchen and tell me how’s your kitchen has influenced your life?


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