The African society generally associates cooking with women.
Whenever a woman is getting married, she is taken aside for a rite of passage where she is taught ‘the secrets’ of being a good wife. Topping the list is her culinary skills.
“Mamuna m’pamimba (a way to a man’s heart is through the stomach)” goes the very famous piece of advice which has somewhat become a cliché when it comes to married women.
“Amuna ambiri amafuna kudya zophika akazi awo (many men want to eat food cooked by their wives)” goes another famous cliché. All these point out to one thing. It is the duty of the woman to cook.
But is it really?
Melia Phiri of Chirimba says a woman’s strength lies in culinary skills.
“It is one thing that helps a woman to leave a mark.”
“When a woman wants to make an impression on a man, her in-laws and the society in general, it’s her art of cooking that will win hearts,” she said.
Random interviews in the city of Blantyre shows that men do not really want to cook for their families and women accept the role of cooking as theirs.
But with an increasing number of women choosing to pursue higher education and careers, juggling personal life and professional career has become the norm of the day, and cooking a draconian task.
Expecting a woman to prepare a full meal all by herself after she gets back from work by 7pm, leaving behind all her mental and physical stress, is outright cruel.
So some men are slowly embracing the art of cooking for their wives and family.
For instance, 33-year-old Dyson Chikolera, a chef by profession loves cooking at home.
He has made the art of making food as not only a part of his career but his life as well.
“I don’t just cook at my workplace I cook at home as well. I always make special dishes for my family and they love my cooking,” he gushes.
But in a society where cooking is taken as a woman’s job it has it not been easy.
“When I took up the job as a chef many laughed at me referring to me as the ‘cooking man’ portraying me as a weaker man.
“But I never minded that for I knew my passion,” said Chikolera.
He added that it all goes down to one’s attitude, and the way they are raised.
“I was raised in a family where we were four boys and one girl. We used to share household chores, including cooking and that is where I discovered my passion for cooking,” he disclosed.
He said as he grew up many of his friends were surprised with his passion for a ‘ladies’ job’.
“Most guys would act surprised and laugh whenever they saw me cooking. But after my journey as a sous chef and my success in the career, many are now interested.”
Chikolera is currently studying for a degree in Culinary in Switzerland. He has a diploma in Hotel Management which he obtained in Austria, a certificate in Food production from Malawi Institute of Tourism and another one which he obtained in Reunion Island.
“This belief that cooking is for women is archaic. Both men and women can cook. I tell you I can cook better than most women even before my professional training. It is all about what one wants to do. My woman can do other things to make me happy but cooking is something that I do for her with no problems at all,” explains Chikolera.
He said because of the attitude that Malawians have towards men and cooking, he plans to have his cooking programme on local television once he is done with his studies.
“And men who want to learn the art of cooking are welcome for some lessons. Times have changed,” he said.
But Phiri is not convinced.
“Men who cook to earn a living do so at the office. When they come home they have to surrender that responsibility to the wife. That is what it is for us as a society,” she said.
This is sentiment was supported by another chef who works for one of the renowned hotels in Blantyre.
The chef who did not want to disclose his name said he does not take his work at home.
“When I hang my apron at my workplace, I go home as a dad and let my woman do her role as my wife. Besides, those recipes at work are complex and need a lot of ingredients,” he claimed.
He further said there is something unique about wife cooking for her man that he does not want to trade it for anything else.
“Even though I can cook better, at home I am the one to be served just like it is expected of my wife to do,” he added.
But Chikolera has a different perspective.
“Things have changed in our society nowadays. Both men and women can cook. And the good thing is the society is slowly embracing us men who can cook,” he said.