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« Poussin redux | Main | Artistic Quote of the Day »

October 16, 2002

Gross Over-generalizations -- Women and Baked Goods

Friedrich --

Mood heighteners?

What is it with women and baked goods?

Last night, for example, I was at dinner with the Wife and a woman friend when the talk turned to food and thence to baked goods. The two women lit up: Which bakeries are are the best right now? Have you tried this pastry? How about that one? What about that recipe that was in the Times? And where do you buy your bread? The two gals were still happily discussing these pressing matters when the dessert menu arrived and gave the topic another boost.

I can certainly enjoy a good piece of bread, but I donít have much to add to these conversations. Do you? Bakeries and pastries .... Iíve got as much to say about them as I do about manta rays or weather balloons. Plus there's the fact that sweet, chewy, grainy things just donít mean that much to me. Since it seems to be law that eating a lot of them will make you fat, I simply donít eat them. Itís no big sacrifice.

But women! Their moods go up and down; they really, really care. They feel better when they can have something sweet. They give the bread or cake or cookie a good look and feel before placing it in the mouth. Theyíre crushed if they have to deny themselves a brioche.

Becoming a woman in Paris

Leafing through some evo-bio book a few years ago, I came across a passage where the (woman) author was writing about differences between women and men. She had looked at tons of cultures, modern and ancient. And her conclusion? She wrote that, if it were possible to factor out all variables, sheíd bet that the the biggest difference between the sexes would prove to be that women would spend most of their time searching out and fussing over food, and men would spend most of their time and energy pursuing sex.

Sounds about right to me. To you?

Thiebaud likes painting them more than eating them

Even allowing for many exceptions (male pastry chefs and bread bakers, for instance), doesnít it seem that women show an amazing affinity for cakey, moist things that tend to the sweet? (I recall, if dimly, some passage in Virginia Woolf where she referred to women and their gabble and their little cakes....) There are male customers at the local high-end bakery, but not many. It isnít men who make a detour just to see "whatís in the window of that cute little patisserie over there." I donít recall ever seeing a table of non-gay men babbling while passing around and around a dish of little colored cookies.

Look at the expressions on the faces of the women in the photos accompanying this posting -- angelic, foolish, "caught," eager, blissed-out. You get the impression that they could spend their lives with their hands in the cookie jar. And the symbolism of "the cookie jar" ...

When the waiter arrives to take the dessert orders, the Wife, while considering her options, invariably executes a little emotional circuit -- roughly, from shyness and fluster, to glowing, gasping and beaming, to a kind of sexualized boldness as she finally makes her decision -- she claims I'm jealous of her relationship with pastry. She believes, fervently, that if a man really wants to get laid, he'd do well to learn how to cook, and reminds me that the film director Roger Vadim, one of the 20th century's great swordsmen, was a first-rate chef.

What would remain of the pastry and breads business if women gave up eating their products? Donuts for the cops, pizza crust, some pumpernickel (works well with mustard) and burger rolls ...

Well, maybe just one

I wonder if womenís affinity for baked goods is rooted in the move from hunting and gathering to agriculture -- bread and baked goods being by and large products of a relatively settled existence. Gals, settled domestic life, nesting.... Out comes the cookie sheet.

Hereís my theory: Women identify with baked goods. (Before laughing too hard, consider the fact that women obviously identify with flowers. Why not with food?) How so? Well, baked goods... Thereís often a sponginess there. Thereís often sweetness, juiciness and chewiness: nurturance. Thereís the skin or crust, and letís not forget the yeast. Brooding, gestating, fluffing up and settling down, keeping the flesh and the mood plump, fresh and appealing: Baked goods as metaphor and mirror for womenís flesh and their emotional nature -- which, letís face it, are very different than male flesh and male moods.

Enormous numbers of exceptions allowed for, of course....



posted by Michael at October 16, 2002


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