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Are Men Better Cooks Than Women? 

By Yvonne Sevidzem & Patience Fai*

Despite all the sweet pep talk about gender balance and all that, the typical African man is still very likely to insist on having all his meals prepared by a woman, preferably his wife or mistress. In some parts of the Northwest Region of Cameroon it is rare to see a man doing kitchen chores, even if that man wasn’t married.

Ace cook: Doing what women claim they can do best

The woman goes to the farm, to the market; she returns home late in the evening to find the husband, lazing around and waiting for his meals, which she must prepare, tired or not. Ironically, though, these same men don’t mind being hired as cooks for other men and their wives. And when most of them do cook, they do it so well, that one begins to wonder why they would hesitate employing such skills to benefit their own dear families.

Today, however, the situation is seemingly changing. At least, many modern Cameroonian men are wont to help out their spouses in the kitchen, especially if both of them belong to the working class and must (realistically) compliment each others’ efforts. In which case, cookery by the male folk has moved away from just simply partaking at every stage of the barbecue to seasoning, steaming and serving food. The proportion of the male population who see catering as a "must have" skill is relatively high.

Bernard Mbinkar, a happily married man loves cooking. These Reporters met him preparing a popular meal of the Northwest Region (fufu corn) to be eaten with a special vegetable that had already been cooked. "Cooking is one of my hobbies and I enjoy it just like any other activity such as reading or sports", he said, adding that he particularly takes interest in African cuisine and has expertise in the preparation of Corn Fufu and Huckleberry, much to the taste of his wife.

Another spouse, John Tawah, says he is so addicted to cooking that during his spare time, he prepares meals for his family. Unlike those men who may feel debased by working in the kitchen, Tawah finds cuisine as an honour and a virtue. In the same line, a civil servant by name, Kufoa, said cooking was his passion, the only snag being that his wife appreciates his meals only when they are in good terms. Thus, in order to keep peace, Kufoa allows his wife to do the cooking, and he eats anything that she serves him, no matter the taste.

In the commercial sector, men have taken to cookery as a source of livelihood. They operate luncheonettes, restaurants, hotels, with many of them cooking in boarding schools, and in parish homes. According to Reverend Brother Moses Kewai, of the St. Peter and Paul Parish, Molyko, parish homes demand more working hours, thus the preference of male cooks who are often readily available. This, he explained, is unlike the case of women, who are often more engaged in family upkeep, or might get pregnant or married and be forced to quit duty.
On why some boarding schools prefer male cooks to female ones, the boarding master of Baptist High School, BHS, Buea, Genesis Tang, noted; "Food here is generally prepared in very large quantities, and it needs a man of strength and vigour to lift such heavy pots".

The demand for male cooks, The Post gathered, is on the increase. The Head of Department of Catering in Cameroon Opportunities Industrialisation Centre, COIC, Arrey Ojong, explains that, "the man is more enduring and patient in dealing with the public, whereas the woman has a lot of complexities like transfer of aggression, and impatience, which hinder her from rendering her services effectively. For this reason, job placements have tallied higher for the male than otherwise."

As to where men get their culinary skills from, The Post found out that most men learn to cook out of curiosity. This, notwithstanding, information from COIC shows that the institution trains male and female cooks alike. The enrolment statistics show that the school has enrolled 115 students into the Catering Department; 45 out of this number are male who are so carried by the very idea of mastering the art of cookery.

A veteran cook, David Mulaah, who has worked in big institutions in Nigeria and Cameroon for about 16 years, said that despite his meagre earnings, he still loves his job: "I am what I am today thanks to cookery. I love it." For another luncheonette operator in Molyko, Iondji Essoh, "it’s a passion to cook for people to eat and appreciate it." He says that though he got into the catering business to enable him pay his school fees some 6 years ago, he now enjoys the job very much, and it has become part and parcel of him.

(UB Journalism Students On Internship)

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