I’m writing this piece from Italy’s perennially beautiful Tuscan region. Tuscany is known for its flavorful Chianti, being the inspiration for Olive Garden, and as of today—sexism towards my wine preferences. My wife and I were on a wine tasting tour in a delightful old vineyard.
Three bottles down, the instructor pulls out the fourth bottle and boldly declares: “This final wine is fruity, light and will be a huge hit with the ladies.” My wife immediately turns to me and says: “I guess that means you’ll love it.” My apparent fondness for “girly” drinks is an ongoing joke in my circle of friends, and it got me thinking—is this food sexism?
Why do we associate certain flavor profiles with a particular gender? There are men, like myself, who enjoy light fruity wines, and women who enjoy a peaty scotch. To say one drink or food belongs to a particular group is just stereotyping, yet it perpetuates unchecked and unabated.
When designing a dish, I only have one concern—flavor. I have never once thought if the dish suits a man or a woman over the other. People can have preference for any flavor they damn well choose, and yet the stigma lingers: it’s “un-ladylike” to chow down on meaty steak, and “un-manly” to be munching on a salad with low-calorie dressing.
“It’s important to let people choose what they like and not try to assign them a food role based off potentially misguided stereotypes..”
I once worked in a restaurant where a petite female customer wanted to order a pork shoulder. As she told her server the order, he recoiled and recommended that she change to a fish dish instead.
The reasoning? The fish was a smaller portion, and the server had reasoned that she would not be able to finish the more substantial pork shoulder. The customer, however, was undeterred, and persisted with her original order.
A passing glance at her table 30 minutes later showed an empty plate, polished clean by this one woman. A weaker-willed customer may have been shamed into changing their mind. Similarly, a man who really loves Appletinis might suffer a lifetime of Lagavulin just to fit in.
I feel it’s important to let people choose what they like and not try to assign them a food role based off potentially misguided stereotypes. I would like more openness when a guest asks for a recommendation based on their likes and dislikes, and not their gender.
As for my Tuscan wine tasting, it turned out that, yes, I did like the “girly” wine the most after all. It’s a repeating pattern. Whenever I order a drink based on its flavor profile—90 percent of the time it will be pink. Either all the bartenders in Shanghai are in on some elaborate prank or I just have some type of pink drink radar. And you know what? Despite the jokes at my expense, most of the time I love the drink I ordered because I order based on my ideal flavors. I encourage you all to try the same.