The New York Post ran an eccentric story on Sunday about the coterminous pregnancies of both the chef and sous-chef of Prune, a minuscule, pricey restaurant in downtown Manhattan. At first, I wondered how and why this qualified as a news story. I have been to Prune and frankly can't imagine being able to fit through the door to eat, let alone cook, if I were heavily pregnant. So I guess the impracticality angle was something.
But reading the piece, it became clear that what Gabrielle Hamilton and Ginevra Iverson are doing, in posing back to back with their due dates plastered over the photograph, is making a serious point about a field in which women are still hugely underrepresented.
"These women, quite frankly, rock," writes Andrea Strong. "Each weighing in at 25 pounds above their waifish pre-pregnancy frames, Iverson and Hamilton trudge down to their basement walk-in and prep kitchen about 100 times a day, then bang out service, working the line bulge-to-bulge ... when Hamilton stands in front of the stove and Iverson stands catty-corner to her at the low-boy fridge, there is, at best, about three inches between them, and no one can pass."
The two women go on to detail the issues of fatigue, morning sickness and pregnancy-induced food aversions, any of which could quite quickly spell the cessation of professional life in a kitchen. But Iverson and Hamilton have kept on trucking, and Hamilton explains that "together we get this 'Aren't we so great' attitude. We walk around like, Look at our walk-in! Look at our staff meal! We get a little righteous."
And it certainly feels, as two of the rare women to tough it out in a restaurant kitchen, like they have the right to be a little bit righteous. "Except for the grizzly old ladies like me, you rarely see women in a kitchen at all," Hamilton tells Strong. "It's not like I blame them. It's not made easy for them, that's for sure. So it's sort of unusual to see two women on the line, but to see two fat cows working the line. Now that's something."