Here's another story to file under"gender politics, kitchen":
A piece in Wednesday's New York Times Dining section presented this riddle: What "now looks old-fashioned" on a woman, but "can look endearing" on a man? Answer: An apron, at least according to Sally Singer, an editor at Vogue who's quoted in the piece, which focuses on the outfits of female TV chefs. Apparently slight provocation is in; authority is out. The look? "Sort of tight, sort of low-cut, definitely sexy." Think form-fitting knits and tees in cashmere or cotton -- a style writer Elaine Louie pegs as "sexy meets utilitarian."
But wait, authority is out? Was it ever in for the TV celeb-chef? Reality shows like "Iron Chef" and "Hell's Kitchen" aside, TV chefs have tended to be homey and unintimidating -- though the current version of homey and unintimidating may feature more cleavage than it did in years past. (The Times notes that earlier instructors like Betty Crocker and Julia Child tended more toward "happy frumpiness.") Still, it's no surprise that the look Food Network stars adopt is studied. The more interesting question may be: What look would help a woman be taken seriously?
Or, even better, is being taken seriously a goal at all? As Video Dog pointed out last April by posting a, ahem, provocative video of Rachael Ray saying "Mmmm" or "Mm-mmm" over and over, maybe serious is not what America's after. What is it that we want from the people who cook for us ... on TV?