A Boom in "Men's Cooking Class"
In Japan, there is an old saying: "A gentleman should never be engaged in kitchen work." The idea that housework should be done by women has been rooted deep in our society, and it has traditionally kept men away from kitchen work. In this social climate, the students attending cooking classes used to be women in an overwhelming majority.
Recently, however, there has been a change, and the number of men attending cooking classes seems to be increasing rapidly. "Cooking classes exclusively for men" targeting the elderly people are also very popular. Those elderly men, including the baby boomers, are most likely to hesitate to enter the kitchen, but their classes seem to be very successful. They have various motives: "To widen the range of my hobby", "Living apart from my family for a business reason, I want to be able to cook my own meals", for example. The top reasons are "I have free time after retirement and so I started cooking as a hobby" and "I want to live without depending on my wife or family."
Learning Basic Home Cooking
Better Home Association, running 18 cooking
schools throughout the country, had already had a cooking class for men in 1991,
when the number of students was about 300. In 2005, a special class called Men's
Basic Cooking from 60 Years Old was started, and as soon as the class opened,
men students started increasing sharply, and now men's cooking classes by Better
Home Association have more than 5,600 men students throughout Japan. The class
is held once a month, making twelve in a year for the fee of 21,200 yen for six
months and they make 38 dishes as part of Minimum Basic Menus, Traditional Japanese
Home Cooking, including tempura (deep fried vegetables or seafood), Chawan-mushi (a
pot-steamed hotchpotch), Nikujaga (potatoes simmered in broth with meat),
and Gomoku-zushi (various fish and vegetables mixed into vinegared rice).
While cooking them, they are expected to master basic skills for cooking good
meals, starting with how to make stock, how to wash rice, how to cut vegetables,
how to prepare fish; they are also supposed to acquire a basic knowledge and
knack of cooking such as how to dish up, how to preserve food, how to choose
kitchen utensils, and so on.
Men's Cooking Club DANSHAKU (Baron) also gives standard home cooking classes for men. The class is held twice a month on a flexible reservation system, allowing students to come when it is convenient for them. They can choose from a three-month Beginner's Course, a six-month or a twelve-month Simple Home Cooking Course, and so on. One-day lessons are also available for People Who Can't Even Peel an Apple, 2,620 yen for one lesson; there you can learn how to use a knife, how to handle meat and vegetables, how to season, etc.
Municipalities and volunteer groups also have more and more men's classes. Hino City, Tokyo, for example, runs Men's Basic Cooking School and monthly offers a course of five lessons twice a year. Participants are men beginners about 65 years old or older who desire a healthy dietary life. The fee is 400 yen for one lesson, and the students are initiated by a managing dietitian into health-oriented daily cooking. The menu in a lesson, for instance, was boiled rice, Buri-no-Teriyaki (a piece of yellowtail broiled with soy in a pan), and Horenso-no-Ohitashi (sauced spinach). In another lesson, they made Takikomi-Gohan (boiled rice mixed with fish or meat/chicken and vegetables), Saba-no-Misoni (simmered mackerel in soybean paste), Goma-ae (boiled vegetables with ground sesame dressing). Through these lessons, they learn how to make simple daily meals mainly in the Japanese style.
For more advanced cooking
In contrast to those classes whose object is to enable men to cook fundamental dishes, there exist classes in which men try to cook authentic course dinners.
Shun no Kai (In-season Club), a Men's cooking class in Kamakura City, has been managed by volunteers since 2001 as a semi-club, and the class has been held on the third Saturday every month. The fee for six months is 9,000 yen, with an additional 1,000 yen each time as the ingredient fee. The participants, except the instructor and the assistant, are all senior men. This circle, in principle, "aims at having an independent, self-supporting life and getting ready for the coming aging society," but actually they work on quite elaborate menus each time. In the class on April 15, for example, they made three kinds of handmade sausages, green pea soup, three canapés and bread.
Men's Kitchen, a Men's cooking class run by Tokyo Gas, is held under the catch phrase of Weekend Cooking Class for Men Beginners, but the menu includes Japanese, Western and Chinese formal course dinners. There are Saturday courses and Sunday courses held once a month, and each course is 7,500 yen for three lessons. In either course, the students learn the Basics of Chinese Cooking, the Basics of Western Cooking and the Basics of Japanese Cooking. In the Basics of Western Cooking, for example, they make "chicken curry, cucumber and tomato salad, and bacon and mushroom soup. Men's Kitchen has fifteen schools in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures and, believe it or not, almost all of these courses are full.
"Gentlemen in the Kitchen" run by Ramada Hotel Osaka is for men wishing to learn full-course dinners in a more formal way. The class, held once a month for three months, is given in the hotel kitchen by the hotel chef. The fee is 3,500 yen for each time, and the menu is sumptuous. As "the dishes going well with beer", for example, they cooked "home-made beef croquette, autumn mackerel meunière garnished with sweet potato friture, simple German-style salted pork cooked with vegetables and served with mustard, and onion garlic slices." These classes seem to give students the pleasure of tasting as well as cooking.
In whatever course they may choose, the cooking schools are now full of aging men who are seeking for independence and self-support throughout the country.
If you are interested in cooking Japanese meals, please refer to the following addresses for the names of dishes and recipes: