Women’s History Month in the Kitchen

Quick! Name some famous women in the realm of the kitchen! Our mothers and grandmothers don’t count, even if Mom’s Famous Potato Salad is truly famous or Nini’s Blackberry Jam Cake could woo people to do her bidding. Bubbie’s Matzoh Ball soup doesn’t count either. It may have been famous in her home, her family, her community–but truly famous? Unlikely.

Ask a young person and they might come up with Cat Cora, Paula Deen, and Elizabeth Falkner (I admit a crush on her even though I thought she was a lost soul stuck catering a BlogHer Food after party the first time I met her. Yes, I flirted (look at her hair!) but since I don’t do FoodTV or famous cooking—I was clueless.)

A slightly older person might come up with Julia Child and Alice Waters. Both of these women broke new ground (and in Alice Waters case continue) in the kitchen and out of the kitchen for women.

Sorry, Betty Crocker doesn’t count as a game changing woman. Cultural icons just don’t count; even if most women owe more to Betty Crocker than to any chef in history. Marjorie Child Husted, the creator of Betty Crocker does count though. Marjorie Husted, a home economist, came up with the concept to help market convenient cooking to “housewives” who had too much on their plate as it was already. The women who have been the voice of Betty Crocker for decades certainly deserve a nod as well.

Irma Rombauer, the fabulous author of Joy of Cooking, helps many of us in the kitchen. My first cookbook was Joy of Cooking for Boys and Girls. That and my mother’s “blue edition” of Joy of Cooking definitely go on my “rescue in case of disaster where I can save something other than my family” list.

Stepping into history a bit more, did you know that the school Le Cordon Bleu owes its foundation to a woman? It does. Marthe Distel. Read about her and that horrid King Louis XV who refused to have women cook for him–because men (obviously to him)–did everything better.

China had a good share of famous female chefs, long before the United States was a twinkle in a puritan’s eye. Shan Zu during the Tang dynasty. (who wrote a cookbook!) Fan Sheng during the Five Dynasties period who was all about taste AND presentation. She envisioned her dishes as poetic metaphors. She definitely was my kind of woman in the kitchen that way! Dong Xiaowan also rocked the world of Chinese food in the late Ming period and early Qing period with her specialization in vegetarian food and pastries. Some of her dishes still r emain popular in  Yangzhou.

Elizabeth David brought olive oil and Mediterranean and French influences to English cooking with her pioneering cookbook in 1950. Marguerite Patten, another Englishwoman could be called the pioneer of frugal cooking. (and possibly world’s oldest podcaster at age 91!)  She wrote over 170 cookbooks (and do you have one of her recipe cards? There are about 17 million (literally) of them floating about,) all with a “waste not, want not” theme underlying solid cooking. Why her interest? World War II. Delia Smith, another English kitchen celebrity went on to became Britain’s best selling food author, but is famous for teaching the nation to boil an egg. 🙂

New famous women who rock the kitchen appear every day. Blogging is one way these women get noticed outside the realm of their family and “real life” friends. Ree Drummond, Elise Bauer, Jaden Hair, and Stephanie O’Dea are just a few of the women nationally recognized for their cooking who started out cooking for themselves and their families.

What famous women in the kitchen knock your socks off? No women should not be “kept in the kitchen” but that doesn’t mean they should be kept out either.


  1. well, you just knocked my socks off. thank you.

    I am continuously amazed by Jenny Flake of Picky Palate, Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen, and Lydia Walshin of Perfect Pantry, Drop In & Decorate and Soup Chick (I’m biased because the name Soup Chick is pretty much the best name, ever).

    I got a huge kick out of Julie Godar’s month of pies on BlogHer, and I love watching women help (HELP!) new-to-the gluten-free world people the way Karina of Karina’s Kitchen and Shirley Braden of Gluten Free Easily and Diane Eblin of The Whole Gang do. And then there’s Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry, who is so giving and gracious and down-to-earth.

    But you? One of the things I appreciate about you is that I could have you over for Heineken out-of-the-bottle (not GF, btw..) and serve Tostitos with EZ Cheese (both GF, in case you’re wondering), and you’d be down.

    man, the blogosphere rocks! 🙂

  2. ME! I’m famous for remembering where my kitchen is these days. Okay, ‘The Joy of Cooking’….who do you think inspired Irma to write that masterpiece? I rest my case…. ~Joy xo

  3. Ditto to what Stephanie said. (And thanks Stephanie for mentioning me!) One of the most fun things about blogging is meeting so many other people who love to cook (although I miss the early days when it was actually possible to know most of the food bloggers; nowdays I feel like I can’t keep up!)

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