Is America Really Ready to Take Thanksgiving Cooking Advice From a Man?

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 19 2013 1:27 PM

Is America Really Ready to Take Thanksgiving Cooking Advice From a Man?

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In 2003, June Rollins was already a 14-year-veteran of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.

Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Turkey behemoth Butterball garnered headlines this week by announcing its campaign to find a man to give advice on its Turkey Talk Line this holiday season. The hotline, whose operators have been talking down frantic home cooks on Thanksgiving for 32 years, has traditionally been manned by women—not because of an explicit policy against men, but because “a man has never applied,” according to the director of the hotline. Now, the company is asking men to submit essays and videos in a competition to become the hotline’s first male spokesman.

So, is America ready to take turkey-cooking advice from a man? I mean, sure, last year food writer Sam Sifton published a whole book about Thanksgiving cooking, and acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten shared his approach with Vogue. The year before that Cook’s Illustrated founder Christopher Kimball offered his turkey-roasting tips to NPR. And, granted, the year before that food science legend Harold McGee gave his “Top 10 Thanksgiving Tips” to Serious Eats. And I guess Jacques Pépin did air a Thanksgiving special in 2003, which was four years after Alton Brown aired his Good Eats episode about Thanksgiving. Mark Bittman first offered his recipe for roast turkey in the first edition How to Cook Everything back in 1998. And Wolfgang Puck and Paul Prudhomme brought recipes to Morning Edition’s “Fantasy Thanksgiving Feast” back in 1993. Oh, and I guess Craig Claiborne offered Thanksgiving kitchen advice pretty regularly starting with “How an Expert Carves a Thanksgiving Day Turkey” back in 1957, the year he started editing the New York Times Dining section. Which was 13 years after James Beard published Fowl and Game Cookery, which contained a whole chapter on turkey.

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But still! Men, giving cooking advice? Has Butterball become some kind of radical feminist advocacy group?

Setting my snark aside for a moment: Although Butterball’s PR gambit is about 70 years behind the times in its implications about gender roles, there is one way in which it’s pretty progressive: According to the eligibility requirements, applicants must “self-identify as a man,” which implies that the gender one was assigned at birth doesn’t matter. If Butterball hires a trans man to be its new spokesperson, I will hail its progressive politics in all seriousness.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

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