More Highlights from Our Conversation with the Author of Skirt Steak
Happy Friday, everybody!
Here’s part 2 of my conversation with fellow scribe Charlotte Druckman, whose new book Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen, debuted this week. Part 1 can be found here.
TOQUELAND: How did Skirt Steak come about? Do you remember the moment when the idea popped into your head?
DRUCKMAN: I wrote an article for Gastronomica, which was something I had been thinking about. .. there is a famous essay that art historian Linda Nochlin wrote at the end of the ‘70s called “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” And it’s rhetorical. It’s supposed to get you annoyed. And it was sort-of the anti‑feminist’s feminist’s art-historical essay, because she kind of said, “Let’s stop looking at the differences between how men and women paint, and let’s look instead at what our institutions are doing to present a story of men or women, and in history what opportunities have been opened to women.”
I worked at Food & Wine, and I really loved working there. .. I remember how much care went into picking the Best New Chefs but how there was always [just] one woman on the cover, possibly two [out of 10]. And you know, you’re in this office with these incredibly smart women who would like to support women, so why aren’t these chefs being found? And I started to think, “What if you took that approach that Linda Nochlin used and stop thinking about it as, ‘who cooks better,’ but ‘let’s think about what the underpinnings are.’”
TOQUELAND: That’s interesting.
DRUCKMAN: I thought it would be awesome to talk to women chefs about this, but to do it in that same way where it’s not like everyone’s going to give you a sob story. There are going to be some great epic moments of sexual harassment, obviously, but it’s not going to be about that. Because I don’t think that’s the real problem at the end of the day.
TOQUELAND: Without getting too specific about it, was it easy to sell it?
DRUCKMAN: No. It was really hard to sell it because no one had heard of what I was trying to do, which was to write a communal memoir, if you will, that has a strong narrative voice but isn’t about me. Everyone now wants—especially if you’re a food writer—for it to either be about you or wants it to be about one person dishing.
TOQUELAND: Was it was easy to get interviews?…