You know, everyone says you should always wear an apron in the kitchen. They’re probably right, but here’s the thing: I don’t like aprons. They make me feel restricted, confined, and overdressed. Like I’m trying to be my mother, which I assure you I am not. And I don’t even think she wore aprons. (OMG, does this mean I am trying to be like my mother? Let’s not go there.)
I do, however, have the occasional need to row against the tide. As a woman who came of age when Gloria and Betty were rewriting the text of women’s lives, I've spent a good part of my adult life in a series of small rebellions. I was the first woman to wear long pants to work at the Wall Street firm I joined out of college. Amazing, yes? Who do you think had made that rule? A bunch of old white guys. Fortunately, I worked for a younger white guy who agreed with me on the ridiculousness of that particular decree.
And I never changed my name on the roles of the Social Security Administration. So now the fact that my name is one way on my SS ID card and another way on my checks and my passport almost cost me a driver’s license in the great state of New Jersey. “Lady,” said the manager at the NJ-DMV as he reluctantly signed my application, “these days, you can’t afford to have two identities.” And so it goes.
In the kitchen, it’s not as much trouble to get around the apron issue. Wandering through one of the grand restaurant supply houses in Manhattan’s Chinatown district – I’m not buying Chinese cookware, that’s just where the stores are – I came upon a whole rack of chef’s coats. Eureka! The perfect solution. So I bought one. And then with one of the two-day courses I took at the Culinary Institute, I got another.
These are the greatest things to wear in the kitchen. First off, they’re completely cool looking, so you feel like a chef, which of course gives you a tiny boost of confidence. Second, they’re incredibly comfortable. Third, they’re a twill blend, which, in addition to being soft is washable and bleachable. (I’ve had to get ballpoint ink out of mine, which required several rounds with a bleach pen.) And, finally, they’re cheap: $17 at J.C. Penney online; even less at Happy Chef online (where they also come in colors, but then you can’t do the bleach thing).
The other bit of apparel advice I have for the kitchen is in shoes. Even at the height of the Woodstock years, I was never a fan of comfortable shoes. Birkenstocks, Merrells, Clarks, Timberlands,... have failed to find a home in my shoe collection. And I am still in mourning for Pappagallos. It’s not a smart or even sensible way to choose footwear, but there it is.
In the past couple of years, however, I’ve been hearing more and more about the delights of wearing Dansko clogs in the kitchen. And with concrete floors in our Texas house, I can testify to the fatigue that sets in after a few hours at the stove. So when I happened upon a store here that sold clogs at a discount, I decided to check them out.
What I found was amazing: an offering from Dansko clogs that I can honestly call “cute shoes.” As you may know, I have a weakness for anything sparkly, and this style – called “Stargazers” – seems made to order. What fun! They’re part of the Professional line, so they are truly designed for chefs, doctors, nurses,... anyone who spends long hours on their feet. If stars aren’t your thing, they have three or four other styles that also look fun.