As a child, my stepfather taught me a valuable lesson about being the man around the house.
Every Sunday, he would stoically banish himself to the kitchen and slave over the weekend roast. The task took hours: he had to prepare the meat, mix the stuffing, and ready the stock for the gravy. But he also had to read the Sunday papers in full, make friends with a bottle of wine, and fully appreciate the delights of Classic FM. No wonder the process took so long.
"Son," he seemed to be saying to my young mind, "if you ever want some alone time on a weekend without being accused of reneging on your familial duties, offer to cook the dinner."
It's a nugget of manly wisdom that has served me well, offering a useful escape from awkward social occasions and chores that don't take my fancy. But in my rush to ape my stepfather's sly, kitchen-bound masculinity, have I overlooked one crucial fact?
According to Penny Lancaster, model, photographer, and other-half to timeless British rocker Rod Stewart, any man who volunteers to cook some grub in the home is no kind of man at all.
"Putting the apron on" robs men of their masculinity, said Lancaster on Loose Women yesterday, adding that a man's role is to be "the hunter gatherer, the macho man, looking after the family".
The comments quickly cooked up a storm of the non-culinary variety, with countless Twitter users pointing out that Lancaster's words had more than the whiff of last century's dinner about them. In the context, her claim to "agree with equal rights" fell flat like a bad souffle.
In truth, more British men are cooking now than ever before – and we see it as a badge of honour, to be worn proudly on our favoured aprons.
A survey for BBC Good Food revealed last week that a third of men take sole responsibility for cooking in their households, compared to just 4pc of their own fathers. Tellingly, 36pc of those surveyed said that cooking a restaurant-quality meal at home would make them feel most proud, trumping learning a foreign language, learning an instrument, and driving a sports car.
29pc of men also said that cooking is one of their favourite hobbies – more than those who named football (22pc) and cycling (21pc).
Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver
Want further proof that men are happily wielding the rolling pin in the kitchen? Just turn on the TV. Cooking shows are now dominated by men, thanks in large part to the heaped tablespoon of testosterone that Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, and Gordon Ramsay added to the mix at the turn of the century. BBC One's flagship morning cook show, Saturday Kitchen, is stuffed full with men in rugby shirts who banter (and drink) like they're down the pub, while MasterChef is so brazenly muscular it can feel like the presenters are auditioning for the vacated seat on Top Gear.
Such masculinity translates into the way men approach cooking. We unashamedly fetishise the equipment we use – and then like to boast about the results at the end.
"75pc of our recent sales have been to men," says Sue Currie from Netherton Foundry, a family-run business in Shropshire that makes glorious cast and spun iron cookware. "The men we deal with are noticeably active on Twitter and keen to send us photographs of their cooking. They're very proud of what they're achieving and they want to shout about it".
Manly meat: Netherton Foundry's garden hob allows you to slow cook meat over charcoal
And rightly so. As technological development and the rise of the service industry has led British men away from blue collar jobs to computer-based employment, we've stopped making things with our hands and instead committed ourselves to the ephemerality of office based work. Put simply, we have little material proof of each day's work. Nothing to show, little to tell.
Cooking requires specialist tools, elbow grease, and more than a little knowledge. What could assert our masculinity more than returning home from our emasculating office jobs to rustle up a cheeky Thai green curry or a tasty Spanish tortilla? Or even a hearty Sunday roast beef, Yorkshires and all?
Sorry, Penny, but my stepfather had it right. A man's place is in the kitchen – although his wife is always welcome to help with the cleaning up.