Monday, February 4, 2019

Sisters to Saturn, brothers to brioche

It's a brave new world indeed and Netflix's new series 7 Days Out showing the final week of preparations leading up to some of the world's biggest live events (albeit almost all in America) provides an insight into some of this brave newness...

Saturn, image courtesy of NASA's Cassini mission 1998-2018

Or at least the first three episodes do, we baulked at the fourth episode on the Kentucky Derby. But the first three, and especially the second and third episodes, were brilliantly done and offered inspiring insights into our changing world.

The first episode on the top dog show (Westminster, NYC), shows us just how BIG dogs are in our world and that the people who become the biggest dog people are some of the most colourful (crazy and charismatic) people in that world. There is something about dogs indeed, and even though I don't quite get what that something is (my sister is the dog person in our family), I found it fairly compulsive viewing from a social science point of view.

But the second episode on the final week of the 20-year NASA mission to scope out Saturn for new information about the sexiest planet in our solar system, including taking this image and thousands more, was next level inspirational and has deservedly been nominated for an Emmy.

It also provides another revelation (Hidden Figures take two) into the influence of women in space exploration, with a woman being responsible for engineering and building the Cassini probe that would travel a billion or so miles from Earth and through the eye of a space needle to find its desired target and gather the information needed. We always have been good at sewing (She is pictured here hugging the project manager upon the completion of the mission). Oh and the lead scientist on the project (pictured applauding) was a woman too, so it was a regular sewing circle situation, you could say, except it was in space, the final sewing frontier, it seems.

The third episode provided a nice point of contrast with the second on almost every front, being about the re-opening of a grand New York restaurant, voted best restaurant in the world in 2017, after a total restaurant makeover, from the food to the forecourt. It all had to go. It doesn't sound quite as impressive as the Saturn probe, but it almost was, the tension in the final week before re-opening with a full guest list of people prepared to pay not hundreds but thousands for their dinner, almost makes earthly cooking look harder than space sewing.

And more interesting to me indeed was that blokes (cis gender) were at the helm of this event, a team of two men, one in charge of the kitchen, the other the front of house. And so it struck me watching this episode that although the Saturn probe was a little like sewing, it was really more about space exploration, a challenge that has tended to be thought classic men's work, whereas work in the kitchen and dining room has tended to be thought classic women's work, celebrity chefs notwithstanding.

So for me these two events are big indeed in so far as they challenge gender stereotypes and show how well we can do when we think outside of imposed and, for women especially, narrow cultural confines and expectations to allow all people to discover what we are good at and have a passion for.

These funky space-age chef hats, with cunning air vents for head cooling, are enough to show us how far we can go when we stop caring about expectations to look cool and focus on being cool and useful instead, even if the greater purpose of wearing any kind of large white hat in a kitchen remains something of a mystery to me. The universe works in mysterious ways indeed. 

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