A convoluted path leads men to the kitchen and an edible art form. Who would have thought it 50 years ago?

Perhaps your mother guarded “her” kitchen bastion from intrusions by wannabe competitors. Perhaps you did not even think about cooking for yourself until you left home and discovered fast food was not a lifestyle.

Or, perhaps, you got hooked on TV cooking shows where men share the load with women and the one-time chore becomes a hobby, and then an art form.

This is the convoluted path of men into the kitchen. Once upon a time, men who cook were considered effeminate, “home ec.” courses were for girls and food was marketed to women. The image of an overweight mom in an apron was burned into every mind by countless TV shows and advertisements.

The other stopper for hopeful male cooks were females who cook well. Outside of raising kids, mom didn’t have a whole lot to stimulate her creativity in the 1950s. Cooking was one of them, and being an excellent cook was critical to a happy family. Men were denied entry –– out of jealousy?

The great cultural upheaval of the 1960s ended all that. Gender barriers collapsed. Male chefs were idolized. Men discovered they could share the job with their wives and not destroy their manliness.

So men who cook now is almost an afterthought, and not only on that rather sexist grill outside. A lot of men make pacts with their wives: “I’ll do the cooking; you do the dishes.” This works both ways. The person who comes home first from work starts the meal.

At the same time, our food is changing. When processed foods began appearing in the 1920s, cooking turned into robotics. Culinary knowledge consisted of running a can opener and reading the recipe on a label. Then open more cans and defrost a few items and you have dinner.

Next arrived the health concerns, especially about fat and salt. Fresh became best, but fresh can be more difficult. It took retraining, and men joined the school.

A heady driver for male cooking was the advent of great restaurants at reasonable cost. Families began eating out more and got accustomed to new, expertly prepared foods. Men were willing to think outside the box.

Mac and cheese comes in a 79-cent box. Then again, you could make your own with a wine-cream sauce, porcini mushrooms, three cheeses and bacon. That’s the difference between dinner in the 1960s and in the 2000s. And, yes, a ‘house husband’ invented the recipe.

Relationships

Home design got caught up in the revolution. The open-air kitchen overlooking the family room became standard.

Kitchens in older homes are solitary places with little room for anything beyond counters and appliances. The new kitchens, even in apartments, are spacious and allow the cook to interact with the family and dinner guests.

This makes cooking a lot less mysterious to men and boys. Soon, they want to be in there, chopping, saucing and experimenting. Families that cook together eat together, and that puts a brake on solitary meals on the run.

If you are young and unmarried, you’ll need to learn cooking with your other if you desire a relationship. Think now: How attractive is, “I hate to cook?” Turnoffs-ville. Besides, it’s nearly impossible to cook for one.

Males in aprons are now a necessity. Women 40 years ago decided they want to work andhave children. The only way to do this is to share the household chores that were once exclusively female.

10 Epochal Reasons Men Must Cook

1. Take on the kitchen monopoly. What better way to prove you can do what they do?

2. If you cannot afford a vacation, use the time to be adventurous in the kitchen.

3. Why exercise in the gym if you can break into a sweat right in your kitchen?

4. The best and easiest way to impress your spouse is to cook a meal.

5. There is a foodie in all of us, and that includes your prospective boss. Beef up your bio (résumé) by learning to cook.

6. If you’re doing the cooking, you get to choose your guests.

7. Next time she is watching a food program on TV, pass some intelligent comments on how the chef could improve his meal.

8. Cooking skills give you the credibility to strut down the grocery aisle and choose adventuresome products with confidence.

9. Have nothing to do a in the couple of hours before the football game? Use your culinary skills to dish up the snacks. Have them eating out of your hands.

10. There is nothing more appealing than a guy who can discuss the finer flavor points of dill versus the bite of pepper and how to balance the two in a dish.

(Ssaif Saifuddin was an Indian film writer, poet, philosopher and master chef. He was fond of reducing his advice to “Ten Reasons.”)

Culinary Gender Meanderings

Breezy Peg Bracken, a half century ago, distilled the then-current view of cooking in her “I Hate to Cook” book, the bible of moms in apron straitjackets: “My people consist of those who find other things more interesting and less fattening, so they cook as seldom as possible.”

Neurotic entertainer Carol Siskind: “I can’t cook. I use a smoke alarm as a timer.”

Investigative journalist Gail Sheehy: “When men reach their sixties and retire, they go to pieces. Women go right on cooking.”

Film writer Nora Ephron: “My mother was a good recreational cook, but what she basically believed about cooking was that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you.”

Pulitzer columnist Russell Baker: “When compelled to cook, I produce a meal that would gag a sword swallower.”