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If a female character is feminine, she will be able to cook. If she isn't, then any and all attempts to cook will end in failure or poison the consumer. Thus the Girly Girl will be a better cook than the Tomboy.
By feminine we mean traditional domestically-focused wife-like roles. Being sexy isn't enough to qualify. You can also lose femininity by becoming overly childish and cute. We are talking about a traditionalist grown woman femininity here; The Wife of The Three Faces of Eve.
Keep in mind that this trope refers to home cooking, not professional cookery. (Although working in a restaurant may still be counted as one of the Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits depending on how it's presented.) Younger tropers might be surprised to learn that before the 1980s, women were generally not allowed to work as professional chefs. The excuse usually given was that the work was "too physically hard" for women, but in reality the common belief was that although a woman could make an adequate home cook, she could never be a real chef, because being a chef took a certain genius that no woman could possibly ever, ever have. The resistance to women working as professional chefs was so strong that some women who tried ended up having to leave the profession to protect themselves from sexual harassment and violence. Thus Colette in Ratatouille can cook and be a fiery feminist heroine at the same time - as she points out, she has to be a fiery feminist in order to become a chef in that time frame at all.
Compare the male equivalent Manly Men Can Hunt for traditionally male activities in which modern successful men lose the ability to perform manly abilities as a function of their "sacrifices" for success. Fishing, car repair, hunting, plumbing, carpentry, etc.
Compare also Harp of Femininity, an alternative and somewhat more refined way to emphasize a woman's femininity. Also compare Textile Work Is Feminine, which is similar but has fallen more victim to the Industrial Revolution. Also see Through His Stomach for one use a feminine woman can put it to — whether in a romantic or maternal situation.
Not to be confused Stay in the Kitchen which, despite its name, isn't exactly related to this trope, although they can overlap.
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American food companies in the 1950s tried to wrap up their mixes and other convenience foods as an easier way to cook, because otherwise women resisted them, fearing they would fall afoul of this trope if they used them. (They still resisted even with it, just not so much.)
Akane Tendo's utter inability to cook symbolizes her tomboy inner nature, despite her preference for feminine garb. The fact that she desperately wants to learn to cook is a way of showing that she wants to be more feminine, like her idolized older sister Kasumi. Ironically, Wholesome Crossdresser Ukyo's superlative cooking ability (she's a professional chef) is one indication that her inner nature is actually more feminine than dress-loving Akane. The only thing they have in common is martial arts.
It's hinted that Nabiki Tendo can't cook, and can't be bothered to try, and prefers extremely expensive takeout instead. Since she is described as lacking a maiden's heart, the lack of cooking ability follows.
Ranma is also able to cook basic meals, despite being a boy who hates being cursed to turn into a girl. His mother (unaware that the redheaded girl is the same person as her son) once compliments "her" cooking and immediately follows up with "You'll make a wonderful wife!" simply because of this skill. Needless to say, Ranma was not amused.
Inverted in DN Angel: the tomboyish Riku Harada can cook while her girly-girl sister Risa is a bona-fide Lethal Chef. This is justified by their personalities: Riku is more hardworking and responsible while Risa is more spoiled and childish (she gets better in the manga).
Aoba in Cross Game is the Tomboy category, while her feminine sister Wakaba can cook quite well.
Dieci is also revealed to be one of the more feminine Numbers, and being one of the best cooks. However, her sisters Subaru and Sein are also excellent cooks, the latter at least fits the excellent parts, the former is known for cooking a lot of amount of food.
Orihime Inoue from Bleach has both tomboyish (likes sci-fi, wears track pants and t-shirts in the Soul Society arc) and girlish (nurturing personality, Barrier Warrior powers, wears her hair VERY long) traits and can cook. Being a Cloud Cuckoo Landerand an Extreme Omnivore, her meals consist of so many strange combinations, most people aren't willing to try her food to discover this. The few who do (such as Tessai and Rangiku), discover that there is genius in the madness and that her meals are well-cooked and taste good. She also holds down a part-time job in a bakery.
In Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer, the anime in particular, cute lead character Misaki is an excellent cook and is told that she'll make a good bride someday. Her tomboyish and violent best friend, Kizaki Tamayo, begins to get jealous of her ability when it looks like Misaki will win the boy they both like, Koutarou: he loves Misaki's food, but Tamayo can't even crack an egg right. In an odd twist, this is expanded upon much more in the version in which Tamayo *does* win, and barely glossed over in the one where she loses.
In Sailor Moon, tomboy Makoto (AKA Sailor Jupiter) is the easily the best cook of the group. A Manga sidestory that focuses on her shows she cooks and does house work when stressed or depressed, even if it stops more important things like studying for entrance exams. Because of suggestions it ultimately relates to her femininity complex, this aspect is reinterpreted in some adaptations as having a professional interest in running restaurants.
Rosetta Passel from Kaleido Star is shown as an absolute disaster at the kitchen and housekeeping, since she's practically lived on tour her whole life and has rarely had the chance to experience what a true home life is. She gets a bit better with Sora's help. On the other hand, the initially very childish and immature May Wong is an excellent chef... and is both tomboyish (VERY pushy and straightforward) and girlish (very feminine looks)
Subverted with Tokine from Kekkaishi. Despite being publicly known as a Yamato Nadeshiko and having a mother who knows how to cook well, her attempts at cooking have all ended in failure. This probably falls under that note for type 2s, as her Love Interest is a baking otaku, and is probably at least competent at cooking non-sweet foods.
Revolutionary Girl Utena subverted this as well - Anthy Himemiya, despite being extremely feminine, is a Lethal Chef whose cooking is so terrible it actually explodes. Then causes people to switch bodies. It's pretty obvious she did that one on purpose to mess with people - under that demure exterior is enough frustration and broken, passive-aggressive malice to power a small town, due to her horrifying past and her current role as the Rose Bride that forces her into a passive Damsel in Distress role — whether she wants or not. Normally she fulfils this trope to tee, being essentially in charge of cooking and cleaning in Utena's dorm and despite of only two people living there, repeatedly produces veritable feasts for dinner.
In Tori Koro, Yae is the only one in the three main girls who can cook (and only thing she can do good, she's bad at both physically (except baseball) and academically), provoking ire from others that she's more feminine than them.
In Chrono Crusade, the Hot-Blooded Rosette can't cook. In a flashback, Chrono is shown foaming at the mouth when he first tries one of Rosette's cookies. Later, she's shown to have improved enough that her food is edible, but it still looks disgusting. In comparison, Fiore's cooking is to die for, and in the anime Azmaria and Chrono (of all people!) are both shown to be good cooks, as well.
The Wallflower: Sunako is an excellent cook, at least with Japanese food, and it's one of the big signs that she really is Beautiful All Along and Feminine All Along.
Shimura Tae from Gintama can be considered a subversion of the Type 3 variant of this trope; she definitely fits the bill character-wise, although she capriciously vaults back and forth in between feminine innocence and tomboyish wrath whenever somebody offends her or impinges upon her privacy. She has repeatedly stated to only know how to boil eggs, and even then the resulting product is always a blackened and inedible pulp much to the chagrin of the people she was cooking for. As a result of this Running Gag, her younger brother Shinpachi usually does the cooking in her household.
Hinagiku is shown as a wonderful cook despite her Tomboy exterior. Her attempts to bring attention to her ability symbolizes her trying to show her feminine side more.
Hayate is a great cook and continually shown to be so feminine a boy he can be mistaken for a girl. Hayate is shown to be hyper-qualified at everything he does.
Maria is depicted as skilled at everything. So good cooking ability plays into that as well.
Nagi is shown to be a Lethal Chef- another clue that she's a Tomboy and still too immature to be a woman (and therefor at a disadvantage in her romantic pursuits).
In Saiunkoku Monogatari, Shuurei, the protagonist, is the first ever woman politician in her country, and she is an excellent cook. Her red bean buns in particular are much loved by the other characters.
In Ai Kora, tomboyish ninja girl Kirino is revealed to be an excellent cook.
As seen above, Sumire from Venus Versus Virus. The slightly older Gothic Loli Lucia however could not cook well until Sumire taught her. Another variation that appears is that Sumire has a liking for flower arrangement.
In one episode of Nerima Daikon Brothers, Mako goes to see a famous fortune teller, who asks her to make something from a plate of cocktail weenies. She then rejects Mako's Weenie Eiffel Tower, telling her that "a girl who can't even do a lick of cooking will die tomorrow," and that she'll only become a woman when she can cook, clean, and do the laundry. The character was based on Kazuko Hosoki, an actual famous fortune teller, who had very conservative views on gender roles.
Bakuretsu Hunters has a fun example that fits with Tira's being somewhat offbeat: she's clumsy when she has to cook by conventional means, cutting her fingers and turning vegetables into rubble. But when she's allowed to "transform" and do it her own way, her prep is flawless.
Real Bout High School (the anime version) has an episode where Ryoko and another girl compete to make lunch for the boy they have a crush on.
Toyed with in Oniisama e.... On one hand, the Yamato Nadeshiko-in-training Nanako is a Supreme Chef and The Lad-ette Kaoru is a Lethal Chef. (Which gets a lampshade in the fourth episode of the anime, with Kaoru epically failing to separate egg whites and yolks and Nanako teaching her to do so). On the other, the other local tomboy Tomoko is just as good of a cook as Nanako is.
Subverted in The Prince of Tennis, where the Supreme Chef among TomokaandSakuno is… the tomboyish Tomoka. It's not that Sakuno is bad at the kitchen, but Tomoka is specifically mentioned to be the best of the two. (Somewhat justified since Tomoka has a partial Promotion to Parent to deal with: she learned to cook out of the necessity to take care of her two much younger brothers while their parents are at work.)
Sasami's the usual cook for the household, mostly out of a desire to pay back for staying at Tenchi's house. However, there are times where both Ryoko (very much The Lad-ette) and Ayeka (The Ojou, meaning she's very girlish) attempt to cook, mostly to win Tenchi over. One issue of the manga series had Tenchi fall ill after one of Ryoko and Ayeka's fights knocked him into the lake, leading to both girl to try to cook for him. Both girls are horrible cooks, but where Ryoko plows through trying to cook (with disastrous results, Ayeka ends up swallowing her pride and Sasami aids her. It's all for naught, though - by the time Ayeka's done cooking, Tenchi's feeling much better and it's Mihoshi who's sick (she got that way trying her own idea to cure Tenchi).
Ayeka takes after her mother Misaki, who, being an Action Girlpar excellence, couldn't be bothered to learn, while Sasami chose to follow their grandmother Seto who is the best chef in the whole damn Galaxy. Which is ironic, because Seto is probably even a greater Action Girl than Misaki and still finds the time to teach her cooking to everyone who ask, despite being busy with running the empire and upholding her "Demon Princess Of Jurai" nickname and screwing with everyone around.
Subverted in Yes! Precure 5 as the girlier girls of the team, Komachi and Karen, can't cook worth a hill of beans. Neither can the tomboyish Rin or the star of the series Nozomi.
In Smile Pretty Cure!, one episode had Akane taking over for her dad's restaurant after he ends up spraining his back just before a famous food critic comes by. She suffers a bit of a crisis when she can't figure out how to make a certain meal just the way he does, only to realize it's how one gives it their all to make it the best, not any special ingredients.
Cooking Papa: Araiwa's wife is a reporter without the time (or skills) to cook her family's meals. Fortunately her husband's workplace is at only five minutes from home.
Referenced in A Certain Magical Index. After Touma nearly kills himself helping Mikoto and the Sisters clones, she buys him some cookies as thanks. He protests that the reward would usually be homemade cookies, and Mikoto (a textbook tomboy) demands to know exactly what kind of girl he thinks she is. The Railgun manga, however, shows that she afterward did bake him some cookies herself (with Saten's help), but was too embarrassed to give them to him.
Miya from Sekirei is an interesting example. Her cooking is noted to be incredible, and she seems to be the very ideal of a housewife. However, it turns out that Seo was the one who taught her everything she knows about cooking and keeping house. When she first married, she was horrible at anything related to keeping house — ruining clothes, breaking the panels out of the shoji screens, and cooking food so horrific that her husband couldn't even swallow it while trying to insist it wasn't that bad.
Subverted like everything else in Rebuild of Evangelion: Rei thinks up the idea to cook for everyone, and try and get Shinji and his father together. There's just one problem, from the number of cuts she has it seems she used that large kitchen knife she was waving around more on her hands than on the food. Further subverted in that the dinner doesn't even eventuate.
Averted in an issue of JLA Classified written by Gail Simone, where Wonder Woman presents the other members of the JLA with a traditional Themyscrian pastry. Flash and Green Lantern are more than a little panicked at the thought that Wonder Woman bakes... and shocked by the tasty results.
A weird subversion in Young Justice, in which Artemis, Diana's counterpart from the more savage Amazons, reveals she can cook during Wonder Girl's Training from Hell. There's nothing feminine about it though...
Artemis: We eventually proved ourselves to our elders by making them a feast from the eighteen eyes of a slain hydra. Cassie: Oh, perfect. I can't even reheat mac and cheese.
In Archie Comics, Veronica subverts this by being a notoriously bad cook who couldn't boil water in a blast furnace. Furthermore, any boy who is pressured to eat what she prepares is usually convinced they are about to commit suicide.
In "The Frog's Skin", the frog secretly cooks for her husband before he learns it is her.
In a short time the frog leaped out of the fireplace, jumped over to the doors, and all around the room. Seeing no one there, it went back and took off the frog's skin, put it near the fire, and came forth a beautiful maiden, fair as the sun; so lovely was she that the man could not imagine anything prettier. In the twinkling of an eye she had tidied everything, prepared the food, and cooked it. When everything was ready, she went to the fire, put on the skin again, and began to croak.
In "The Fish and the Ring", the heroine swings a job in the kitchen, which is how she happens to cook the fish that has the ring — and so make her father-in-law give up his persecution.
In "All Kind of Fur", she can cook a marvelous soup, and she also slips the ring he gave her into it.
In "Cap o' Rushes", she makes gruel for the sick young man, which gives her a chance to put the ring in it.
Film - Animation
Pictured above: In The Princess and the Frog, the heroine, Tiana, loves to cook, and from the age of six shows off her prodigious gumbo skillz. Her dream is to own a beautiful, community-nurturing restaurant where she herself is the head chief. Her skills were honed in her home kitchen but she is a professional chef.
Colette from Ratatouille twists this trope around by being strong, feminine, and an outstanding chef at one of Paris' top restaurants all at once. She makes a speech partway through the film which is a Take That to the notion that women can only cook within the home, which is clearly a Berserk Button.
Film - Live Action
Woman of the Year spends much of the movie showing how Katharine Hepburn's female reporter is the intellectual equal (or even superior) of Spencer Tracy's male reporter. The last scene in the movie is of Hepburn trying to make waffles but failing spectacularly, indicating that by being so successful in the "man's world" (the movie was released in 1942), she's basically rendered helpless in the "woman's world."
Film Always. Air-traffic controller Dorinda Durston wants to have a man over for dinner. She has to buy a pre-cooked meal and pretends that she prepared it herself.
Lara Croft in Tomb Raider even screws up reheating a ready meal in a microwave. Of course, she's of noble blood, and her butler does all the cooking. She's also most definitely not feminine. The one time she puts on an elegant dress, her butler nearly has a heart attack (he's been trying to get her to act like a proper lady for years) and quickly corrects the situation by serving her guns on a tray.
Éowyn in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is shown to be a horrible cook by Aragorn's wordless expression when she attempts to make stew for him (matching at least two trope variants, since Éowyn is not at all happy in a medieval woman's role and she has an unrequited crush on Aragorn). It probably helps that she's highborn, so she probably has servants for cooking, and she's traveling with minimal equipment.
In the 1984 film Runaway, it's Twenty Minutes into the Future and robots do a lot of the routine work. Tom Selleck plays Ramsay, a policeman who hunts down rogue Killer Robots. He's assisted by a strong and capable female officer, Karen Thompson, who in fact is more competent than he is because he's acrophobic. By the end they're falling in love, and how does he ask her to have a relationship with him? He says "Can you cook?", causing the woman to melt adoringly into his arms as the sparks fly.
In Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series, Cathy Ryan — wife of the titular protagonist — is a good example. A full-time doctor, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, and an award-winning researcher, she still nonetheless takes great pride in her gourmet chef abilities (her potato salad is apparently to die for). It has been suggested within the books themselves that the reason she is so good at it is because cooking, being the application of proper ingredients, time, and preparation, appeals to her meticulous nature.
Though she's not portrayed as particularly gifted, Catti-brie Battlehammer of The Legend of Drizzt novels, for much of her life a tomboyish Action Girl, can at least make enjoyable road stew. Though it's implied that, like many other of her useful skills beyond "sharp wit", Drizzt, a ranger used to surviving in the wild, taught her how.
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."note Emphasis added.
Polgara. She can cook, masterfully, and she at least pays lip service to the idea that she, as a woman, is better off manipulating events subtly and behind the scenes. The events of Polgara the Sorceress, however, prove that she's just as willing as her father Belgarath to flat-out strongarm people (or an entire nation) into doing what she wants, and she's almost as proficient as him at it, to boot.
The "Rich people can't cook" variant is Ce'Nedra. She's not quite a Lethal Chef, but almost.
Garion, the protagonist, is probably a passable cook, just by virtue of being raised in a kitchen and watching his aunt Pol at work. He knows how to cook bacon over an open flame and not burn it, at least.
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Mara Jade tries to give Luke a taste of home by cooking a Tatooine dish. She, of course, screws it up. Luke, perhaps for the sake of her feelings (or just to escape her rage), tells her that it smells just like he remembers; and that he really wanted to leave Tatooine because of the food.
Parodied in the Discworld novel Jingo, where confused crossdresser Nobby Nobbs believes he's expected to do the cooking because he's a woman. To make it even sillier, there is an actual woman present, but Sergeant Angua "doesn't do cookery" (She's an Independent Career Woman. She's also a vegetarian werewolf, who prefers to avoid the smell of meat in human form.)
Louisa May Alcott was very fond of this trope. The scenes in Little Women putting Jo March through the 'feminine redemption for the tomboy' version were repeated in several other of Alcott's novels and short stories, as her heroines contemplate taking up a profession and are firmly told that the most honourable profession for any woman is to make a happy, comfortable home for her family. Which doesn't mean they always follow it, anyway.
Eight Cousins, also by Louisa May Alcott, subverts it. The small heroine Rose learns to bake the perfect loaf of bread, but it's presented as only one aspect of an pretty well-rounded education that also involves learning to sail, ride and generally become 'strong-minded', right alongside her seven boy cousins.
Molly Carpenter from The Dresden Files is committed to getting Harry Dresden healthier, by cooking healthy meals for him. Unfortunately, though she can make a mean cup of coffee, a chef she ain't.
Harry: Once she burned my egg. My boiled egg. I have no idea how.
In Belisarius Series, Lady Sanga is so good a cook that the absence of onions at the place she was supposedly murdered makes her husband wonder if she really was murdered. In her case she was an aristocrat and didn't need to cook or even do much of anything. She just loved cooking.
In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Vanity (the more feminine of the two girls), can barely make coffee, and the less said about her "hamburger" the better. However, Amelia notes that whatever she does make tends to taste delicious anyway.
In the Mercy Thompson novels, Mercy is a Volkswagon mechanic who dresses in grubby T-shirts, snarks off incessantly to every macho-male she encounters, and devours small furry animals when she turns into a coyote. The one "girly" thing she does is to bake lots of cookies or brownies.
In L. M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill, Jane takes to cooking like a duck to water, feeding both herself and her father though she was never allowed to cook before. She does prudently buy a cookbook first, and donuts defeat her.
In Poul Anderson's "Break", Cleonie — previously noted by the captain as a feminine woman — is the sole passenger among the survivors of The Mutiny. When the (male) crew desperately work to save themselves in a damaged crew, she feel helpless, but the captain counters that she keeps the meals coming.
A Brother's Price is a world in which, due to the sheer rarity of males, most gender roles are Stereotype Flipped and twisted about a little. As such the ability to cook for a large family is seen as a very good skill for a man to have. Jerin, staying out of the kitchen to avoid tempting visiting women, finds that one of his sisters has prepared only potatoes for their guest's dinner and has to recruit siblings to help him make it into a full meal.
Kahlan from the Sword of Truth series. A ruler of the Midlands, with powerful Mind Control powers, a brilliant tactician and excellent fighter...really loves cooking. A cook who knew her since childhood claimed Kahlan scared everyone whenever she came into her kitchen and asked for some pots (a normal reaction to a Confessor. Nothing to do with her skills).
Iria Gai from Alice, Girl from the Future. She was raised as an ultimate tomboy and was known to live for years on sandwiches. Then she fell in love and married...
In Redeeming Love, this trope is averted with former prostitute Angel, who is very good at looking and behaving like a lady, but has next to no domestic skills because she’s never needed them before getting married. This is a source of angst and frustration once she reaches a point where she wants to do something appropriately wifely for Michael like make him dinner. Played straight when she gets enough practice that she actually becomes quite skilled in the kitchen, and even acquires a job as a cook later on in the novel.
Mrs. Bennet informs the company at one point that Charlotte Lucas was probably wanted home to help with the mince pies; she brings up her daughters differently, and has the servants do their own work.
Mr. Collins makes the mistake of thinking one of the Bennett daughters helped with the meal. Mrs. Bennet corrects him; after all that's what they have servants for.
In Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles story "Utensile Strength", one woman breaks her engagement on discovering her fiance can bake better than she does. (Four others get engaged on the spot, thinking this might be useful.)
In John Hemry's Burden Of Proof, Carl talks of how Paul and Jen have settled down since they started to date; he expects Jen to knit and cook and stuff. Paul observes that she does nothing more than microwave meals — but there's nothing like a home-microwaved meal.
Invoked in Summers at Castle Auburn when Roderick basically says this. Corie points out to him that's stupid because most noblewomen can't cook.
In Dorothy L Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey novel Gaudy Night, Miss Cattermole is miserable at Oxford and would rather be a cook. She can't because her mother is really big at getting women out of traditional jobs — cooking is too feminine.
Live Action TV
Buffyverse: Cordelia Chase is a Type 2. Her brownies could qualify as nuclear waste.
Lorelai Gilmore and her teenage daughter Rory subsist on junk food, diner food and takeout. Lorelai ended the series with Luke, a diner owner. (Lorelai is an incompetent cook, she is an excellent seamstress and can whip up a fancy dress in under a week.)
Rory is shown cooking twice in the whole series and both times a larger point about how either she is becoming adrift in a sea of privilege or showing how unfitting a life of domesticity would be for her.
Lorelai's best friend Sookie works as a chef, but she's also shown as a feminine woman who loves cooking and happily feeds her husband and children. And occasionally Lorelai and Rory.
Sex and the City: Carrie Bradshaw is lucky if she can brew a pot of coffee. Thankfully all her major love interests know their way around the kitchen.
Tyler, Wendy's new boyfriend on The Middleman, cooks for her. She returns the favor to him in "The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome" when she cooks a few...Hot Pockets.
"Lacey let me in. Don't worry, I only spent the first ten minutes digging through your underwear drawer. Now I'm testing your oven."
"We have an oven?"
"It's the big metal box where you keep the extra paint."
Lois in Lois and Clark can't cook... as shown in one episode, at the end of which she inherits cookery talent from the ghost of a disgruntled housewife who possessed her. Cookery is never mentioned again.
In 30 Rock, Liz is generally depicted as the independent-career-gal-living-off-fast-food type, but there was one episode ("The C Word") in which she baked cupcakes for the writers (and they apparently turned out all right).
Inverted hard with Rachel and Monica. Rachel, despite being the most feminine, fashionable and sexy of the girls is a terrible cook (including once putting beef in the trifle), while Monica who is competitive, strong-willed and gutsy is a professional chef and feeds the entire gang for the whole series.
Phoebe exists somewhere in the middle: Not being explicitly girly but an independent hippy type, and implied to be a passable cook. She one time casually mentioned cooking herself a veggie burger while pregnant.
Debra of Everybody Loves Raymond; she's a traditional stay-at-home mom who happens to cook badly. Of course, it's probably not quite as bad as her mother-in-law makes it out to be, but it's pretty bad.
Former Borg drone Seven of Nine takes up cooking in the final season of Star Trek: Voyager as a symbol of her progression towards humanity. Captain Janeway on the other hand can never get the hang of her food replicator, even to make a decent cup of much-beloved coffee.
Zigzagged a little on Chef. Since it's a sitcom about a high-class restaurant, most of the characters, male or female, can cook, with the notable exception of Janice Blackstock, who is written as a perfectly feminine, albeit career-oriented, woman. But it's okay, because she's married to the best chef in the world (just ask him). She manages the restaurant, and at no point is her inability to cook seen as negating her femininity (although Gareth makes fun of her for it once). The third season inverts this with the Rich Bitch character Renee, who loves the colour pink and is completely useless at cooking when introduced, although it's implied she gets better toward the end of the season. Prim and proper Lucinda and slightly masculine Savannah are both brilliant cooks.
On one episode of Just Shoot Me!, Nina is asked to cook a meal for a congressman she's dating. (She was auditioning for a stuffing commercial, long story.) An aging former model who's never been on a kitchen her adult life, she has to ask Maya for help over the phone. Maya has been seen hosting a dinner in at least one episode, and although no comments, good or bad, are ever made about her cooking, it can be assumed that she's at least a competent cook.
Played with in Firefly. In "Our Mrs. Reynolds", Mal's almost painfully submissive new wife Saffron turns out to be a fabulous cook. Zoe is not amused when Saffron suggests she cook for her husband, and is even less amused when Wash drools over Saffron's cooking. However, in "War Stories", a rather touching scene has Zoe cooking for Wash after he leads the charge to rescue Mal.
"Mmmmmm. Wife soup."
In Legend of the Seeker, Cara is chopping wood while Kahlan gathers it, and she chides Zedd and Richard for fussing over the food while the women chop and gather wood. Zedd answers that on a team, every member of the team should perform according to their abilities... and considering Cara's last attempt at cooking, she should stick to chopping.
Used to a remarkable extent in Kyle XY, despite both parents working. During a period when the mother of the family Nicole isn't cooking the rest of them don't even seem to consider the possibility that maybe someone else could cook, subsisting entirely on takeout food.
Apparently, Peg Bundy from Married... with Children is a pretty decent cook; she just never actually wants to and is so lazy that a packet of Jiffy Pop (that expired 3 years prior) is what she uses to celebrate. On the odd occasion that she actually puts any effort into it, she cranks out some world-class meals.
Eve: Is this the kind of wife you want, Ben? Not someone to help you, not a wife to cook and sew and cry and need, but this kind. Selfish, vain, useless. Is this what you really want?
Veronica Mars isn't traditionally feminine in her behavior (mostly just Bad Ass), and her cooking skills seem to be average for someone who often prepares dinner for herself and her dad. However, her friend Wallace suspects that deep down inside, there's a girl who's "just dying to bake [him] something". In a way, he's right - she later prepares packages of "spirit cookies" for him on game days. She does so anonymously until he catches her baking.
Lily is the girly girl and feminine woman of the group. Some episodes mention that Lily is a great cook and bakes excellent cakes or cookies. For instance, she prepared the Thanksgiving dinner.
Played with in that Lily might be somewhat feminine (and certainly is compared to Robin, the other primary female character) but is in other ways significantly more masculine than Ted or Marshall (or even Barney at times).
Victoria, Ted's girlfriend, was a very pretty and sweet woman, and a professional baker who met Ted at one wedding. She often baked cupcakes for Ted.
Subverted when major Kozak's daughter wants to appease her father (who got angry because of a clogged bathtub) by telling him she will cook schnitzels. He says ok and she says she's gonna download the recipe.
Captain Prazak's wife makes him a sandwich when he's called to a case in the middle of the night.
Marnie Madden from The Hour gets her own cooking show in the second series, where she acts as a stereotypical fifties wife. Shame her actual life is a bit more complicated.
Traveller: In the Sword Worlds the "Hearthfire" is a sacred Archetype and a symbol of security and domesticity. A proud male warrior or worker "guards" the Hearthfire, but his wife Tends it. In a way they hold this to mean she is a quasi-priestess merely by being a woman.
In Of Thee I Sing, Wintergreen isn't too keen on marrying Diana Devereaux or any of the other Beauty Contest girls, since he doubts their ability to cook: "Why, the average girl today can't cook—she can't even broil an egg." Mary insists that she can cook, and introduces him to her corn muffins, which go Through His Stomach straight to his heart.
In On the Town, Hildy claims she can cook, but the bill of fare she presents to Chip consists of Double Entendres served up in a List Song. She does, with great effort, manage to prepare one specialty: a peeled banana.
In The Golden Apple, Miss Minerva bakes a seven-layer cake for the fair "just to prove I'm feminine." But Lovey Mars takes along her mincemeat pie and Mrs. Juniper brings her prize-winning angel-food cake. And then old Mother Hare appears and offers her Apple of Discord to the most feminine of them all, for confectionery values of femininity.
Raine Sage is a teacher, the sole parental figure for her kid brother, and a notoriously bad cook.
Subversion with Sheena who is one of the best cooks the party has, especially regarding familial recipes (she gets this as a title: "the culinary master who raised home-style cooking to the highest level"), yet she's a Tsundere tomboyish Action Girl. However, the deviation from the trope is lampshaded in one scene where Handsome Lech Zelos calls her on it:
Sheena: Oh, well. It's fun to cook every now and then. I wouldn't want to get out of practice.
Zelos: Oh, Sheena, what does that mean? You practicing your cooking for when you get married? I didn't expect to hear that from you of all people!
Sheena: N...no, it's not that! Sheesh!
It turns out that Marta in the sequel, Dawn of the New World, Marta can't cook either. In fact, when Sheena joins the party, a skit shows Emil crying from happiness because he never found a woman who could cook before Sheena.
Emil is a wonderful cook (and has a habit of sculpting food into intricate shapes), and he's easily the most (or second most, after Colette) effeminate character in the game. Partly subverted, since Ratatosk Emil cooks just as well (though his food looks worse).
In the first Tales of Symphonia, there is actually a skit that lampshades the aversion. Lloyd notices that Regal is a vastly superior cook to Raine, and Regal says that more men are good at cooking because of their physical strength. In the same skit he says women are more equipped to fighting.
This is a habit in the Tales series. The main character is always good at cooking. The main heroine is almost always a bad cook. Then the second woman in the party (like Sheena) is either good at cooking, or neutral. It's usually done to get some laughs at how bad the heroine's cooking is.
In Tales of the Abyss this trope is tendency is played around with. Luke is a mediocre to bad cook with a somewhat exotic taste, while Tear (the main heroine) is a good cook (albeit she cooks roughly like a guy would as she was taught by her brother Van). Anise is the best cook in the game, and is the second woman to join you. Natalia, meanwhile, is quite possibly the worst cook in the party, as there is a skit in which she tries to heal a burning soup and she repeatedly burns her dishes beyond recognition. Asch is noted to be a surprisingly good chef, in contrast to Luke.
Depending on the player, in Mass Effect 3's Citadel DLC a female Shepard romancing Kaidan can either avert this trope or play it straight depending on a dialogue choice made when Kaidan cooks for her (Shepard being a textbook Action Girl and unmitigated Badass).
Played straight in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Sunny is taught how to cook by Naomi, and it eventually becomes a plot point. Sunny uses Raiden to deliver a coded culinary message indicating she'd attacked the Patriots.
Exaggerated by Rose in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, who is the perfect girlfriend, but a terrible cook. However, she's a Patriot spy who modified her entire personality to fit Raiden's profile of the ideal woman, and her bad cooking is the one chink in her armour.
Inverted in Persona 4 the two traditionally feminine girls Yukiko and Rise, and the more tomboyish Chie, can't cook at all (Rise can, but only if you're a fire eater like her). At the end they bake an edible cake only by getting the help of Naoto Shirogane, and even Naoto notes that it took them three tries. Also the male Hero is noted as being an excellent cook. It's also implied Ai cannot cook either when she remarks that it would be nice to end up with a guy who can cook after eating food prepared by The Hero.
Living up to her first name, Flora Reinhold of the Professor Layton series is about as feminine as you can get: always wearing dresses, being polite and soft-spoken, and even being a Damsel in Distress at one point. And, according to the games' ending credits, she cannot cook but seems to like to anyway.
In Rune Factory Oceans (known as "Rune Factory: Tides of Distiny" in the West), you start the game as the male protagonist Aden but have the choice of switching to the female protagonist Sonja once you've restored her body. Sonja will inherit all of Adel's skills with the exception of cooking, which will automatically be bumped up to 40 if Aden had any less than that.
Lissa is a Tomboy Princess who tries to bake for Kellam. She fails. She also attempts to cook for the aforementioned Gaius, and that goes a little better... since this time he's watching over her and giving her cooking lessons.
Olivia is rather feminine in looks and personality, and according to her supports with Kellam she's pretty good at making sweets. And she can be paired up with almost all the aforementioned guys.
The Final Fantasy XIII: Episode ZeroPrequel novel reveals that between Lightning and Serah, the latter is the better cook. Though this is not to say Lightning is bad at it; in a side conversation in the third game, she mentions that even though Serah was always better than her, she can still "grill a mean Behemoth steak."
BlazBlue inverts this trope. Not only are some competent chefs actually reasonably manly men like Ragna, Jubei and Valkenhayn, but only three girls' culinary skills have been reliably measured. Litchi Faye-Ling is known to make some good meatbuns, as Taokaka can attest. Also, during The Wheel of Fortune, Tsubaki entertains the notion of inviting Jin over for some of Makoto's home-made stew, something she probably wouldn't consider if Makoto wasn't competent.* This trait presumably carries over to the mainline Makoto as well. The other girl in question is the more feminine Noel, whose skills speak for themselves.
Sakura learned to cook to appeal to Shirou. One of her primary goals seems to be to outdo him at cooking and she gets a little antsy if she fails. Her unpleasant backstory drove away most of her feminine traits, and also most of her human ones.... But she's (a bit) better by the time the story starts. Except in Heaven's Feel where those quick flashes of insecurity or jealousy she had in the previous two routes, coupled with the shards of the corrupted Grail that Zouken's implanted into her, cause her to go insane (eventually). She recovered, fortunately.
Saber takes the cake in terms of being successful in a "man's world" in addition to being one of the powerful character in the series. It makes sense that she's doesn't know how cook, in fact it would be more strange if she did know how to. As such she depends on Shirou to cook for her, made more noticeable by the fact that she's a Big Eater.
Arcueid from Tsukihime can count as a type 2 or arguably type 5. She is not brainless but she is an airhead due to her empirical ignorance about the modern world or the world in general. She also happens to be the strongest thing on the planet (ORT don't count). Regardless, she has perfectly good reasons why she can't cook and depends on her love interest Shiki to cook for her, who is not an amazing cook but is good enough. She probably enjoys the fact that he cooks for her more than the actual cooking themselves anyway.
Touko in Suika learned to cook specifically to appeal to Yoshikazu. Sayaka is also going for this and is apparently a competent cook, but Souji is just better.
Played with in Yuri GenreVisual NovelAkai Ito. The protagonist Kei is the most stereotypically-feminine amongst the female cast, but her cooking can only be described as biohazard. The Lad-ette Sakuya usually end up cooking for her.
And again its sequel Aoi Shiro. The Tomboy protagonist Syouko —the captain of the kendo team and the object of admiration of her underclassgirls— can cook as well as the very feminine Yasumi, who has serious crush on her. Kind of making through-her-stomach strategy unviable.
Lilly Satou is an excellent cook, and has been cooking for her older sister Akira since they were young. The thing is...Lilly has been completely blind since birth. Akira is just that bad (she's also incredibly busy with her career as a lawyer).
Hanako Ikezawa, Lilly's friend, is an interesting case. Main character Hisao finds her cooking to be very good, but Lilly mentions that Hanako likes to experiment, and says it in a way that implies some of those experiments produced unpleasant surprises.
Ironically, the best cook in the group is... the tomboyish Emi Ibarazaki. (Who likely learned from her very girly and beautiful mother, Meiko.) And the worst one is Shizune Hakamichi, the local Ms. Fanservice.
Marsha from College Roomies From Hell massively subverts this. While she can have some pretty big Yandere qualities, she's generally considered the most cute and feminine of the female cast. Her cuteness even borders on supernatural levels, with her "manga eyes" able to entrance almost any male, and small furry animals constantly following her due to her Snow White Syndrome. She also comes from a family of chefs and wants to be one herself. Despite all this, her cooking is considered slightly more toxic than toxic waste itself.
Tedd in El Goonish Shive can cook — but only when he's a woman. His explanation is initially "because I'm hot" (and the comment on this background is "She's so hot, it helps her cook!"). Later he reasons that he only has to cook for himself when his dad isn't around, which is also when he turns himself into a girl, so he has accidentally conditioned himself to feel more confident cooking in female form.
Ménage à 3 features DiDi, who lacks some of the attributes of extreme femininity, but who is certainly very, very female — and who is a keen hobbyist cook, implied to be far and away the best in the kitchen of the lead cast.
Starfire's a straight example if you accept that Tamaranian cuisine is difficult for Earthlings to swallow at its best (unless you're Terra.)
Total Drama: Lindsey averts this trope. While she is the most feminine of the girls in the original cast, her cooking skills lead to disastrous results.
In the episode "Johnny Daddy Day" from Johnny Test, it is shown that Johnny's super-busy working mom Lila and genius inventor sisters Mary and Susan have no experience in cooking whatsoever. They aren't even sure what a spatula is or does. Under the guidance of Johnny (who took a cooking class to get an easy A grade), they manage to make a meatloaf for Hugh for Father's Day, only for it to come alive and attack him.
Mary and Susan: We... might have used too much DNA.
Mrs Turner on The Fairly OddParents apparently can't cook very well, having fed her family with live squid casserole, shoes, food items that have been so foul they started attacking the rest of the family... Cosmo also seems to imply that Wanda's cooking is bad as well.