When I read the inside cover of Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry, I didn’t know what to expect. As a person who absolutely hated chemistry in high school, I wasn’t sure how I’d empathize with the main character or how connected I’d feel to the story. However, once I started, I couldn’t stop. Not only was it a story of romance, but also a story of perseverance as the main character takes her skills of chemistry into a whole other sector: cooking. As a woman with a deep appreciation for food, I felt particularly empowered and inspired by this storyline. Often, home cooking in media, especially when done in a family setting, is portrayed with little respect or care. The main action isn’t the mother cooking; she is only the background to the “important” conversation of her male counterparts. Garmus shows readers that it takes real skill, understanding, and creativity no matter what setting you choose to cook in.

Lessons in Chemistry follows Elizabeth Zott throughout her life in the 1950s. An inspiring chemist, she is a strong female lead that is intelligent and unwavering in her beliefs that equal opportunities should be available to both women and men. To prove this point, Zott starts a cooking show, Supper At Six. Unlike any other cooking show, she doesn’t act the part of a dutiful housewife, but as a chemist, teaching her all-female audience about food and cooking through chemistry.

As a woman and a person with a deep passion and love for food, I felt immediately inspired by this book. Although women are continuing to fight for equality in many realms of society, it is still important to look back at the thousands of women who came before us and bravely fought in a variety of ways to bring us to the place we are today. 

The story of Elizabeth Zott may be one of fiction, but her character and story draw many parallels to Julia Child, the original TV chef. While the author has never said she took any inspiration from the story of Child, it is impossible to ignore the many similarities these two women share.

Julia Child, born in 1912, went on to become one of the most famous names in cooking. From 1962 to 1973, Child hosted a popular cooking show on Boston public television called The French Chef, which encouraged American audiences to try cooking French cuisine at home. Although she made mistakes on the air from time to time, she show her audience how to learn from her mishaps and be proud and confident.

Although Zott may be a fictional character, women like her are responsible for the variety of opportunities available to women today. Specifically in the world of food and cooking, we take this month to show appreciation and respect for women such as Julia Child, Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, Padma Lakshmi, Cat Cora, Dione Lucas, Cristeta Comerford, Irma Rombauer, Stephanie Izard, and Betty Crocker, just to name a few.