So there was a good article by Michael Pollan in the NY Times about the rise in fascination with watching ‘others’ cook (ie professional chefs), and the decline in home cooking (also, just as a fascinating aside, mentioning research that shows the rise in obesity as linked to the decline of the home meal). And there was tweeting about it, one can almost imagine this as being practically knee jerk, a no-brainer, about how Michael Pollan wants us women back in the kitchen. Which made me immediately yelp, “you GUYS. you’re missing the point!”
Because it’s exactly at this point that feminism has gotten into a cul de sac, even a slightly resentful, surly cul de sac. I mean, you can see why the feminism of the late Fifties through the Seventies emphasized that girls aren’t allowed to do what boys do. And, I’m afraid to say, you can also see why they were encouraged to emphasize this and campaign about this by the mass media and the corporations.
Look. In a patriarchal society, what the boys do automatically becomes more important than what the girls do. This means, for example, that being an investment banker becomes more important than being a nursery school teacher. Okay, we all know that one. We all bemoan that one. But do we look at the roots of it and what it really means? It means, of course, that being someone whose default setting is to beat the hell out of the other guy and be the dominant one gets more prestige and more resources than someone whose default setting is to care for and nurture others.
I daresay just about anyone out there can see where THAT got us.
So feminism, I have to say, has got to go back to work on this one. It can’t just be about doing what the boys do. It has to be about upholding the importance of what the girls do. Because it’s more important to eat and to feed your loved ones than it is to make money. Well, it is. It IS.
In other words, all you women who were forced to give up cooking for yourself and your family (and all you men, too, as a matter of fact) because you have no time anymore, do not hide out in the faux virtue of thinking that means you’ve taken a step forward out of the kitchen. Unh uh. What you’ve done is you’ve walked into a rabbit trap with your eyes wide shut. You’ve given up something of basic importance to the achievement of your own autonomy for the convenience of a world that regards you as just something to be milked. Work long hours. Spend money from working long hours. Work longer hours to have more money to spend. Get less and less gratification in the process. Get madder and madder, and so get sold more and more crap that promises you a reward for how mad you are.
This is not feminism. This is being conned in a big, big way.
Okay, you really don’t like to cook? Don’t cook then. It’s like sex, though. There are probably some people who don’t authentically like sex, but my guess is they’re a very small group of people. On the other hand, if you’re forced to have sex, you’re going to hate it worse than cleaning out the attic on a hot day.
You get my point? There has to be freedom from constraint, there has to be leisure enough to contemplate, there has to be calm before you can know who you are and what you want. And once you do know that, my own feeling is that you’re going to love sex, you’re going to love nature, and you’re going to love FOOD. I mean, if you’re a human being. How can you help it? I mean, unless you’re so drugged up by pharmaceuticals, recreationals, audio visuals, and terror that you can’t even feel your own self.
If that is true, stop it right now. I’m not kidding. You’re not just making your own life worse, but the lives of those around you, and the world, too.
And one way to stop that is to recast Feminism as support for those virtues of nurturing, compassion, partnership, and just all round pleasure that have always been denigrated in our culture as ‘girly stuff’. I personally adore girly stuff. Girly stuff needs to be reclaimed as a ruling power in our culture…before it’s too late.
So let’s start reclaiming it. Start with something easy. Let’s start with a Baked Potato.
For everyone who says cooking at home is too difficult, too time consuming, a Baked Potato is the ideal riposte. Of course, you do have to have an hour before you eat it. At least before you eat it the first time (you should bake a lot of Baked Potatoes at once, save energy, use the leftovers for all manner of easily thrown together meals). But with a little planning, this can be managed.
First buy your potato. This should be an organic one, not treated with sprouticide, which is a particularly hard to get rid of pesticide. This should also be one that has a nice dusky, papery skin, no sprouts, no green stuff (that green stuff means incorrect storage, and makes you a little nauseous if you eat it; just cut the green part off…but you want the skin with a baked potato so try to get one absolutely ungreen to start). Scrub until clinging dirt unclings. Stick a knife into it in a few places so it doesn’t explode when you cook it. Put in oven (toaster oven ideal for this) at 400 degrees for about forty five minutes to an hour, depending on its size and how done you like it. Squeeze it gently or poke with a fork to test doneness. It won’t hurt to leave it in the oven for longer (just makes the skin even crispier), or turn off the oven and leave it warm till you want to eat it. Then EAT IT. Split it in half, mash with a fork, top with topping of your choice: unsalted butter. sour cream. hot sauce. garlic mayonnaise. You make the call.
With a salad and a piece of corn, this makes a pretty darn good meal. It probably cost you twenty cents for the potato. All you had to do was wash it, pierce it, stick it in the oven, and pull it out again. This is probably less trouble than it takes to unwrap a hamburger from Wendy’s and then throw the detritus away.
As for those extra baked potatoes you made? Many choices available to you. Dice ’em and fry ’em later with onions for hash browns. Scoop out the pulp and mash it with cheese and butter and milk, bake it later. The skins can be cut with scissors into lengths, basted with butter and hot sauce, and baked till they taste like high class versions of potato chips.
And so on.
If you do this feeling that you’re degraded by being in the kitchen, consider this: who is actually cooking the meals you are actually consuming? Is it right to have someone so much lower on the economic food chain, so dissed and overworked, being the person who provides you with something essential to your well being? Is this the kind of culture we want? Is this the kind of culture Feminism is meant to help deliver?
I think not.
Back to the Baked Potato. We had ours for lunch. And for dinner, they’ll be hashed, served with a frittata and a tomato and chive salad.
Now, THAT’S a Feminist meal, for sure.