Is Cooking Still "Woman’s Work"?

Cooking Housewife -- Lisa's Dinner party 7-30-09 3
photo credit: stevendepolo on Flickr

Let me make one thing clear: I am not “a cook”, at least not with a capital C.  While once in a while I have fun trying out a new dish in the kitchen, most of the time I just want to get something on the table that I know most of my kids will eat. With time and effort I’ve learned to make a handful of dishes that are fresh, healthy, and reasonably tasty, and I save my experimenting for food-preparation tasks I enjoy (like baking and canning.)

So I understand that cooking for fun is not everybody’s cup of tea. Still, I am always a little confused when I hear other parents say they “don’t cook.” I always want to say…so then, what does your family EAT?I guess it’s one thing if your spouse is an awesome cook who’s available most evenings and happy to do all the food prep. Or if you’re wealthy enough to afford a personal chef or a steady stream of healthy take-out. But if neither of those things apply, how does it work? Does the family eat nothing but salads, sandwiches and cereal? Do meals that come out of cans and boxes count as “cooking” or is that somehow too oppressive to non-cooks, too?

A recent Huffington Post article by Jowita Bydlowska, entitled “A Failed Woman Out of the Kitchen: Why I Don’t Cook”, seemed to imply that a woman cooking to meet other peoples’ needs is oppressive…and anyway, she’s simply not interested. From the piece:

I believe that some (stress on some) of those cooking women do it out of feelings of obligation to fulfill their traditional role in the household, not because they love it (but others do genuinely love it). I refuse to do it simply because I’m a woman. …My only agenda is my own self-satisfaction, a fulfillment of my creative needs.”

Hm. Well, yes, I do cook out of a feeling of obligation – not obligation to fulfill a gender role (my husband cooks, too) but out of an obligation to, like, feed my family (and myself). Being able to create a few dishes just seems like a basic, necessary life skill to me. If I only did things that fulfill my creative needs, my home would be condemned by the health department and no matter how much writing I did I’d never collect a paycheck because I don’t particularly enjoy filling out tax forms, either.

Most of the things Bydlowska blithely insists she will never embrace – like baking pies and pickling – aren’t really cooking in a purely functional feeding-people kind of way, anyway. And I guess as hobbies, those things are still mostly the domain of females, though even that might be changing. I know my husband seems eager to get in on the canning trend (the man is a huge fan of anything preserved or pickled.)

As far as actual cooking goes? My husband does almost as much in the kitchen as I do, and the only reason I physically get dinner on the table more nights than he does is that his commute means he’s usually walking in the door right at dinnertime. He makes up for it by turning out better food on “his” nights than I am usually able to pull off.

Do Bydlowska and other women who won’t cook have a point, or are they operating on dated assumptions about gender roles and food prep? And, again…if you “don’t cook” what do you…eat?

Article Posted 5 years Ago

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