Is Cooking For Your Family “Retrograde June Cleaver Nonsense?”

So, I was reading Slashfood today, and came upon this post highlighting an article in the New York Times written by a working mom who has made the choice to cook healthy dinners for her family almost every night.

In “Mom Puts Family on a Meal Plan”, author Leslie Kauffman relates how she, as a working mother of two boys, decided that cooking for her family was important. This is how she puts it: “I committed to cooking a family meal when my first son was born, in 1997, not because of any psychology study about the well-being of children, but because it gave me comfort. Every working mother has to draw the line somewhere. Maybe my children would take their first steps with a babysitter, or perform in school plays with only their grandparents in attendance. But mom would cook their dinners.”

She then goes on to give details of her personal strategy for putting home-cooked dinners on the table at least five nights a week, which boils down to simplicity, organization, discipline and planning ahead. Her techniques are sound, and if you are a time-strapped parent, student, bachelor or workaholic, Kauffman’s tips will help you get off the takeout train and hop into the kitchen for some good, old-fashioned real home cooking.

So, I read the Slashfood post, clicked over and read the article, and thought, “Well, that is a nice little article there, very helpful and supportive to the working parents of the world, and full of useful information. Wow. Cool.”

Then, I went back to Slashfood and saw that the post had seven comments on it. The second one hit me in the stomach like a strong left hook. The author of the comment, who signed as MK, said, “I can’t possibly understand why Slashfood would choose to highlight this retrograde June Cleaver nonsense. It’s also hard to believe the NYTimes published it. Thanks for the ‘tips’ but no thanks.”

At first, I thought, well, maybe the poster was just having one of those days when crankiness is next to godliness, and had to spout off at something, and well, maybe she or he hates cooking.

Then, I reread it and felt that the theme that delineated the brief comment is one that has always bothered me, and that is the idea that a woman cooking for her family is somehow outdated, unfeminist and anti-woman. It is somehow politically incorrect for a mother to want to cook for her family.

This opinion makes no sense to me. For one thing, it seems to be stating that because women in the past were societally expected to cook dinner for their families whether they wanted to or not, even if they worked outside the home, that women cannot possibly choose to do so now that societal pressure is no longer on them. The assumption behind this sort of belief is that if a woman chooses to cook for her children, she is making that decision not for herself, but instead is making a sacrifice of herself because those mostly defunct social mores dictating the behavior of women are still lurking in her brain, waiting to turn her into a Stepford-wife-like slave to her family.

Please look carefully at the author’s own words. She said, “I committed to cooking a family meal when my first son was born, in 1997, not because of any psychology study about the well-being of children, but because it gave me comfort.”

In other words, she did it for her own sense of self and well-being.

How exactly is that unfeminist and anti-woman?

I was under the impression that the point of feminism was to give women opportunities and choices. Feminism is nothing more than the idea that women are completely human, and deserve the same rights and responsibilities that men enjoy in society, and that the same choices that apply to men should also apply to women. I thought that the women’s movement was aimed at creating a society where women would be able to exercise the same choices in self-determination that men could. Feminism is about ending proscriptive sexually-defined social roles and opening up economic and career opportunities for women.

In other words, feminism is about making it equally acceptable for mothers and fathers to be the primary caretakers for their children, no matter what other people may think about that arrangement.

My guess is that if the article had been written by a working dad who decided to cook all of the meals for his family, there would never have been a comment about “retrograde Uncle Charley (from “My Three Sons”) nonsense.” If a man chooses to go against old sexual stereotypes, there are certain feminists who will applaud that decision; however, those same feminists will get all het up if a woman chooses to go with a sexual stereotype, and will insult her decision.

Tell me, how is it feminist to insult the decision another woman has made, based upon her own desires and comfort level?

And, while you are at it, what advice would you give busy working women or men cooking for their families who want to serve nutritious meals, but who cannot spend hours in the kitchen?

43 Comments

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  1. wow, you summed that up perfectly. i so agree, being a mom who not only enjoys cooking (as a creative hobby) but also feels happy to provide for the health and wellbeing of her family.. some people just take the feminist thing too far. and IM a feminist if there ever was one!
    However, i think it just goes to show that balance is slowly being restored to women as a whole. That particular person hasnt quite caught on, but I think you can really tell that women are figuring it out for themselves, just by the number of popular websites and tv shows dedicated to domestic cooking and caring for ones home – as they are presented in a fun, creative, light that atually inspires both men and women to WANT to do these things on a regular basis.

    Comment by kitty — July 16, 2007 #

  2. We are the our own worst enemies!!What more can I say?
    You can double,triple the amount when you are cooking(may be in the weekend) and freezing the individual portions for weekdays would be helpful.
    I do that sometimes when we go on vacation and come back to home cooked dinner!(I am a stay at home mom btw,absolutely love every second of it,even though it can be stressful at times!)

    Comment by Asha — July 16, 2007 #

  3. Cook too much and pack extra into the freezer.
    Use portion control tools like ramekins and rings to shape food, which keeps people from taking more than their share at a meal, so some will be left for later use
    Keep components separate til meal prep time. Casseroles recycle poorly, but extra peas in one dish and pasta in another will change things up enough to not be a “rehash” ( sorry )
    Michelle Urvater’s book “Monday through Friday cooking” is very helpful with this stuff, with techniques for pre-planning and following through.
    If you are in a CSA try to get a warning on what will be in abundance, and have the recipes ready.
    Look up the main ingredient in several books to find a few ideas on how to use them when there is leftover.
    If you can, swap with a friend! Sometimes I cook extra, sometimes my Mom does, and we pass a dish along. It covers us on nights I might not have time, and it covers her on nights she doesnt have a plan.
    Purchase protein of choice and pack it into the long term storage in practical usage form. Cut chickens to freeze them, or weigh out red meat or fish into one or two meal sizes before freezing.

    I enjoy your blog very much, thank you.
    RJ

    Comment by RJ — July 16, 2007 #

  4. I haven’t yet read the article (or the Slashfood post) but in response to your questions, I’ll say this: there seems to be a large contingent of women out there who call themselves feminist while loudly devaluing what has through the ages been called “women’s work.” This is a misguided response to the devaluation of women. The thinking seems to be that if we can separate the woman from the work, she will be liberated from that which devalues her. It’s flawed logic that is appallingly common and really isn’t feminist at all. I recognize it all too well because in my youth I succumbed to its simplicity in hopes of a “better life,” then felt conflicted when I discovered that I enjoyed the “domestic arts” of cooking and gardening. It was only becoming a mother that drove home the point that (further) devaluing “women’s work” to achieve “women’s liberation” is missing the point entirely. That’s a subject for a blog post of my own, sometime soon.

    Comment by Kristi — July 16, 2007 #

  5. I’d bet that if she were getting paid for cooking — if, say, she had a small business making healthy meals-to-go in addition to cooking for her household — certain self-proclaimed feminists would suddenly be all for it.

    There’s a superficial, upper-middle-class feminism that denies that unpaid work has any value.

    Comment by Cam — July 16, 2007 #

  6. But why is it so important that it is mom who cooks? She specifically says that her kids should get meals that mom cooked, but why? She has a husband (actually reading your commentary I thought she must be a single mom until I checked the article), can’t he cook sometimes? Or at least help out? Or even teaching the kids how to make certain easy meals for the family, as my (single) mother did so she could get a break sometimes.

    I will devalue “women’s work” so long as there are things seen as only “women’s work”. I see it in my family all the time, the women making/serving the men their meals before even getting to think about their own food. Even my aunt who can’t stand/walk very well is left to serve her husband and her (full-grown) children their food (unless my cousin’s girlfriend is there, then she serves him instead of my aunt). Because she’s supposed to. Because it’s women’s work. There is absolutely no reason for things to be this way.

    The “domestic arts” do not require ovaries to be performed well, so why are they limited to women?

    I don’t think unpaid work has no value, but I question why it is primarily women who are expected to put in all those unpaid hours of work at home. Studies have shown that still women do most of the chores around the house, and when men do help out they see it as doing their spouses a “favor” instead of doing their fair share.

    As one of my favorite women on TV said, “It’s not babysitting if they’re your kids.”

    Comment by M — July 16, 2007 #

  7. M, I think you’re missing the part where she said that she personally decided that she wanted to be the one feeding her kids, because it satisfies HER.

    Maybe her husband doesn’t like to cook. Maybe he helps out. Maybe for him it’s satisfying to do laundry and dishes and fix the kids’ toys. The article doesn’t really say. You’re making unwarranted assumptions about the way their family works that play into your own worldview, just like the poster on Slashfood.

    Comment by Alexis — July 16, 2007 #

  8. [...] Bonus link thing! this sums up the issue of stupid people thinking that women cooking for their families is not feminist perfectly. [...]

    Pingback by Dear Loan Companies at wingie.org — July 16, 2007 #

  9. M -

    Your story about your aunt reminds me of how my mother would clean the kitchen for my grandmother when we visited grandma & grandpa. Mom would rant about how my grandfather wouldn’t get up to clean the kitchen after dinner and it wasn’t fair for grandma to do the work while doing it. One morning mom couldn’t sleep and discovered grandma re-washing the dishes and pans and “straightening up the mess mom had made”. Grandpa told mom not to offended; grandma did that every time he cleaned the kitchen too.

    *facepalm*

    I will note that when I cook dinner, I serves everyone else before myself because a) it’s practical and b) it’s good manners in this society. When my husband cooks dinner, he serves everyone else before himself because a) it’s practical and b) it’s good manners in this society.

    :)

    Comment by JenK — July 16, 2007 #

  10. Our family consists of me, Charles, and our three cats, but I still cook for us. Sometimes I prep ingredients for the next night while cooking something that lets me have some free time. I also sometimes save do-ahead things, or more complicated recipes, for weekends.

    I’ve also found that planning the dinners ahead for the week makes things go much more smoothly.

    And if I’m not feeling well enough to cook, Charles can cook some things (with enough supervision). :)

    Comment by Lucy — July 16, 2007 #

  11. I am not going to comment on the “comment” because I am just tired of listening to these women who go up in arms with feminism and political correctness. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I like it, I want it, I will do it. Why do people think everyone is a 3 year old child who needs hand slapping once in a while?

    Anywho, going back to some tips:

    I chop my veggies and keep them in zip log bags. That way I don’t spend extra hour chopping veggies.

    Also, once in a while I splurge in “pre-cut” veggies and ready to cook meals where the work is done by someone else but I add my own touches to it to make it personal for my family.

    Once you enter into the kitchen one weekend and spend couple of hours getting a menu set for a week, you will learn so many things on your own.

    Comment by Suji — July 16, 2007 #

  12. I am a staunch feminist. I work in the construction field as a Project Manager and expect to be treated the equal of my male counterparts, and to be paid accordingly. I will also never devalue what is called “women’s work,” regardless of who performs it. To me it is not only valuable in its own right. It is life-affirming.

    And – it makes me happy too. I love cooking for others and myself. It is the single most restorative thing I do. I am not married, and don’t have kids, but my parents come to stay with me for several months every winter. So – when they are here I work 60+ hour weeks, I travel a LOT for work, and still cook every night for them, and we eat together and talk about the day. If I don’t cook, I feel like I am living some kind of fake life. I feel immensely lucky to live in a country and an era when it is a choice I can make to work, and to keep a home. Even if that home is just for myself. I don’t understand why anyone would insult the ability to be a good housekeeper. It’s a skill, and it doesn’t mean you have parked your brain at the door.

    Comment by Diane — July 16, 2007 #

  13. Excellent post.

    During the past year, I have been learning how to cook and now it has become somewhat of a personal mission. When I tell my so-called educated friends of my endeavors, I’m often teased about descending into domestication.

    I just like to cook, is that so wrong?

    Comment by Jenn — July 16, 2007 #

  14. [...] Is Cooking For Your <b>Family</b> Retrograde June Cleaver Nonsense? [...]

    Pingback by Family Pointers Full Of Good Advice » This can be made more difficult by requiring each player to keep one — July 16, 2007 #

  15. I’ve always found it somewhat disturbing and amusing that cooking for the family is devalued as “women’s work,” (as if that’s somehow lesser) but it’s simultaneously amazingly hard for a woman to become a top notch chef in the restaurant world. As if somehow the basic nature of making good food to feed people changes with the exchange of money.

    In my mind, it’s always been more feminist to fight for everyone’s freedom from societal entrapment. Then again, I choose to cook for my partner and whoever shows up to dinner (I, too, find it relaxing/comforting), so I suppose I have some serious biases.

    In “tip-land,” one thing I do is exchange extras with friends. When we each have too much, we trade a few containers to liven up the leftovers game. As we all have slightly different cooking styles and seasoning preferences, it makes for some really flavorful experiences.

    Comment by Alexis E — July 16, 2007 #

  16. Maybe it’s the thought that Mom feels the pressure to cook for her kids is what M and MK find objectionable? Sure, she may be doing it for herself, but is that born out of an appetite for genuine satisfaction or to salve her conscience – which shouldn’t be the case in this day and age. I knew of an old woman who couldn’t walk, her husband equipped her with a stool on which to sit and cook at the stove – he was younger than her and probably didn’t think of doing the cooking himself.

    Comment by J — July 16, 2007 #

  17. One of the interesting aspects of the socialist feminist movement, in spite of its unwillingness to recognize that there might be a gender power imbalance equal to or even more powerful than the one built upon capital, is that it actually highly valued the historical contributions of women. That included an appreciation of the remarkable roles women historically had in food science, including the development of ways of making potentially poisonous foods safe and nutritious to eat (such as bamboo or various raw tubers and wild plants).

    The liberal spectrum of feminism tends to be more conflicted about the role of women in domestic contexts, perhaps fearing that any form of enjoyment of the work required in the domestic sphere is the same as being brainwashed or manipulated by patriarchal systems.

    It’s not an entirely unfounded fear, as the idea that women should enjoy domestic “obligations” has certainly been wielded as a weapon (using guilt or punditry or public policy or otherwise).

    But it’s equally unfair to accuse any woman who does enjoy cooking, keeping house or managing household finances as succumbing to June Cleaver syndrome.

    It’s also possible that Leslie Kaufman does feel a twinge of guilt or obligation, but if that’s the case, it really wasn’t the focus of her article… It seemed to be about the part of her family’s domestic needs she felt most important to be part of. Both men and women need to figure that out, especially in dual-income families.

    I would feel the same way about making cooking a priority. As I mentioned in my comment on Slashfood, every dual-income family needs to come up with some way of balancing their careers with their household and family needs.

    I would expect that Leslie has other domestic negotiations with her partner on everything else, and that they pay for help on the things that they are willing to sacrifice doing on their own (she mentions a babysitter, for example). In my case, I’m the primary cook, and I expect that’ll be the case even when/if my family includes children. We’ll have to figure out how to deal with the other things that come up, but every modern couple has to do that. Rejecting outmoded gender roles doesn’t mean that the work goes away, but who does it is certainly subject to discussion. Relationships should, after all, be a partnership.

    Comment by Jason Truesdell — July 17, 2007 #

  18. Barbara, Perhaps Slashfood is just not the place to go for insight on well, anything? See, you already have double the number of comments than the post on Slashfood, and no cleaver Cleaver here. :)

    Comment by Jack — July 17, 2007 #

  19. Anybody who reads this blog could probably write a little dissertation on his or her personal reasons for choosing to make home cooking a priority, regardless of whether children are involved. Still, it’s hard not to focus on the children. A contemptuous/dismissive comment like MK’s often comes from somebody who has invested a lot of effort in denying that life choices mean sacrifice, regardless of gender. (Nothing is lost by not having kids, never seeing one’s kids, letting somebody else figure out how to feed one’s kids, etc.) For my part, I have made a deliberate, intellectual choice to be a stay-at-home mom– not because I am ignorant or unemployable or lazy or because I have always wanted to be a housewife. Much of the time, I am quite frustrated with my “job,” but that’s what jobs are like! Although my husband and I have the same education and training, my choice to stay home made sense for more reasons than I can explain here. Going to work would have meant sacrificing just about everything I value for the sake of one thing: my pride. Frankly, I prefer to take pride in the fact that I don’t outsource childrearing; I would have chosen not to have children if I weren’t going to around to take care of them. I think that’s a much harder line than many feminists are willing to draw today, especially because it sounds appalling to the modern ear. I don’t get a lot of “you go, girl” plaudits for eschewing daycare.

    As for the kitchen end of my work, I do enjoy cooking, but I certainly enjoy it a lot less now that I have to worry about feeding a baby, too, and must plan a day around little person rather than a particular meal that I want to make. That’s one of my sacrifices, too. It’s not as if my husband doesn’t share in that sacrifice; he loved my pre-baby cooking, and now he makes a quick dinner once or twice a week because we wouldn’t eat until after 8 (if at all) if he didn’t.

    I certainly don’t find fault with Kauffman’s article because she chooses to cut corners in ways that I wouldn’t; she works outside the home, and therefore MUST cut more corners than I do. I only question her willingness to plan meals around the freedom with which her children reject what she cooks. THAT, if anything, smacks of female domestic subjugation, even if it’s not the sort of thing that I imagine June Cleaver doing. I wouldn’t eat what my mother cooked growing up, and I learned from a VERY early age that that meant fending for myself. Even so, I never told my mother that her food was/looked “disgusting.” Sadly, I suspect that that kind of disrespect is one of the sacrifices that Kauffman has had to accept in order to be a do-it-all mom. She treats it as a point of humor in her article, as though we’re all supposed to smile knowingly at the thought of our own little scamps pouting at the table, but if my children were that rude, I don’t know if I would bother to cook for them.

    Comment by mdvlist — July 17, 2007 #

  20. I wasn’t taught how to cook, but I enjoy good tasting food. I’m also cheap, and used cookbooks in the past, and now the internet, to try to make my favorite restaurant foods. I also know how to cook much better now.

    Digg had a post about how unsustainable many in the US are, and someone posted that not many younger people know how to cook foods from scratch. While I do use packaged foods on lazy nights, I can also cook most foods from scratch (gravy is passable finally LOL).

    Now I’m glad I sought that cooking experience, because of the food prices increasing more quickly, and the health problems with many packaged foods. Plus, it’s still a thrill to eat my favorite restaurant foods without having to dress up and pay a lot for it LOL

    Comment by Sherri — July 17, 2007 #

  21. My mother, a single working mother, had me in daycare. At night, I’d come home and help her cook.

    I cook most nights now, and I love it. My partner – a man – cleans. He does our laundry, washes the dishes, does the floors and the bathroom. I help fold laundry, we both put away our clothes and possessions. I cook, pack our lunches, and balance the bills.

    This is my household.

    It wouldn’t be right for him to cook on top of all that cleaning, and I HATE cleaning, and besides I do all the shopping too.

    It’s pretty even.

    Someday, when we have kids, I doubt I will stay home with them all day. I may work part time, I may work full time. I liked daycare as a child, and expect my kid probably would too. But when I get home and cook, you will find my kid in the kitchen cooking with me. Male, female, or intersex.

    Everyone should know how to cook, how to balance a chequebook, how to clean (even if they don’t have to do it :), how to do the laundry, fix a broken cabinet, put up a few shelves, set up their computer and other electronic equipment, and everything else that it takes to run a household. REGARDLESS of gender.

    How you split the chores when you are all grown up is up to you and your house.

    N.

    Comment by Nicole — July 17, 2007 #

  22. Barbara..very neatly written by you, and you have captured the crux of the issue succintly…many a times, even I think that ‘feminism’ as it is used these days has become another ‘symbol’ for modern day stereotyping…being a feminist means going against everything that women used to do/ were made to do earlier…how sensible is that…and who decides that ?

    Comment by Santhi — July 17, 2007 #

  23. Great post and very interesting comment string. I read this right after I read Liz at Pocket Farm on a similar subject–check if out.

    Comment by lucette — July 18, 2007 #

  24. Nicole, I admire that attitude–everyone SHOULD know how to do all those things. Being the youngest in a mob of 5 boys with one mom, I was pretty low on the totem pole when it came to teaching in the kitchen. Thus up til a year ago I couldn’t even cook a steak. When I have kids I’m gonna make sure they’re at least *comfortable* in the kitchen; no one should live off waffles and ramen as long as I did.

    Comment by Jim — July 18, 2007 #

  25. My favorite tips for weeknight meals:

    Serve a combination starch/vegetable side dish–broccoli and rice, pasta with mixed vegetables, etc., along with a simple grilled or baked protein. You only have to get two items on the table, and you make the side dish while the meat is cooking.

    Serve fruit (melon, pineapple, berries) as side dish or dessert–fast as it requires no cooking. An almost zero effort and nutritous third course.

    Serve purchased whole grain bread with your spread of choice (butter, margerine, pesto, sundried tomatos, olives), rather than a cooked starch. Tasty and eliminates the need for a separate starch dish.

    As a vegetable course, serve raw vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatos) with a simple dipping sauce (mayo, yogurt, sour cream, your spices of choice).

    Roast a big hunk of meat…salmon, chicken, beef, turkey. First night, serve as suggested above. Second night use in nachos, mini pizzas, salad, or pasta or rice caserole.

    When in doubt–penne with vodka sauce, french bread, fruit and/or crudite platter.

    Comment by Charlene — July 18, 2007 #

  26. Having grown up with five sisters in the late 60′s, early 70′s, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what feminism is supposed to be about. I’ve noticed that feminism as a political movement has always been more about punishing men, and and women non-believers, than it was about equality for women.

    Comment by James — July 19, 2007 #

  27. [...] I was having a conversation with my girlfriend Phinnia last weekend as we unpacked her kitchen. We were talking about a local household who indeed doesn’t manage regular meals despite the size. This conversation came back to me after Tigers and Strawberries responded to a slashfood comment about a New York Times article from last Wednesday. [...]

    Pingback by Fat and Crafty » Blog Archive » Cooking — July 19, 2007 #

  28. I forgot to mention, this area on our site is made for busy cooks looking to simplify the cooking process. We’re adding to it as much as we can; it’s already got some helpful tips.

    Comment by Jim — July 19, 2007 #

  29. The truly disgusting thing about feminism is that it assumes that women are unable to make decisions for themselves. Despite the fact that thr woman in the article feels fulfilled by cooking, a true feminist would not accept that as an answer. To the feminist, women are brainwashed by their religion/culture/etc into feeling fulfilled by work that affirms our social role as nurturer. According to feminist, in a sexist world, women are enculturated to find satisfaction in cooking and other “women’s work.” So even the woman’s claims that she finds satisfaction in cooking falls on deaf feminist ears. Believe me, I know this is their thinking because I majored in this stuff in college– and a year after graduation, realized it was bullshit. Women are people, too, and we should be able to trust each other to make the right decision about our own lives. Feminists have done very little to make motherhood anymore respected than it was by the same men who degraded it for centuries before the women’s movement.

    Comment by C.F. — July 19, 2007 #

  30. [...] Is Cooking For Your <b>Family</b> Retrograde June Cleaver Nonsense? [...]

    Pingback by Balanced Family News Is Essential » You throw yourself down upon the grass, while Henry, fresh and — July 20, 2007 #

  31. CF – I’m a feminist and I think none of the things you claim “they” think. Feminism is more than an academic study, and is lived every day by normal women trying for respect and equality in our day to day lives. That is far from incompatible with cooking and nurturing others. You sound quite angry.

    Comment by Diane — July 20, 2007 #

  32. Diane beat me to it–also a feminist, also don’t believe any of it (and I have no idea where CF went to school, but that’s not what was taught in my women’s studies classes).

    As to the article, I read it and didn’t think that it was retrograde nonsense at all. And certainly I’m all about cooking for family. But I found it extremely hard to relate to and not at all a helpful guide. It’s fine with me that she wants to spend much of her Sunday making a pot roast or whatever, but I just don’t see myself doing that, and not just because I’m a vegetarian, but because having that kind of a schedule would actually feel burdensome to me–and I’m someone who loves cooking. I thought this week’s Minimalist article–101 quick meals–was much closer to what’s useful for most women or men who work but still want to make fresh meals for their families on a regular basis.

    Comment by thistle — July 20, 2007 #

  33. May I even suggest that it’s not anti-feminist, or anti-anything, for any human being to willingly serve another whom they love.

    Isn’t that what the heart of true cooking is?

    My goodness, how hard is it to get that it’s about freedom of the individual conscience, the same stuff that our great country was built upon.

    Just as it is foolishness to devalue a person’s abilities due to irrelevancies such as gender or geneology (I refuse to use the term ‘race’ for there is but one human race), it is the same foolishness to disparage a person who chooses to play a traditional role in their family.

    Isn’t it just as “sexist” to insist that a woman _cannot_ cook or clean for her family, just as much as it is to _expect_ it from her as if she were a machine!

    *sigh*

    Comment by daveg — July 23, 2007 #

  34. I have one suggestion for the working family that wants home-cooked foods: frozen vegetables. You don’t have to worry about them going bad before you get a chance to use them. They taste better than canned. And by pairing a frozen vegetable side dish with rice and broiled chicken/sausage/fish you can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.

    Comment by T with Honey — July 24, 2007 #

  35. Thanks, Barbara, for this provocative post. I see that few men have responded to your post and I’d like to have a voice in the fray, though maybe not what one might anticipate.

    My wife has chronic diseases that sap her energy and cause her systemic pain. As a result, over the last few years I have planned meals, done most of the cooking, washed clothes, etc. etc. besides working a 40 plus hour week. Despite that workload I continue to put dinner on the table most nights of the week relying seldom on takeout. Much of our diet is prepared from scratch. Why?

    The primary reason is that I find sustenance of another sort when my family of four gathers around the table and enjoys the food and the conversation. My children are discerning enough to relish fresh vegetables and to merely tolerate frozen. My kids eat a healthy, varied diet. They are of average weight and they know how, and do, make informed food choices. They disdain McDonald’s and other overprocessed, oversalted restaurant offerings. My 14-year-old daughter is becoming an adventurous ccok in her own right. My 17-year-old son, though less motivated, appreciates that he will need to learn to cook less he suffer with frozen entrees. And after vacations where we have our choice of foods at endless restaurants, they still long for dad’s cooking.

    I credit my and our Christian faith for the result of two great kids. However, I also believe that our “dinner table culture” has had something to do with it, too.

    I think these are invaluable rewards for the work involved whether one is a man or a woman, feminist or not.

    Comment by Geoff — July 30, 2007 #

  36. I think what Barbara has noticed is symptomatic of the degradation of what feminism is. Perhaps degradation is the wrong word to use, since the phenomenon I am trying to describe with a single word is this: a concept which gets larger, encompassing more things to the point of being self-contradictory at points, and more diffuse around the edges. That’s the “feminism” of today. What is feminism nowadays? Is it about empowerment? Equality? Punishment? Resistance? Revolution? Ask 100 feminists and you’re likely to get 100 different answers. When I call myself a “feminist”, I mean to say that no one should think of women as inherently inferior to men as a whole (though that doesn’t prevent us from acknowledging the obvious differences between the genders, such as the ability to bear children or the general differences in muscle strength and alcohol tolerance). I think that when “MK” of the slashfood post thinks of feminism, she thinks of resisting the evil patriarchy at all costs.

    I think the “resist the patriarchy” meme is one of the parts of modern feminism which renders it so totally myopic and thus ineffective. This myopia was displayed to me full-force when I recently went to my brother’s wedding. A little background: I first went to my step-brother’s wedding, and then to my brother’s wedding two months later. During my brother’s wedding, my step-brother’s new wife was called by my step-brother’s last name, as in “Mr. and Mrs. “. My step-brother’s new wife is currently finishing her Ph.D., and, as an expression of her deeply-held feminism, staunchly refused to give up her own name when she was married.

    Naturally, she was incensed that she was so carelessly referred to by her husband’s name and chose to share this with me during the rehearsal dinner of my brother’s wedding. She explained to me how hard she has struggled to earn a place for herself as a strong woman in a male-oriented society, and she thought it was grossly offensive that someone else would forget all of that in order to pay respect to a patriarchically-driven desire to recognize the husband first and foremost.

    Here is the myopia part. If she would have gained one small, tiny bit of far-sightedness, she might have seen all the way to the other side of the table where I, the person from whom she was soliciting empathy in her outrage, was seated, and realized that she was talking to a gay man who had changed his own name (taking his partner’s name) in order to be a family for his adopted son, who would never enjoy the boatload of special rights that she enjoyed by virtue of her state-sanctioned marriage, and who would never receive a gala celebration of his relationship of ten years like the one (in which he was invited to participate) for her relationship.

    I wasn’t angry with her. I left the anger to her and added as helpfully as I could, “Yes, you’re going against the grain by refusing to change your name, and, believe me, I *know* what it’s like to go against the grain!” It was a light-hearted comment that solicited laughter from her and from others, so the tense moment was diffused and I hope she was none the wiser as to how insensitive her own comment could have been received.

    I’m not saying that my “gay victim card” trumps anyone else’s “female victim card”. Instead, what I’m saying is that we shouldn’t allow the victim status imposed on us by identity politics to impede us from doing that which we enjoy. Sometimes feminism goes too far and does more harm to women than it does good. So, Barbara, don’t take it too hard that another feminist would treat one of your own personal choices as an affront against all womanhood. Given the current state of feminism, I think it’s certain that most of us are going to be, at some time or another, in the uncomfortable position of feeling the need to say, “I’m not a sexist!” over something that is entirely innocuous.

    Comment by Jimmy — July 31, 2007 #

  37. The first thing that came to my mind was that the person who posted that punch-in-the-gut comment probably cannot cook for themselves – and how impractical is that?! I love cooking – making my own meals allows me to better manage my health and save a LOT of money instead of making someone else serve up the meal. I would like to let my fiancé serve up a really nice meal now and then, but he is a truly awful cook (its a skill you have to hone, after all) and things simply go smoother when *I* cook.

    What really makes me laugh though is how this is such a *cultural* interpretation of women’s rights. My ancestors in Hawaii did things rather differently – the men were the only ones allowed to cook! Cooking was a spiritual thing the men did. Of course, they also got to eat first, but there was always enough left over for the women and children. ;) My grandmother, born and raised in Hawaii, can’t cook for anything – her three sons take care of all the meals for her, as she expects them to.

    Comment by Sage — August 18, 2007 #

  38. Ha! I forgot to mention – in the Hawaiian culture I’ve been raised with, the art of cooking is very spiritual. When you feed someone you are giving them a deep gift, something more than a mere trinket – you’re giving them life sustaining material! Of course, you can send subtle messages by serving really bland, unappealing meals that way too… but basically cooking for the family, someone in specific, or for yourself is all looked at in my house as acts of love. The cook, whoever they may be (usually myself or my Dad), is viewed as a generous nurturer.

    And, somehow, it occurs to me that classifying cooking as a “woman” or “man” thing defeats the whole purpose of equality… There appear to be a lot of older women here with good insight into their views of what “feminism” is. I just graduated from high school, so I thought I might add my two cents of how it was seen among the other girls my age. Basically, feminist has become a “dirty” word that you use to insult someone – somewhat along the lines of being “butch”. Of course this has nothing to do with the actual principles behind the word… but I have to say, I’d prefer not to be associated with the word simply because, as Jimmy said, it has become a subject so large, self-contradictory, and confusing that I have no clue what it is supposed to stand for anymore, except that everyone involved in it seems abnormally uptight and angry. I ignore it all together; but, in the end, isn’t that what it is supposed to be? I already expect the same pay as men doing my job and I know I can take legal action if I’m not getting it. I don’t feel like I’m growing up in a male-oriented society or view any of the actions of taking care of the household as male or female, just things that need done. Isn’t the “fight” over when equality is so day-to-day that the fight over it becomes almost a non-issue? Not to say everything is peachy – but maybe its a better thing that a lot of the women of my generation are moving forward with a “no duh” expectation of entitlement to “equality” and without all the anger.

    Comment by Sage — August 18, 2007 #

  39. Sage, thank you very much for posting your comments. I find it interesting to know that only the men were expected to cook in traditional Hawaiian society. I didn’t know that (or if I did, it was stuck way back in a dusty corner of my rather overstuffed memory banks, and I hadn’t taken it out and looked at it in a while…) and I always love learning new facts about food, cookery and culture from yet another part of the world.

    I do agree with your culture on this, however: cooking is a deeply spiritual act of love and nurturing. It is a very intimate thing, cooking for others: when we cook, part of our own essence, our own energy, goes into the food we make. It is the intangible ingredient, and I have found that when we cook with love, our food has a quality that is indefinable, but yet quite present, and the positive energy of it has a positive effect on others. I believe that food which is made with willful, intentional love, and with spiritual awareness and care from high quality fresh ingredients is healthier for us to eat, and nurtures not only the body, but the spirit as well.

    As for feminism–I was heartened to hear what you had to say about it. Although I think it is a shame that feminist has become a dirty word–thanks in large part to pundits like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, I am pleased to hear a young woman embracing the -essence- of the word, if not the word itself.

    I care more about what feminism can do, and has done and will do than what it is called. And frankly, I am happy that there are young women growing up expecting more than the young women of my generation, my mother’s generation, and my grandmothers’ generation. That, to me, is a great sign of progress.

    Social change moves slowly. There are of course, sudden bursts of movement at certain times, but mostly, the wheels of change grind along at a snail’s pace. I would say that on the whole, the changes I have seen in my lifetime have been going forward, and while they are slower than I would like, the pace is also a realistic one from a long-range anthropological or sociological perspective.

    Thanks again for posting your insights. They are valuable.

    Comment by Barbara — August 19, 2007 #

  40. Barbara,
    Thank you for the wonderful, thought provoking article/blog.

    Semper Fidelis,
    Sgt Spring “Betty Crocker” Keyzers

    Comment by Sgt — January 2, 2008 #

  41. A few thoughts:

    The idea that “women’s studies” can really be taught in classrooms is inane.

    Ninety percent of feminists I’ve met fall into one of a few categories: 1) Lesbians 2) Recent divorcees 3) Young women who believe they were abused by their father or another male figure 4) Divorcees who won’t tell you that they bugged the crap out of their husbands and never put out, but still enjoy the settlement 5) Cat-women who could never, in a million years, ever get married.

    These crazed and angry women dominate the “feminist” landscape, to the movement’s very detriment.

    Contrast some of the comments here against most of the comments on allrecipes.com. Seriously, take a look. See how many women just say, “I loved it, but I won’t be making it again, because DH hated it.” Or, “the kids didn’t like it, but DH loved it, so I was happy.”

    Yeck.

    Sounds like those stupid WalMart commercials where some fat Southern girl is mis-pronouncing how she’d like to make her husband, “a real mil.”

    Figure it out, okay? Cooking for your kids, ok. Slave-pleasing your hubby and vetoing your own interests because he didn’t like it? Gimme a break.

    The “feminist” movement here better start hanging together if you want to make some real progress. But then again, you haven’t yet, and you probably won’t. After all, look at you all still bitching at eachother.

    Individual brains and souls are good, people. Lesbians, divorcees, and “abused” girls included.

    Comment by shereen — January 16, 2008 #

  42. I’ve recently acquired some food allergies and as a result need to make all my food at home from scratch. For the most part I enjoy it, and really don’t find it a hardship. However, when I’ve told most of my friends that I do all my own cooking (feminist and non-feminist alike) they react as I am from another planet.

    I would also bet that not cooking and relying on processed foods has a lot to do with the obesity epidemic in this country.

    Comment by Nancy — January 17, 2008 #

  43. “Figure it out, okay? Cooking for your kids, ok. Slave-pleasing your hubby and vetoing your own interests because he didn’t like it? Gimme a break.”

    Your spouse is your partner in life. Cooking something for them that you know they don’t like is thoughtless, and doesn’t show that you value what they bring to the partnership. If you want to have a happy, long-lasting marriage, sometimes you will have to sacrifice your own desires to make someone else happy.

    I do most of the cooking for my husband, and I take great pride in making something he will enjoy. He occasionally cooks for me, and is equally proud when I am pleased with what he has worked to prepare. I wait until he is not around to eat the things I love that he doesn’t, and vice-versa.

    Growing up, my parents were pretty ‘traditional’, as far as their ‘roles’ in the marriage. But since Daddy enjoyed cooking, and Mama did not, he prepared most of our meals. But I can’t imagine him ever taking the position that he should make whatever *he* wanted to, with no thought to what she would enjoy. He would never treat ‘his lady’ that way. I can’t imagine treating ‘my man’ that way, either. I genuinely enjoy making him happy, as he enjoys making me happy. Isn’t that what love’s supposed to be about?!

    Comment by LovingWifeOfALovingHusband — March 11, 2011 #

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