Cooking and Feminism: A Winding Road to the Kitchen

Cooking and Feminism: A Winding Road to the Kitchen

When I was a little girl, I did not fantasize about meeting a man, falling madly in love, and marrying him. I did not dream of little children running around a house with a wrap around porch or a picket fence. Yet, I did meet a man, fall madly in love, and marry him — twice. I also had a child (with the first man). Sometimes I feel like I betrayed myself and everything younger me stood for: freedom, equality, a version of feminism where women reject all social norms bestowed upon their gender. In other words, they did not cook, or sew, or wash their husbands clothing. They didn’t have husbands! Who has time for one when you’re busy fighting the patriarchy?

In my parents attempts to enforce a rather legalistic, fire-and-brimstone type of Christianity, they tried their best to keep me away from any kind of media that might lead me astray. Of course, this just meant I got my knowledge about feminism from who knows where on the internet. I pieced together a model of feminism that made me desperately want to disassociate myself with anything that might assimilate me to the women I knew: stay-at-home mothers who cooked every meal from scratch and took a sick amount of pride in how hard they “slaved away” in the kitchen. To me, standing barefoot in the kitchen with a spatula in my hand was the epitome of giving in to the very system that portrayed women as a helpful accessory to men.

It’s the end of 2018 now and the way I identify as a feminist has changed drastically. In the last ten years or so, I’ve learned about the harmful role white women play in the systemic oppression of people of color, about intersectionality, and about how to be a true ally. I still have so, so much to learn but I do feel grateful that I shed my early views of what feminism meant.

I’m holding out in one area, though. Cooking. I still can’t help but feel like I owe it to little Christina to resist becoming the kind of woman who cooks dinner. It’s a weird association, i know. Even feminists must eat; they cannot survive on the tears of old white men alone.

I joke all the time that David cooks and I clean. Which is more or less true. When I am tasked with feeding myself, David, or Journey, I resort to a sort of helplessness that comes only from my deep desire not to learn how to cook. Journey once said, “maybe we should ask David to make breakfast, he’s a little better at it than you are.” I’ve held out for nearly 30 years, why start now?

I untangled myself from my parents grasp by raising myself on Sex & The City. Carrie was my idol. Looking back, I see that the show was whitewashed and not really feminist at all. But to me, the sex, the glamour, the shoes, and, most importantly, the writing — it was mesmerizing. I craved it with a passion that surprised even me. I wanted to keep purses in my oven, opting instead for Chinese takeout and booze-filled brunches! I wanted New York! I wanted it all!

Even through two marriages (one still in progress, thank you) and a child, I have not learned to cook at an appropriately level for my age and income class. To be clear, I can whip up the basics: eggs, grilled cheese, and any recipe that has fewer than 5 steps and 10 ingredients. Technically, this means I can cook. Whether I enjoy it or can do it without becoming overwhelmed and stressed out is another matter.

I joke all the time, to everyone who will listen that I don’t cook. “David cooks and I clean up,” I say, feeling slightly, misguidedly superior. What I’m really trying to say is “I’m too busy with my career to be bothered to feed myself.” This sounds as ridiculous as it is. Not being able to cook a proper meal for my husband, child, or self does not in any way make me 1) better than any other woman, much less one who can cook or 2) a feminist.

Look, I know this is not true. I’m almost 30. I am fully aware that my vehement refusal to learn to cook and, more specifically, that I use my lack of skills in the kitchen as a way to make myself both feel and seem “other” to the women who can, is a tired narrative that is, if anything, the opposite of true feminism.

If anything, is being able to sustain yourself not an act of defiant self-reliance? Who needs a man when you have homemade spaghetti and meatballs?

Also, I have been feeling my pride in not being able to cook shrinking. I envy the women I know who can whip up a quick dinner for 6 people without breaking a sweat, who know their way around a spice rack, who don’t have such a tense relationship with the kitchen.

I’ve been cooking more these days. I feel less overwhelmed when I can assemble already cooked ingredients but I’m even venturing in to cooking things that don’t have a recipe, adding in what I think might work. Sometimes it does. Other times we do end up ordering Chinese.

I can’t promise I’ll ever be totally comfortable standing at the stove. But I am working to break up with my antiquated reasons why I can’t, won’t, don’t want to cook and leaning into the idea that, perhaps, cooking is the ultimate act of love and self-care — not a contract with the patriarchy.

♥ CV