Thursday, March 19, 2009


This year, I decided, would be the year I learned to cook. I mean, I'm not clueless in the kitchen or anything, but even though I guess I technically can cook (I don't really believe people who say they can't. Follow the directions; it's not that hard.), I don't actually do it all that much. It takes time and effort—thinking ahead, planning, shopping, not to mention the actual cooking—and then leaves you with a sinkful of dishes to clean. (I've had moderate success. I did well for a while, then I got lazy. Time to get back at it.)

Really, I think my problem is that I'm still kind of a novice, so I haven't yet achieved the sense of automaticity. I'm not all that good about timing everything so that the onions are chopped by the time the butter melts, or I'll forget to buy a crucial ingredient, or I don't think about roasting the sweet potatoes until I realize I'm hungry. Basically, I just don't have a good feel for it yet; I need practice. Or I don't think about it until dinnertime, by which time it's too late.

Part of this, I blame on my upbringing. My mother did cook, but not the sorts of things I want to cook, and I don't really remember helping her enough to learn much. I don't think she was really comfortable with the whole cooking thing either, so I certainly didn't learn the fluidity and automatic flow of cooking from her.

I am certainly not unique in this. From what I can tell, my entire generation has grown up unable to feed ourselves. Part of this is due to general shifts in food preparation and consumption patterns when we were children: an increase in working mothers who had less time and inclination to cook for the family, busy schedules so the entire family was never home to eat together, an increase in dining out, etc. As a generation, we've probably eaten the fewest home-cooked meals growing up than any other, so naturally, we don't really know how to create them ourselves.

Additionally, at least in my case (although I doubt I'm alone in this either), I grew up taking feminism for granted. Why should I be the one learning to cook? Domesticity belonged to older generations. Cooking was for housewives in aprons, meeting their husbands after a long day with a cocktail shaker in hand. That was obviously not going to be me. And anyway, I had much more important things to worry about. I should be saving the world, or at least learning things and developing as a person, not spending all my time slaving over a hot stove.

Well, here I am, an adult who needs to eat. Oh, right... (Who did I think was going to feed me? I don't know.) For environmental, economic, philosophical, and health reasons, I don't really believe in eating out all that much. Subsisting on lasagna and chicken divan pie (the few things that have been in my repertoire for more than a year or two), frozen ravioli, or the occasional roasted chicken breast just isn't going to cut it, especially as those days are intermixed with way too many nights of scrambled eggs, canned soup, or (worst of all) realizing around 9:00 that I never actually ate dinner but somehow grazed on enough (presumably unhealthy) food that I wasn't hungry. I need vegetables (especially since the CSA means that I am continually inundated with boxes of vegetables that need to be eaten).

So yes, I am somewhat reluctantly attempting to develop a cooking habit. I think it's important (especially with my recent obsessions over the health and environmental impacts of various varieties of foods), and I admit it's necessary, but I still sort of feel like I'm giving in. I think I've figured out why. I am really worried that, since the rest of my generation doesn't really cook either, by acquiring that skill, I'm setting myself up to be trapped in the cooking role. I feel like I'm giving in and learning to cook from necessity when potential boyfriends/husbands aren't doing so and that I'll then be stuck being the cook of the couple. "But you already know how. It's not that I don't want to cook, but all I know how to make is spaghetti," my imaginary future husband says. It may even be true. He may genuinely want to split everything equally, want to be able to cook, but be embarrassed or generally clueless. That wouldn't change the fact that I'd feel it was a loss for feminism and for my own sense of self.

Note: Obviously there are exceptions, my apartment-mate being one, but since I'm clearly not going to marry him, he is excluded from my subconscious and likely irrational mental freakouts about future hypothetical relationship dynamics.

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