Why Should Home Cooking Be Women's Work?


“Yes, it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity.” How, you ask? Why, the (supposed) death of home cooking!

Rose Prince mourns this death in the Daily Mail, waxing nostalgic about the kind of “feminine food” her mother used to make: “back in those early days as I scraped at those sweet lacy bits that stick to the side of a dish of shepherd’s pie, I had no idea that this kind of nurturing cookery was endangered – or that its assassins would be none other than women themselves.” Prince is not as obnoxious as she might be, given her venue — she does note that “equality in the workplace was a noble cause and a degree of sexual revolution was necessary.” But she has a pretty rigid idea of “female cookery,” which she claims has been destroyed by a feminist orthodoxy that sees meal prep as “an icon of unfairness to women.”

One problem with Prince’s piece is that she’s misplaced the blame. If people have stopped cooking the kind of time-intensive fare she describes, it’s not because every woman in the Western world suddenly burned her apron on a pyre of feminist ideology. Ever-longer work weeks and the increasing necessity of a dual income are more likely culprits. And at least in America, the popularity of convenience foods over whole foods has a lot to do with price — and with farm subsidies that privilege corn syrup over broccoli.

Another problem, though, is the persistent idea of “feminine food.” She writes of the kind of meals her mom used to make in mouth-watering terms: “I can conjure in an instant the scent of cloves on a roasted, sugared gammon joint as it was taken from the oven, and the sight of my mother’s hands, protected by frayed, string oven gloves. We’d eat hot slices of the juicy ham, with flawless mashed potato and a sharp Cumberland sauce.” And yet she contrasts this kind of cuisine with that of Gordon Ramsay (“too complicated”) and Jamie Oliver (“too expensive”). Once again, we learn that men are chefs and women are cooks, and the responsibility for feeding families healthy, nourishing meals falls to the latter.

Prince notes that “it also must be said that there are a growing number of men adopting a nurturing style of cookery – but the stereotypes remain recognisable.” Maybe those stereotypes would be less prevalent if we actively worked to combat them, by reminding everyone that there’s no reason tasty home cooking has to be “feminine food.” I’ll start: my parents switched off cooking when I was growing up, so about half the dishes I remember from childhood are my dad’s. Here’s an extremely easy chili recipe I adapted from his (his version also has ground beef, which I omit):

1 can black beans (or 2 if people are real hungry)
1 can corn
1 can chopped tomatoes
half an onion, chopped
half a red pepper (it is even more delicious if you roast it over the burner first), chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
whole bunch of chili powder
red chili flakes
basil, oregano, cinnamon
bay leaf

Brown the onions in a pan with a little olive oil. Add garlic and pepper. Cook til pepper is soft — this is a good time to rinse the beans and corn. Mix all that stuff together. Add the tomatoes with some of the juice. Add the chili powder, flakes, bay leaf, and other spices. Taste. Adjust spiciness (putting in is easier than taking out). Simmer til whenever. Serve with cornbread and/or grated cheese on top. This recipe serves about four of either gender.

Has Feminism Killed The Art Of Home Cooking? [Daily Mail]

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