And let’s talk about the tone of American cooking... In the 1950‘s and 1960’s, it was a lot of hams and jello molds and intensive labor. More well to do women had maids who did the cooking, but there was one inevitable fact about family life for the American woman for many years: your place was at home, and the kitchen was a centralized symbol of the good wife and mother.
When Julia Child took to the kitchen, her father thought that she was crazy to be taking up cooking--he even offered her money to hire someone on to do that for her; but Julia loved to cook, and wasn’t oppressive or expected of her. She was simply born to cook and she knew it. She had not yet lived to see the modern women’s liberation movement... so many women were also cooking, though not at Julia’s level and certainly more out of obligation than of love.
Time have really changed. Women no longer see it as their role to provide hours of cooking and cleaning for their families. My own family, growing up, had a cleaning lady, and so, as an adult, I had to learn to clean, which has only recently begun to work out. I had no cleaning skills whatsoever. As for cooking? Well, my cooking left a lot to be desired. When I was a kid, we went out to dinner quite a bit, so while I had a healthy appreciation for food, cooking it was not my strong suit...not by a long shot.
In modern society, cooking is all about popping something quick out of a bag, into the microwave and onto a plate. People want their food and they want it fast. They want their portions controlled, the calories pre-counted, and their sauces manufactured. Thank goodness that my knowledge of cooking has progressed! As learned to become a better cook, I learned I cannot abide these things in my kitchen; well, I am not saying that there is never a time when I indulge in a little boxed lunch, but really, they are far and few between.
Today, being a home chef means something different for women, and for men as well. Certainly in today’s society, with the feminist movement being much furthered, I don’t have to defend my enjoyment of cooking anymore than the next woman has to defend the fact that she can’t boil an egg, and I like it that way. Nonetheless, I consider myself a feminist, and yet, simultaneously, an excellent homemaker and home chef. It’s a former contradiction in terms, but today, women are as undefinable as we want to be.
I know how to make my own chicken stock, quarter a bird, make a pot roast, can my own jellies, fruits and pickles, and I can whip up a homemade sauce to spread over my homemade pizza dough to make my own pizza. I consider these skills somewhat rare in the modern world of convenience, and I pride myself on these abilities. At the same time, I also believe that my husband should share an ample amount of the housework, and I want my coffee brought to me in bed (with cream and sugar, please!)
The feminized home chef is indeed a complex woman... she is a mysterious woman who dabbles in the concept of tradition without going overboard into a land of jello molds, high heels in the kitchen, and “yes dears.” The women’s liberation movement now allows women to be whatever it is they choose, and I am thankful for that.
Certainly, even today, there are women who think that our place is in the home, and not in the workforce. With that, I strongly disagree. But there are others who believe that have these skills of making your own pasta or learning to sprout your own grains is actually a highly feminized act... more the “nonviolent communication” feminist than the “picketing” feminist...but isn’t it funny, then, how many different types of feminists have popped up over these many years?
Me? I’m the feminized home chef!