Sunday, September 23, 2012

thought for food

What does it mean to be a feminist in the kitchen?

I grew up wearing blue and purple, jeans, overalls, and clothes that I could play and get messy in. Frills tickled me too much to wear on a regular basis, and I loved trains and building blocks and sandcastles. Fairies and princesses were in there too, I know, but most of the princesses I read about kicked butt and didn't wait around to be rescued: my heroines were in the habit of rescuing themselves.

As an adult I try to emulate that self-reliance, handily rescuing myself, or my coworkers, or my man, still wishing to be a heroine, sometimes successful, sometimes falling on my face.  So why, when generations of women fought to be liberated from the tyranny of the kitchen, am I running joyfully towards it? Why am I tying myself to my stock pot and boiling water canner and roasting vegetables and rising bread, staying in a hot, sweaty kitchen with the unglorious duty of fruit chopping, and not chasing dragons? 

It seems so retro and uncool to want to perfect my pie crust. Being "like a 50s housewife" is not a compliment: the epitome of servility and a smiling facade, cleaning and cooking her way through a sterile, unimaginative life of waiting on others, as her own flies by without accomplishments other than the domestic. 

But that's not my life. 

My life involves the choice to be in the kitchen. I choose to spend my time smelling, tasting, sauteeing, pureeing, and creating. My spare time, my choice. Physically laboring to create what I consume connects me to my food, my body, my sense of self. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I create or complete complex recipes, or experiment with wild, imaginative ingredients and tastes.  My cooking is for me: my pleasure, my palate, my imagination, my sense of fulfillment. I like reading about cooking, health, and what's going in to the food I consume, and I like the control I achieve by eating thoughtfully chosen ingredients cooked in a thoughtful, interesting manner.

I think, contrary to rejecting feminism, I may have completed the circle and carried the torch forward: I am in the kitchen because I love it, not because it's a requirement of womanliness or domesticity. And in that choice, feminism has been realized: I get to choose how to spend my free time, I get to find my own bliss. 

Maybe, in a way, I am saving myself after all. I've taken it upon myself to find and revel in my own happiness.