What’s For Dinner? – Feminism in the Kitchen

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Poor Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. She is copping a lot of flak for her comment in an interview that she isn’t a feminist because she likes to cook for her husband. How do you know when you are wrong on the internet? Don’t worry, the whole world will tell you.

Anyway, the idea that there is an unbreakable set of commandments that you must adhere to in order to be a feminist (perhaps, thou shalt burn thy expensive bras, thou shalt not enjoy cooking, thou shalt not shave thy legs, etc… I could go on, this is kind of fun…) is basically a tactic to try to disassociate women from feminism. But feminism is more of a basic idea with many theories attached. You don’t have to adhere to all the ‘commandments’.

It’s pretty obvious that I am a feminist who loves to cook. But until I read this article in response to the Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s comments I didn’t understand that there is more than one way to be a woman in the kitchen.

While making the transition from house slave to free, independent human being, I have struggled with some concepts. But cooking is something I seamlessly embraced in my new life. In the past I was regularly greeted with ‘what’s for dinner?’ and my cooking was ruthlessly criticised. I was even put on a schedule of what meals I was to cook on which days. My attempts to grow food at home were dismissed as ‘pointless’.

‘What’s for dinner?’ has got to be the most entitled question anyone can ask of someone else in their household. It is no different to ‘make me a sandwich’. ‘What’s for dinner?’ basically translates to ‘I’m hungry, your job is to cook for me, and it has to be something I like’. There are no other three words that get my hackles up in quite the same way. Nobody says it to me any more.

Equality doesn’t mean everything has to be split down the middle. My partner is capable of working long hours and rotating shifts, but, to be honest, my 11-year-old is more capable of cooking a basic meal. I could never work such a grueling job, but I am capable of cooking lots of healthy and home-grown food.

When I was single, it didn’t take long for my Saturday nights to become cooking parties for one. I would spend ages making cheese, or designer ravioli, using all the appliances with the music turned up. I made one-off soups and stews without a recipe. I grew salad vegetables for my lunch. Partly it was to save money, but it was also for the sheer joy of being able to make as much mess as I wanted and not have anyone breathing down my neck about it.

Cooking became my thing. I even began to consider myself a fairly good cook. I became more confident and started to expand my repertoire and use more and more home-grown ingredients. And while my kids will sometimes ask me what’s for dinner (although never with that exact phrasing, and to be fair, I chose to have kids so it is my job to feed them), Matt’s attitude is basically that whatever I cook will be good, so it doesn’t matter. And if sometimes I can’t be bothered, he can take on the hunter-gatherer role with some help from his wallet. Or everyone can have leftovers or eggs on toast.

Feminism is a concept, not a recipe. You don’t have to follow a set of directions in order to do it right. You can leave things out if you don’t like them, add some stealth vegetables, go completely vegetarian or dial a pizza. Just stick to the basic concept; that men and women deserve equal rights and representation, and that the status of women must be raised in order to achieve this.

I will sing and dance freely in my kitchen, wear the stripy apron my Nanna gave me with pride, and create culinary delights and healthy treats. And I will do it safe in the knowledge that I have a choice, that I don’t have to if I don’t want to. Because the beauty of being a feminist is that you can choose to cook all the dinners, or have a full-on time-consuming career or wear sparkly nail polish or get your hair cut short. In the end it is about having the right and the power to make the decisions that affect your own life.

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2 thoughts on “What’s For Dinner? – Feminism in the Kitchen

  1. Natalie Jovanovski

    Hi, great piece! (And thanks for referencing mine!).

    I agree – I’m saddened every time I speak to women and they tell me, “Wow, I thought you’d hate me because I’m a housewife” or “I know I’m cooking, but I promise, I’m not a push-over!”

    There really is a misunderstanding about cooking as an anti-feminist pursuit. Patriarchy sure has a funny way of re-framing feminism, doesn’t it?!

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