Monday, June 28, 2021

A case of The Shoulds.


Dear Betty,

I never knew, as a youth, while enjoying cooking and baking, that I was a part of the gender role wars.  I just liked it, and I didn't concern myself with the notion that I might be enslaving women with my pleasure in cooking.  I have asked myself many times since "what have I done?!"  And I have seen also that being good at something can often make you an object of envy and hatred.  And so, so what?  So I only cook for a very few people, and I keep it a dark secret that I enjoy it.  I don't go quite so far as to complain about cooking, but when pals start to talk about cooking, I don't join in the conversation, and I don't let on how much I know about reduction sauces, pâte à choux, or making tortillas.  

Recently, I was asked to use a little paper wheel with spaces to fill in the things that made up my 'identity.'  Well, like anyone would, I crafted this thing oh so carefully!  I kept out anything that might make me look house-wifey, or home-makery, or crafty;  everyone hates Martha Stewart Perfection, and creative, expressive women who are doing the 'real' work, women who are 'leaning in' do not have time for such things.  Consequently, this wheel was missing a lot of the things I like to do on it.  I picked only the most boyish and intellectual of the things I spend my time on.  I avoided anything that smacked of excess or obsession, and tried to stay inside the tidy lines of 'passion.'  I am not proud of my fabricated self as detailed in the identity wheel exercise, and looking at it, I didn't even like this safe, careful person I had built of six safe, careful hobbies.

And so, again.  I am enjoying (from a comfortable, safe distance, and behind my blind of anonymity), the shifting sands around cooking these days.  I hope you will read this article by Laura Shapiro about Sam Sifton's cookbook and popularity.  Shapiro has excellent criticisms, and worthwhile issues to consider.  I also sympathize with Sifton, and I enjoy his relentless positivity and cajoling.  He reminds me of these pages, in fact.  And so, I hope that I haven't, in my enthusiasm, produced a case of the 'shoulds' in you.  As in, you should cook without (or with) a recipe, or you should read the article mentioned above.

Watch for more on my favorite topic of Not Doing soon!