January 17th, 2010

spices

Why cook?

So, I've been watching Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America," and I'm noticing something that sort of...bothers me. Many of the contestants are women - I think there are only two men left at this point - and several of them are wives and mothers. For those who don't know, the premise of the show is that two professional chefs take a group of people who are the worst cooks they could find (meaning, the worst cooks that auditioned for the show and fit the producer's vision of a reality-competition show contestant), and teach them how to cook. The two chefs have divided the cooks into teams, each chef leading a team, and in the end one cook from each team will be left. Those cooks will prepare a meal for a panel of restaurant critics, and the goal is to fool the critics into believing that the chefs made the food, not the cooks.

I really like the idea behind the show, and obviously the people on the show both acknowledge that they don't know how to cook and are willing and eager to learn. However, when the contestants do their little confessional type things, I'm noticing a theme when they discuss why they want to learn to cook. A lot of them will talk about how they feel like they're letting their families down or are a disappointment, or a bad wife or mother, because they can't cook. It makes me wonder - is being a good cook, or even just an able cook, a prerequisite for marriage and motherhood?

Now, I can feed myself. I can feed my husband, and he can feed me. We do best when we cook together, and I enjoy cooking for and with him. However, I don't know that I would feel like a failure if I couldn't or wouldn't cook. I guess I never really thought of it as something I'm "supposed" to do, because it's something we both enjoy doing. It almost feels like it hearkens back to the "Leave it to Beaver" era, where Mom has dinner on the table the second Dad and the kids come home from school, and woe becomes the woman who is unprepared for a dinner guest!

It bothers me. At the same time, I freely admit that I have my moments of June Cleaver Failure(tm), particularly with regards to housekeeping, so maybe I'm not one to talk. What about you? Do you think it's a woman's duty or responsibility to keep the family fed? Do you think any less of a mother who doesn't cook for her kids?