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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?


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Jan. 18th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
Most of the time, if I don't feed them, they don't eat.
Jan. 18th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
I admit I am a terrible cook. When I cook, it usually turns out well, but it do it quite rarely as I find I just don't have the support skills to make cooking possible. Things like making grocery lists, knowing how to reference a recipe without having to bring it with me, being aware of what I have in the fridge RIGHT NOW are outside my scope of memory to keep up on. If you want to know generous skirt proportions, I'm there without a book in hand, but with cooking it feels more like homework.

My husband is a fine cook, and he can make something out of what little we usually have. And it's best when I don't cook for/ with him, as he's very particular both with the process and occasionally complains about the finished product. I did think that it was rude of me not to cook at first. After trying for about a year the stress produced by my over- working list and shopping, and then little bit of huffy-ness added to the cooking itself made it just not worth it to keep trying for spotty results, good though they may have been.
Jan. 18th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
My parents don't usually cook more than once every few weeks (they eat out a TON), and I still think they're the best parents ever. I personally want to HAVE a housewife, not be one. Luckily, John can cook...
Jan. 18th, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
You put it that way and I am lucky too. Men that cook ftw!
Jan. 18th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's the woman's responsibility to cook for the family, but I do believe that where children are concerned, SOMEONE should cook for them. It's just one of those things, a part of childhood that it kind of makes me sad to think of a child missing out on. There are extenuating circumstances of course; a single parent who has to work 29 hours a day just to PROVIDE food gets no less respect from me if they don't cook for their kids. But I could hope that someone would. This is why, when I was pondering having kids, I had this daydream about a sort of "compound" where we would live amongst many of our friends and we'd all take care of each others' kids. Everybody's kids would grow up knowing that many people, not just their parents, cared for them; the kids would always have somewhere safe they could go and someone who would look after them no matter what. And they'd always have a nice meal. Sort of a hyper-extended family... :)
Jan. 18th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
I've often dreamt of such a compound as well:

Seven-foot-tall concrete walls with broken glass imbedded in it. Topped with electrified razor wire.

Automatic weapon emplacements with a 180-degree fire arc placed regularly along the walls ...

And the worlds largest game library, with huge gaming tables, excellent miniatures terrain ...

And the kitchen would include at least three deep-fryers and one chest-style freezer devoted exclusively to storing the bacon ...
Jan. 18th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
I've dreamt of this magic land as well, but I would make it be like Hobbiton - with houses that were like hobbit holes, a general commune, and a giant wind farm to provide electricity and income for it.
Jan. 18th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
I'd suggest connecting the houses via underground tunnels, too. That way, I'd never have to face the great burning ball in the sky.

If we built the compound walls correctly, they could form a partial wind tunnel to drive the windmills ...
Jan. 21st, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
The tunnels could also double as a giant wine cellar / cheese making facility!
Jan. 18th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
There is a large swath of this country that believes that there are "mom jobs" (cooking, cleaning, etc) and "dad jobs" (fixing the house, the car, making money for the household).

When they have this preconceived notion of who should do what, and they find themselves not fitting into their own world view, they either change their worldview or try to change themselves to fit into it.

Now, I don't mind folks who want to cook for their families or friends - I've known a lot of them, and some just can't cook worth a lick. They try though, and through trying they get better over time.

Also, I don't mind those folks who can't cook at all, but they should have SOMEONE in the house who can cook so they at least aren't eating take-out all the time. In that way lies poor pockets and poor health.
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