Cooking is really stupid.
September 30, 2014 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Of course long before my boyfriend cheated on me or I made awful carrot/goldfish cum pasta sauce, cooking shame and sexual shame have gone together. For each, you put the very core of yourself out there in a very pointed attempt to give someone a one-of-a-kind sensual experience, and to differentiate yourself, to declare, "Please notice and appreciate my singular talent" and when at your urging they sample and reject, well, it is not good.
An Argument for Never Cooking Again
posted by almostmanda (279 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Isn't this really just "an argument for never trying to do anything, ever"?
posted by yoink at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


This is about her issues not being about cooking, right?
posted by kjs3 at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2014 [18 favorites]


Yeah, I'm wondering the same thing.
posted by grubi at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2014


"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."

Kurt Vonnegut
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2014 [57 favorites]


This made me sad, and does not match my experience:
People cook — particularly women, but not only women — because they think people are going to notice them, and love them, but almost no one thinks about who made what they're eating or how it got on the table. They're just hungry, and they eat, and they sometimes say thank you, and then they forget about it.
If it was supposed to be a personal reflection on the author's own life then it was fine; if it was supposed to be a commentary on cooking or why people in general cook I think it misses the point by a mile. People also cook because they need to eat and can't afford takeout, or because they enjoy food, or because they find the process relaxing, or for dozens of other reasons. If the lesson Sarah Miller took away from her and her mother's insecurities was that cooking isn't for her that's fine, but this piece seemed like she wanted to ruin it for the rest of us too.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2014 [63 favorites]


I really wish we had anonymous posting on Metafilter because I have a story about making goat cheese alfredo and later, drunken ill-advised sex and I guess that's enough details to out me to all parties involved but the pullquote in this post really hit home.

ETA: but the alfredo was good!
posted by annathea at 9:27 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


Lost me in the opening paragraph:
I didn't make anything special. I made vegetables and rice, and I also made two small fig galettes. Cutting up the vegetables took hours and pieces of them kept falling on the floor.
"Nothing special" and "hours" don't really go together.

I love to cook, so I'll keep doing it.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:28 AM on September 30, 2014 [28 favorites]


If this had been a cartoon and we had been birds, she would have been smaller than I was and I would, at that moment, have draped her with a comforting wing.

D'aww.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:29 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


This definitely seems to me a piece about the dangers of making all your life decisions around approval-seeking, using cooking as a metaphor. And if you read it that way, it's tolerably sharp. However, it's a poor choice of metaphor, because lots of people have perfectly healthy relationships with cooking (and perfectly healthy relationships in which both people cook) and it makes the whole thing sound like a rant about cilantro - yes, yes, the stuff tastes like soap if you have that gene, but most people don't, and I'm not sure why anyone else should care that much.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:31 AM on September 30, 2014 [33 favorites]


In my childlike innocence, I didn't understand that the point of cooking isn't fun or even duty, but rather to try to give someone something only you can give. It is all supposed to appear selfless: "I'm making you this pie so you can all enjoy it." But when really, people would enjoy ice cream just as much, their enjoyment can't be the whole reason.

There are just so many things wrong with this paragraph. I wanted to be angry at this person, but then I realized that no curse I leveled at her could possibly be worse than the ones already inflicted on her.

YOU HAVE BEEN THE VICTIM OF POOR PARENTING AND POOR PIE, SARA MILLER
posted by Mayor West at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2014 [33 favorites]


carrot/goldfish cum pasta sauce

Worst dinner ever
posted by Clustercuss at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2014 [55 favorites]


There are just so many things wrong with this paragraph. I wanted to be angry at this person, but then I realized that no curse I leveled at her could possibly be worse than the ones already inflicted on her.

Yeah, I was definitely creeped out by all the things she seems to have absorbed as absolute fact which are instead just poisonous insecurities her mom lived with.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:40 AM on September 30, 2014 [22 favorites]


The secret ingredient to a great meal is love. It's true.
If you don't enjoy cooking, you should just stay out of the kitchen. I bet this author could manage to make even a microwaved TV dinner taste like bitter resentment.
posted by monospace at 9:42 AM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


Like, make the pie, don't make the fucking pie, do whatever you want, just please stop smearing your martyr's blood all over the kitchen.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:42 AM on September 30, 2014 [101 favorites]


We cook to make ourselves indispensable and special.

Wow, nope. I cook because it's fun, because it's cheaper than always eating out, because it's sometimes healthy, and because I enjoy my own cooking.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:45 AM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


"Getting Out Of Bed Is Pointless" by Sarah Miller
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:45 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure that was actually an argument.
posted by octothorpe at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2014


just please stop smearing your martyr's blood all over the kitchen.

If somebody's going to make you a martyr's blood galette, the least you can do is help clean up OH NEVER MIND I'LL JUST DO IT
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2014 [92 favorites]


I suspect her Mom's pie really was delicious.

But pie crusts are something I won't bother to make myself (and chicken pot pie is one of my signature dishes).
posted by booooooze at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2014


An Argument that Clickbait Debate-Club Linking Ruins Painful, Kind of Touching Personal Essays
posted by RogerB at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2014 [20 favorites]


Mom? Is that you?
posted by Dashy at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Making food with love and giving it to those you love is the point. No one else is going to make my family soondubujiggae on a Wednesday evening just because it's chilly out.

The people I cook for notice. Because I enjoy what I'm doing but also because I don't invite ingrates to my table.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:50 AM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


carrot/goldfish cum pasta sauce

Worst dinner ever


Seriously. I have no idea what she wrote here, and I'm not sure I want to know.
posted by shivohum at 9:50 AM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


People cook — particularly women, but not only women — because they think people are going to notice them, and love them, but almost no one thinks about who made what they're eating or how it got on the table. They're just hungry, and they eat, and they sometimes say thank you, and then they forget about it.

Yeah, this isn't true in my experience either. When I do cook (and generally I just bake because I don't feel like cooking most of the time and I'm in a fortunate position where I don't have to) people DO notice and they are really kind and appreciative about it.

Over the weekend we had a Quesadilla Extravaganza where we made like eleven different kinds of quesadillas and people rated them and we chatted about them and just hung out (a number of MeFites were in attendance, in fact). It was a lot of time and effort what with planning, shopping, cooking, serving, whatever, but I think people saw that and were really kind and appreciative (even though the cheeseburger quesadillas were disappointing). We didn't do it for thanks, we did it because we wanted to do something welcoming and generous and fun for our friends and I think people DID notice and paid attention to what they were eating and how it got on the table.

Conversely, I don't cook on weeknights because 1) lazy 2) bipolar 2) fuck it but my husband is an amazing cook and he makes great weeknight dinners. He does it to express caring and to make sure that someone he loves (me!) has a satisfying, healthy meal, and I DO notice and I DO love him for it. I'm hungry, and I eat, and I try to remember to say "thank you", and I absolutely 100% don't forget about it, I remember that my husband has shared with me this concrete expression of the love and tenderness he feels in a way that makes my day-to-day life better.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


The issue is not with cooking, it's with the fact that she's using cooking to validate herself as a person. Cooking is about providing sustenance for your family in a healthful, sustainable way that fits into your lifestyle, not about creating a magnum opus every evening.
posted by sid at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've read this like three times now and I still can't get a fix on how ironic versus how sincere it's supposed to be. It's like Real Simple and McSweeney's had an annoying baby.
posted by aught at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2014 [45 favorites]


I will say that one time, I was making roast duck, and I way oversalted it, so much so that my husband, God bless him, couldn't even fake eating it, and he LOVES salt. I felt badly about myself as a provider that night. But considering I didn't learn to cook until I was 28, I normally do a good job.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:53 AM on September 30, 2014



Yeah, I was definitely creeped out by all the things she seems to have absorbed as absolute fact which are instead just poisonous insecurities her mom lived with.


I had the same rising feeling of panic and worry you get when someone is relating a story from childhood and they assume some intensely strange thing thier family did was totally normal and common.
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on September 30, 2014 [36 favorites]


Man, you know your thinkpiece has problems when The Oatmeal makes a more compelling argument than your article...
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


"What's for dinner?" "My self-esteem."
posted by phaedon at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2014 [33 favorites]


The author learned many things about food, cooking and kitchens, but not the value of prep work (and how to do it) or clean-as-you-go.

I cook because after a long day of clicking on things on screens, it's nice to make a physical thing with my hands.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


Talk about overthinking a plate of beans...
posted by spilon at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]




These books were so boring they didn't even have photographs of snails, just drawings.

I'm laughing so hard because I don't get how this follows at all? Like, maybe I'm the weirdo with my love of esoteric old-timey science books, but this actually sounds totally charming. I used to have a nice little collection of these kinds of natural history books, just things I picked up from when professors would move offices or at used bookstores, and then most of them got left behind when I moved for graduate school and I had to start over. They're a lot of fun to flip through lounging around on a Sunday.

And she was an adult. She could actually choose what she wanted. She could choose fun, and it seemed like maybe she didn't know that, so I was telling her.

Aw. I liked this graf.

But when really, people would enjoy ice cream just as much, their enjoyment can't be the whole reason.

You know what's fun? Making ice cream. Making ice cream is really fun! But, like pie, it takes a lot of patience. Being in a rush to make these things is not fun, and there's a lot of waiting and uncertainty and reminding yourself to go slowly. Pie is also fun, but, like I said, it takes patience.

I sympathize with the author, though, because her and her approach does kind of remind me of a relative I have, and like the author, a lot of this is wrapped up in family + food issues from her childhood. My relative is a very, very good cook, and she claims to enjoy cooking very much, but it does carry, for her, an immensely stressful weight of validation, and so when I lived with this relative, I was always kind of relieved when it wound up being quesadilla night instead.
posted by kagredon at 9:58 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


We cook to make ourselves indispensable and special.

I definitely know more than one person who thinks like this, and all of those persons are women. Not universal remotely, but definitely A Thing, and one reason the whole rise of Pinterest Artisanal Lifestyling makes me gag.

That said, I mostly said fuck it all forever to cooking a long time ago. And also to being indispensable or special. But they were two separate fuck-it-all-forevers.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:01 AM on September 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


I bet this author could manage to make even a microwaved TV dinner taste like bitter resentment.

The spice of resentment on the entree of failure and slothfulness.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2014


I totally get this. I get the bits where you cook and you hope for approval, but the more difficult the thing you cook, the less likely it is that the approval you get will be enough to make up for it. My mother had some of this, which is why I always praised her (admittedly good) cooking. My grandmother was a terrible cook, burned everything and made terrible desserts, but was much worse about needing your approval and praise. She watched you to see how much of her food you ate. It was stressful.

It is probably a woman-specific thing most of the time, because women are supposed to be Good at Cooking and Care About Food and be Nurturing Mothers and all the baggage that goes with it. When, as she points out, people mostly just want to eat and not have it taste too bad.

And also, if I cook for someone, the other person cleans. And vice versa. The part where she and her mom clean up after all that cooking is the part where she needs to stop and make the folks who ate it get off their butts and clean.

Really, the best way to both avoid this sort of simmering (ha) resentment is not to be the only one who cooks. The drudgery of being the meal-planner, day in and day out, really wears on you. No amount of praise can make up for it, eventually.

Likewise, cook only things that you personally really want to eat. People don't like your menu items? They can cook something different.
posted by emjaybee at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2014 [17 favorites]


I had the same rising feeling of panic and worry you get when someone is relating a story from childhood and they assume some intensely strange thing thier family did was totally normal and common

My favorite is the This American Life segment about a woman who realizes, upon going to college, that her family was weird for having baked chicken for dinner every single night.
posted by almostmanda at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


Actually, this was what made me sad:

Last night my boyfriend brought home prosciutto, melon, bread, some Saint- André cheese and a mixture of olives and feta in a little oil and vinegar that they sell at our local supermarket and which, along with just enough salad to ward off disease, I would be perfectly happy to live on.

I went to sleep rested, un-buoyed by success, and un-flattened by failure. I thought of the snail genius, and how he probably never cooked a day in his life. Cooking tells you things about yourself that a busy man like him very likely didn't want to bother finding out. It's funny that even as she is nearing 80, my mother still feels bad that she had a housekeeper or that she didn't cook enough, because what I like most and respect most about her is not her cooking but the various ways that she managed to avoid it.


And that nowhere in the entire essay is there even the faintest glimmer of a night thought about how expensive her entire life has been - summer in a cottage, housekeeper, fig galettes, Saint-Andre, etc., and how this all relies on a dramatic degree of financial inequality.

****
I feel like this kind of essay is very contemporary in style, somehow - make very, very heavy weather of some ordinary thing while contriving to give the impression that you know you are selfish, spoiled and lazy and yet somehow this actually shows that you you are charming, perceptive and creative. Sort of self-Manic-Pixie-ization, somehow.
***
Not that she has to cook if she doesn't like it.
***
And yet I kept wanting to say "why not pick up all the pieces of fallen vegetables at once at the end" and "if you make a sauce and it tastes terrible, that's when you break out the butter, olive oil and cheese and just toss your pasta with that" and "why not just tell people that they can't throw garbage in the sink, because then there isn't garbage in the sink when you come to do the dishes".
posted by Frowner at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2014 [66 favorites]


Actually, this was what made me sad:

Last night my boyfriend brought home prosciutto, melon, bread, some Saint- André cheese and a mixture of olives and feta in a little oil and vinegar that they sell at our local supermarket and which, along with just enough salad to ward off disease


It made me sad too, because that was my shopping list for almost 10 years, but there's no way my boyfriend would ever be on board with eating that way. I really miss my old dinners.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:11 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cooking isn't for others, it's for yourself AND others. What kind of weird, needy asshole is she?
posted by basicchannel at 10:13 AM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


I kind of hate the author after reading this, but I loved reading it. My mom definitely sought approval through cooking, and I struggle with falling into the same trap.

My best/worst Thanksgiving story is about the year I tried to make my boyfriend (now husband) a roast chicken. I made sweet potatoes with marshmallows, mashed potatoes, green beans, and homemade gravy that I was REALLY proud of. He didn't like gravy, he said, but mine was really good!

So we sit down to the table. It's just the two of us. I feel really accomplished. He takes the knife to slice off his favorite piece, the chicken leg. It's completely RAW. I had used the "juices run clear" test, which apparently isn't foolproof. I almost broke into tears as I went to put the chicken back into the oven while we dined on lonely sides. He tried to tell me it was fine, but I was SO embarrassed. Luckily now I can laugh, but that was a hard experience.
posted by Night_owl at 10:14 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yesterday evening at about midnight I fried all the leftovers. Soft onions, very suspicious eggs, soggy coriander, dodgy yogurt, half a knob of butter with a picture of maslow's hierarchy on the front, kidney beans, tomatoes, garlic, tobasco and stale bread. I ate it all up without a single thought for anyone else. Pure, high-grade happiness
posted by liliillliil at 10:14 AM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


Upon further reflection: she is that particular kind of weird, needy asshole known as a blogger.
posted by basicchannel at 10:15 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love cooking. I also seem to have been cursed with a surfeit of picky eaters in my life who could not give less of a fuck if I crust my tahchin just right and wish I would just make, like, quesadillas with extra sour cream instead.

My all-time favorite cooking experience was probably when I was home alone and made habanero cheeseburger fried rice at 1 in the morning because that was literally the only thing I could make with what was in my kitchen at the time. It was delicious and fun to cook and I won my own culinary approval that night and I'll probably never make it again.

On preview, high five liliillliil.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:20 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


carrot/goldfish cum pasta sauce

Stop giving Rachael Ray ideas!
posted by JenThePro at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Author: I went to sleep rested, un-buoyed by success, and un-flattened by failure.

Internet: HOW DARE YOU.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


Rachael Ray? More like Guy Fieri.
posted by xbonesgt at 10:26 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Author: I went to sleep rested, un-buoyed by success, and un-flattened by failure.

Internet: HOW DARE YOU.


No one is criticizing her for choosing not to cook. She is being criticized for assuming that everyone feels and thinks the same way about cooking as she does.
posted by yoink at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


"Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try."
posted by entropicamericana at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


What kind of weird, needy asshole is she?

Jesus Christ. This seems a little over the top for a personal essay about how she doesn't like cooking and her mom imparted disordered ideas about pleasing others. The hostility in this thread is absolutely mind-boggling.

She is being criticized for assuming that everyone feels and thinks the same way about cooking as she does.

Can you point out where she said that, exactly? Because to me, it reads as if we are all just very, very pleased with ourselves for being so much smarter and healthier than she is.
posted by dialetheia at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2014 [49 favorites]


Author: I went to sleep rested, un-buoyed by success, and un-flattened by failure.

Internet: HOW DARE YOU.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:24 AM on September 30


bro you should totes blog about it.
posted by basicchannel at 10:31 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd rather criticize her for suggesting having your SO bring you delightful assortments of rich people snack food as an alternative to cooking as your primary means of getting your dietary needs met. Barf.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:31 AM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


It's not that we're criticizing her for thinking everyone feels the same way. It's that the essay doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you don't feel the way she does about cooking.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:31 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't believe the person that wrote this is in their 40's.

Maybe they are the Benjamin Button of cooking & emotional maturity? Mommy, goldfish cum, blehhh!!
posted by phaedon at 10:31 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


So, I'm a cook. A good one, if I may say so myself. But I never saw it as a Household Duty or as a way to win approval or anything; my love for cooking can be summed up in a sentence I uttered in a sixth grade social studies class one day: "I like to cook because you get to eat afterward."

That's pretty much it. I like eating good food, I can't afford to eat out every night, ergo, I cook. Jambalaya takes about an hour for me to make, but after that hour YAY JAMBALAYA GOING IN MY FACE I WIN.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on September 30, 2014 [25 favorites]


Can you point out where she said that, exactly?

How about all of the broad, sweeping generalizations throughout the entire piece? This isn't an article about her experience, it's an article about her experience reflected on to everyone else. And I'm personally kind of sick to death of people on the Internet telling me how I'm supposed to think or feel or act. I cook because I love it, and I find it both a relaxing and creative outlet and a way to show my girlfriend and friends how much I care about them. I'm sorry she has such baggage around cooking, but I'd like it if she stopped assuming that I do too.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:33 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


For most of my youth my family rented a house on Cape Cod owned by a scientist, a professor at an Ivy League university who had written several long books about snails. These books were so boring they didn't even have photographs of snails, just drawings. We shared the house with another family, and they had two girls so my brother always brought a friend, and this made a grand total of nine people almost constantly chortling about the poor guy: "Ha ha, what a loser, stupid snail lover!" Years later, my mother was reading the New York Times and there was a picture of him, resplendent, beaming, having basically uncovered the neurological basis to human intelligence. ...
She appears to be talking about Stephen J Gould here:
Most of Gould's empirical research was based on the land snail genera Poecilozonites and Cerion
and also appears to identify with whatever she cooks so completely that she regards herself as a foodstuff to be consumed:
My boyfriend was, at this time, in the middle of a long-distance affair I did not know about with the woman for whom he would eventually leave me. He was the only one eating, fork moving with dependable loyalty from mouth to plate while everyone one else consoled themselves with C's delicious garlic bread. Still, I am absolutely confident that as he ate his mind was hard at work scheming about when he was going to see this woman again. Whenever I think about that moment I feel such shame. I was so stupid to make that sauce and I was so stupid to be cheated on. And then these shames mingle and dance.
No wonder she's ambivalent about cooking.
posted by jamjam at 10:36 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


The hostility in this thread is absolutely mind-boggling.

The reading-comprehension well around here has been poisoned, perhaps irreversibly, by the omnipresence of clickbait-contrarian hot takes. It's basically impossible to have an actual discussion of anything that can be misperceived as a clickbait "argument" these days; the rush to judgment is too strong for anyone to take the time to even attempt a sympathetic or serious reading.
posted by RogerB at 10:37 AM on September 30, 2014 [18 favorites]


When I finally went to bed after hours of patiently reading stories on MetaFilter sympathetically, having achieved absolutely nothing — having impressed no one, including myself, with the shit I learned — I said to my boyfriend, "This essay is really stupid." He said that he agreed.
posted by phaedon at 10:41 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I actually think the piece would have been much stronger if she'd been more explicit about the gender implications involved. Many of the women in my mom's generation seem to feel similarly about the performative/selfless nature of cooking, and I don't think this attitude is anywhere near as rare or weird as you all seem to think it is.

For many women, especially older women, cooking well and putting a ton of effort into it for not much recognition seems to be a pretty key part of performing femininity, and while I agree with Prize Bull Octorok that eating exclusively from the Whole Foods snack bar is unlikely to be a solution for most of us, it's a phenomenon that's worth examining. Apparently everyone at MeFi is too smart to fall victim to such misconceptions and we all do everything for the right reasons, but she's not completely out of left-field with her assertions for many women. If you need contemporary examples, check out even a small sampling of mommy/cooking blogs - "Look how much jam I canned" is a huge part of performing femininity and motherhood for many women.

I wish she'd been more explicit that she was talking about a certain way of engaging with cooking, but evidently that attitude has been so pervasive in her life that maybe she hasn't seen a lot of alternative models.
posted by dialetheia at 10:44 AM on September 30, 2014 [44 favorites]


There were definitely parts of this that resonated for me. I don't enjoy cooking and time has shown that whatever the portion of my budget that is needed for me to eat food made by other people will be allocated toward that, with any gaps filled with basically just rice and beans. I don't enjoy the planning, the preparation, the act of cooking itself, the eating, or seeing other people eat things that I've made. And that's all fine. Luckily for me, I'm a dude and for several reasons have structured my life so that I will virtually never be hosting people in my own living space myself, so I'm relatively less likely to be guilted into having to cook food I don't want in order to impress and/or delight my friends and family. (They would be neither impressed nor delighted, I can assure you.)

This is all working out OK for me personally, but the thing she starts to get into that I think is valuable is that there's this weird moral dimension to cooking that turns it from meeting your own basic needs into something that's supposed to be good and important. Consequently, the whole thing has turned into a way to show how much you love others and are loved by them, and that idea works really well for a lot of people, but it definitely doesn't work for plenty of other people. I think it's not the worst thing in the world for that construction to be gently challenged and for us to think about how much we want something fairly basic to be turned into something much more fraught.
posted by Copronymus at 10:45 AM on September 30, 2014 [23 favorites]


The thing I like most about cooking is telling everyone else to suck my dick.
posted by haricotvert at 10:45 AM on September 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


I was just talking with my coworker about an upcoming work trip to China. We were discussing the idea of sharing an executive apartment instead two hotel rooms, specifically for access to a kitchen because we both want to cook our own meals.

It's not like the company is too cheap to pay for us to eat out for every meal. It's also not that we are amazing cooks or anything like that. It's just that sometimes you want to cook your meal because it's easier, cheaper, and healthier than the restaurant.

The reasons can be that simple. I hope the author gets the help she needs.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:52 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I will admit to being sort of like this. Human beings have an inherent and unkillable desire for attention and approval, and if you have no idea how to seek attention or approval in the normally approved ways (or if, as seems to be the case for the author, you can get it in other ways but always find yourself needing more) cooking is a natural choice. Everybody has to eat, and most people have strong preferences for good-tasting food over bad-tasting food, so if you can give them good-tasting food, you get attention and warm fuzzies! And as long as you aren't cathected too hard onto those particular warm fuzzies, because there's always going to be a day when they don't come, it actually works pretty well. Everyone gets good food, you get a little social-approval boost, everybody's physical and emotional needs get met.

Essential to this, by the way, is the fact that cooking doesn't look attention-seeking. Women are taught not to take up space and draw attention to themselves, with the one exception of attractiveness/romance/sex. But with cooking, you can look altruistic, like a woman is supposed to be, and at the same time draw attention to yourself and your skills.

Of course, for most people, this desire for attention (and it's not particularly unhealthy, honestly, compared to other ways people seek attention) is mixed with other reasons to enjoy cooking. But her lack of interest in cooking for herself alone suggests maybe she doesn't experience those other reasons. If she can afford not to cook, and she finds that better for her, she should stop. But she was not well done by by whatever editor decided to present this as some kind of "Against Cooking" thing.
posted by ostro at 10:53 AM on September 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


I just wanted to learn how to make a goldfish cum.
posted by srboisvert at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am almost half a century old. I have "cooked" (that is, prepared non-dessert foodstuffs) for other people exactly three times in my life. My mother was sick once and I microwaved farina; a friend was recovering from surgery and I made DiJourno pasta and a salad; and I once made salad and garlic bread for the man I loved with every fiber of my being (while he made shrimp boil) in a comic kitchen fable to rival a classic I Love Lucy episode. Not only do I not see the point of my cooking, I was in my twenties before I saw the point of eating for anything but sustenance. Even now, my palate discerns only "yummy" and "yucky" -- and for me, most fall into the latter category. (I also can't fathom all of you who say that cooking is cheaper than eating out. Two English cucumbers or a quarter pound of shrimp cost more than I spend on most healthy takeout.)

I do not cook aside from the occasional boiling of pasta, even for myself, just as I do not sew or knit or do anything with my hands (besides type) or garden or play sports or scale mountains because just the idea of doing any of it seems spectacularly not fun. And with the exception of my mother, who cooks kosher and gourmet and for whom cooking=love, who feels she failed because I eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch every single day and have been known to get takeout sushi twice in the same week, I don't think anyone cares. No man has ever felt unloved because I didn't cook for him (and the one I loved so deeply always said he'd do all the cooking), and no one who matters to me thinks less of me. And except for when I read posts like this, it never occurs to me that anyone's self esteem would be tied to something as silly as what they do with their hands. Then again, I never feel judged that I don't have children, and I know (from reading essays just like this) that others are haunted by such judgments.

Her whole bit about how adults could choose to avoid doing not fun things? I feel more attuned to the child she was than the adult she is now. Parts of the piece was well-written, but made me feel uncomfortably (and not cathartically) sad. I felt exactly what The Whelk explained so well:
"...the same rising feeling of panic and worry you get when someone is relating a story from childhood and they assume some intensely strange thing thier family did was totally normal and common." I feel sad for the author, if she's being authentic about what she's saying she's felt.

And I feel sad for all the anger it brought up in other posters, as if her assumptions are personal challenges. Food is not love to everyone. If the people you cook for don't notice, that's OK, too. If there are semiotics involved in the language of cooking-love you're speaking, and people who don't speak the language (or know there is such a language) don't respond, it's not a lack of appreciation of your love or effort. I'm pretty sure people are supposed to love you for who you are, not what you do.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


Doleful Creature has explained it perfectly: Once you can cook for yourself you'll wonder why you ever eat food prepared by others save for a very special restaurant+meal. Even food that is simple and takes very little time to make is worlds better than something that someone got paid to manufacture for you.

Validation through cooking is a fucked-up Yuban Second Cup moment.
posted by basicchannel at 10:58 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Once I was mocking a friend of mine who likes to write weird fiction but doesn't have the stamina for an actual story by coming up with microfiction in his style.

I came up with the idea of a man who created a goldfish golem as a lover. So it was a golem made of hundreds of thousands of living goldfish packed together in the shape of a woman. The bad part is that the horrifying mental image of the goldfish golem has never wholly left me since I made it up.

The goldfish golem is the only one who can answer the question of what the heck it was the writer in the article cooked which caused her such rage and anguish.
posted by winna at 10:59 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually think the piece would have been much stronger if she'd been more explicit about the gender implications involved.

I think if she'd actually worked out the gender (and class, holy shit) implications of this stuff at all, even on the individual level (much less how her experience of it connects to other people's), then she wouldn't have needed to write this essay, or at least it wouldn't be so raw and painful and confessional-feeling. That's what I thought was interesting about it, really; not so much the part about cooking specifically (a bunch of it is about cleaning and housework), but the way it's really about her semi-unconsciously internalizing that domestic labor is a defining part of her identity as a person, and how that has totally messed with/alienated her emotional life and sense of self. She has a long way to go before she gets to Wages for Housework or whatever the end result of politicizing her experience might eventually be, and the "we" of the essay is pure projection as people have amply objected to already in this thread, but it's still, to me at least, a pretty interesting report on her own fucked-up emotional experience of bourgeois femininity.
posted by RogerB at 10:59 AM on September 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


I hope the author gets the help she needs.

While I do think that there are some "layers" to her feelings about cooking, I don't necessarily think that a dislike for cooking is necessarily a sign that one needs "help".

I mean, I like cooking too, but there have definitely been nights when I come home after a ten-hour work day and I'm all "fuck this I'mma get takeout".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm really startled by the reactions to this. I found it funny and I'm pretty sure I was meant to. It's funny in the way that Bill Bryson is funny-- exaggerated self-deprecation.
posted by justkevin at 11:02 AM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


Doleful Creature has explained it perfectly: Once you can cook for yourself you'll wonder why you ever eat food prepared by others save for a very special restaurant+meal. Even food that is simple and takes very little time to make is worlds better than something that someone got paid to manufacture for you.

Speaking of assuming your experiences are universal . . .

Many, many people, including a bunch who've already posted here, feel differently. I cook nearly every night. If I could afford it, I would never ever cook again. It's boring drudgery for me. Lots of people agree. It's not sad, it's just something that's true for me.

ETA: it wasn't always true, but it is now. Nothing's really changed except that I'm over it. It's like how driving is awesome when you're 16 but when you're 38 you're like fuck this, I fucking hate driving. Same for me with cooking. Eh.
posted by peep at 11:03 AM on September 30, 2014 [16 favorites]


My Italian is rusty, but farfalle con crema di carote, is probably a reasonable translation for goldfish cum
posted by sparklemotion at 11:03 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Once you can cook for yourself you'll wonder why you ever eat food prepared by others save for a very special restaurant+meal. Even food that is simple and takes very little time to make is worlds better than something that someone got paid to manufacture for you.


idk man this feels like a kind of weird fetishization to me. I can cook very well, I have cooked in restaurant kitchens of midrange to fancyish levels. It does nothing for me except feel like an irritation. I occasionally try to buy interesting ingredients to cook stuff that I enjoy eating and have it last a week or so but I don't end up using it because UGH DRUDGERY so why the hell should I cook every night? Literally why? I have yet to hear a single good reason as to why I should cook for myself or anyone else if I don't feel like it, or don't enjoy doing it.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:05 AM on September 30, 2014 [29 favorites]


I'm really started by the reactions to this. I found it funny and I'm pretty sure I was meant to. It's funny in the way that Bill Bryson is funny-- exaggerated self-deprecation.

I think food threads, like threads about school, bring up huge amounts of emotion for lots of folks. Eating/being fed is a bedrock experience. People feel deeply about it. It involves not just survival, but pleasure, heath, family and love.

In other words, we are compelled to overthink this plate of beans.
posted by emjaybee at 11:07 AM on September 30, 2014


She seems to have a deep conflation of cooking and approval-seeking. Which I can empathize with, since if I'm being honest I have to say I've had a couple run-ins with that myself.

But she writes about never cooking again like that choice is going to make the approval-seeking and need for validation to go away. News flash: it isn't.
posted by dnash at 11:09 AM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


idk man this feels like a kind of weird fetishization to me. I can cook very well, I have cooked in restaurant kitchens of midrange to fancyish levels. It does nothing for me except feel like an irritation. I occasionally try to buy interesting ingredients to cook stuff that I enjoy eating and have it last a week or so but I don't end up using it because UGH DRUDGERY so why the hell should I cook every night? Literally why? I have yet to hear a single good reason as to why I should cook for myself or anyone else if I don't feel like it, or don't enjoy doing it.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:05 AM on September 30


Fetishization? Jesus tapdancing Christ, fresh food lacking in preservatives and hormones and other garbage that costs less than eating out is not my particular kink... it just tastes better and is faster to make than driving somewhere and being served. Perhaps you are similar to the poster above that does not like to do anything at all in life and are trying to rationalize it?
posted by basicchannel at 11:09 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Perhaps you are similar to the poster above that does not like to do anything at all in life and are trying to rationalize it?

Wow.
posted by dialetheia at 11:11 AM on September 30, 2014 [30 favorites]


uh, what
posted by poffin boffin at 11:12 AM on September 30, 2014 [18 favorites]


The reading-comprehension well around here has been poisoned, perhaps irreversibly, by the omnipresence of clickbait-contrarian hot takes. It's basically impossible to have an actual discussion of anything that can be misperceived as a clickbait "argument" these days; the rush to judgment is too strong for anyone to take the time to even attempt a sympathetic or serious reading.

Yeah, I think the title of the article is provoking a defensive reaction and wish I had left it out of the post. It's weird to me that people in this thread are actually saying stuff like "food tastes better when you cook it yourself!" because the article isn't really about that. It's like angrily grousing at Harper Lee for publishing a bird murder manual.
posted by almostmanda at 11:12 AM on September 30, 2014 [22 favorites]


It seems like y'all are fetishizing lung breathing, must of us would rather not bother with all that fuss and just absorb oxygen through our thorax carapace.
posted by The Whelk at 11:12 AM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


I mean I can think of at least one thing offhand that I don't like right now.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:12 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


God, that was an utterly depressing read to me. And not because she hates cooking, but just... there's some undercurrent that I get from her that she really loathes herself and is basing it on trivial things and that's sad.

I don't think everyone needs to love cooking, or even be good at it. I am a great cook and I have several go-to recipes that I kick ass at making, but I also love going out to eat because it means I can sit and sip wine while it's being prepared, and I don't have to look at a messy kitchen afterward. Sometimes I go weeks without cooking a single dinner in my kitchen, and those weeks are fucking amazing.

Sometimes cooking isn't actually any cheaper than going out to eat, anyway. Sometimes I want to make something really elaborate that involves visiting several grocery and specialty stores and buying packages of exotic ingredients when I only need a little bit. Once you factor in the cost of your time, driving to each store, and having to buy more of each ingredient than you can reasonably use up in time, you might as well have just gone out to a restaurant. There's no shame in that.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:12 AM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


George Orwell actually had a "let's have a socialist Britain after the war" proposal which involved being able to sign up for meal drop-off and have someone else pick up the dirty dishes after, with both cooking and dish washing to be done at a central depot. He felt that cooking by individuals was mostly wasteful - particularly of women's time - and that kitchens tended to be inefficiently designed, require too much cleaning, etc. (Admittedly, I don't expect that immediately post-war British mass production food would have been very good, but you wouldn't have to cook it yourself anyway.) The difference in his schema, of course, was that there wouldn't be a hugely wealthy class who could have whatever they liked to eat delivered by down-on-their-luck models in fancy cars doing Uber-style piecework - anyone would be able to get food delivered and the people who cooked, cleaned and made the deliveries would get paid a wage as good as any other working person's.
posted by Frowner at 11:13 AM on September 30, 2014 [22 favorites]


I enjoyed it. It made me laugh, and I recognized some of myself in it. I was sort of surprised by the reaction it got, both here and in other places. I agree that what's going on here is probably gender roles and emotional issues more than the inherent suckiness of cooking, but you know what? Cooking is a chore. It's just a thing I do because someone has to do it. It is a chore that is not much more enjoyable than cleaning the toilet or doing the laundry, and in fact is sometimes LESS enjoyable than cleaning the toilet, because it takes longer and then you have a sticky kitchen.

I think her feelings, and my own on the matter, are worth talking about because the dominant narrative is this Pinteresty oh-isn't-it-fulfilling-to-can-things vibe. I like eating well enough, I'll try anything at least once, and I'll consume whatever someone gives me for dinner, but I don't have a distinguished palate. I am married to an extremely picky eater. I pretty much live on cheese, crudite, and packed lunches of the most minimalist crock pot recipe I can tolerate preparing a couple of times a month.

We live in an age with robot vacuums. Food replicators cannot get here SOON ENOUGH.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:13 AM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


Last night my boyfriend brought home prosciutto, melon, bread, some Saint-André cheese and a mixture of olives and feta in a little oil and vinegar that they sell at our local supermarket and which, along with just enough salad to ward off disease, I would be perfectly happy to live on.

I too would be perfectly happy to live on this but a diet of Saint-André cheese probably isn't the healthiest thing. (OTOH, it's probably no worse than burgers and pizzas.)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:14 AM on September 30, 2014


Fetishization? Jesus tapdancing Christ, fresh food lacking in preservatives and hormones and other garbage that costs less than eating out is not my particular kink... it just tastes better and is faster to make than driving somewhere and being served.

Preferring home cooked food because it offers genuine benefits in terms of time/taste/health isn't fetishization, preferring it because it's some how nebulously better than "something that someone got paid to manufacture for you" as if the act of paying for food/not preparing the food yourself alone makes the difference seems pretty fetishized to me. There's nothing about making food myself (which I do and enjoy doing) that makes it intrinsically different from food prepared by others.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:14 AM on September 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


She is being criticized for assuming that everyone feels and thinks the same way about cooking as she does.
Can you point out where she said that, exactly?

Sure. Ctrl-F "We cook..." or "People cook..." She very explicitly generalizes her experiences to "people" in general. I think the reception to a piece saying "I gave up cooking because it made me feel bad" would have been very different. The piece is framed as an "argument" against cooking--i.e. it is meant to persuade us of the inherent evils of cooking. If it had simply been framed as a report on one person's entirely personal reasons for giving up cooking, that would be entirely different. It would also be entirely non-clickbaity, on the other hand.
posted by yoink at 11:17 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ha, I'm not implying the act of paying for something is inherently bad. I even said:

save for a very special restaurant+meal.
posted by basicchannel at 11:18 AM on September 30, 2014


My mother told me that she snagged my father because of her great cooking. In college, I tried cooking for guys a few times. They ate the food while playing video games and ignored me. I was bewildered. That oatmeal comic above sums it up perfectly.

Also, what poffin boffin said: it's such drudgery. I find that my own food tastes very bland and unpleasant to me (though others like it), not sure why. The same recipe at someone else's house tastes better.
posted by Melismata at 11:20 AM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Rinse some veggies, boil for 5 minutes. Slice open an avocado. Scramble some eggs. There, I just thought of that off the top and the whole shebang takes less time than going to a restaurant, ordering, waiting to be served and then going back home.
posted by basicchannel at 11:26 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems like a lot of people in this thread are planting their feet firmly on one side or the other of the "cooking is always more fun/fulfilling/healthy/cheaper" vs. "cooking is the worst" line.

I love to cook, and I do a pretty decent job at at it. But I don't do it every night because ain't nobody got time for that. Some weeks, I'll get my act together enough that I can skip cooking by living off of leftovers. Other weeks I don't and I eat out a bunch.

There's plenty of food that, net/net is much more enjoyable (and arguably cheaper), for me, to get outside of the house. For example, a really good phở broth is not something that's super reasonable (it's also not impossible, mind you) to do for an individual person/family on a regular basis -- why not go out and have someone ladle you up a bowl out of a giant cauldron that's been simmering all day?

The author of this piece has some pretty weird (mostly not food related) issues, I feel sorry for her and for anyone who can't enjoy cooking just for the fun of it. But honestly, people don't need to cook their own food all the time in order to have happy, fulfilled lives.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:26 AM on September 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


[It'd be great if the hostility level here could be lowered several notches. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:28 AM on September 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


I think anyone reasonable can understand that there are circumstances under which cooking would be faster/cheaper/healthier, and equally many circumstances under which is is none of those things. The problem lies in the assumption that the people to whom you're speaking can't be trusted to know which circumstances apply to THEM.

If I tell you that it is faster and cheaper for me to pick up a reuben sandwich at the deli than to conceptualize, shop for, cook, and clean up after whatever other thing you think I should eat, you really must just trust that I know my own life. In turn I will concede that Meal X is probably healthier because almost anything is healthier than a reuben sandwich.

And then we two can use all the time we didn't waste getting holier-than-thou about a meal to drink many beers.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:30 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


would you say it has simmered to a boil
posted by poffin boffin at 11:30 AM on September 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


yeah, I enjoy cooking, but at the same time, I know that a large part of why I enjoy it is that I don't really have to do it, because I live alone and am young and healthy and if I decide to say "fuck it" 4 nights in a row and just eat ramen or ice cream or skip dinner entirely, it's nobody's fucking business but mine.
posted by kagredon at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm really startled by the reactions to this. I found it funny and I'm pretty sure I was meant to. It's funny in the way that Bill Bryson is funny-- exaggerated self-deprecation.

As I said earlier in a jokier way, I think the post had tone problems that made it hard to be sure where it was coming from. That and the distinctly #firstworldproblem nature of the essay (i.e., "cooking hurts my special snowflake feelings" versus "cooking keeps me and my family from starving to death") made it easy pickings for mockery, unfortunately for the author.
posted by aught at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2014


I just wanted to learn how to make a goldfish cum.

I was also curious about this, and according to a couple of goldfish breeding sites I just read, you're probably going to want to raise the tank temperature into the mid-high 60s Fahrenheit as a first step. Assuming you just want to make the goldfish cum and not to breed goldfish, I think you'll probably want to set up some faux goldfish egg structures (I guess this would be the goldfish equivalent of porn) that the goldfish will think are eggs and release his sperm onto. Simple enough, really.
posted by Copronymus at 11:32 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


She's making elaborate, choreographed PROJECTS and calls this cooking. (Hours to chop vegetables, pies, figs, etc.). I think a lot of us do not think of cooking this way.

An analogy is that 30 years earlier, she created an elaborate puppet show with crayons, paper and socks, wrote a script and performed it to her parents who just smirked and shrugged. Versus telling them she was sleepy, or wanted a pony or whatever.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:33 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's also relevant to note that the article itself is most definitely not talking about the quick-n-easy healthy stir fry sort of cooking. If the writer had been comfortable with that kind of cooking, she wouldn't be quite so tied in knots about it. This is cooking-as-status-and-performance, which is seldom cheap, healthy, or possible to pull off while working a full-time job.

would you say it has simmered to a boil

Why I oughta...
posted by restless_nomad at 11:33 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I agree that this is a piece about bourgeois femininity that the author doesn't frame, or recognize, as such, and that if she did it would have been more interesting to me.

I'm 50, and my mother was a classic middle-class homemaker. We never went out to restaurants, because my father said that's what he had a wife for: to handle the cooking and cleaning. My mom's whole identity was wrapped up in the cleanliness of her house and having dinner on the table at 6:00 each night, and she was a super-bright person who was stuck at home investing huge amounts of psychic energy in making curtains and home-made jam. We kids dutifully admired the curtains, but it was probably never enough to make her feel fully validated. My mother got a college degree in the 1950s in the sciences that she didn't get to put to use, and I always felt she was missing the great social validation we give a career.

Now, that's generational. But strangely (to me), my sister has chosen to recapitulate home-making motherhood. In fact, she is constantly baking pies and galettes and eclairs, and posting photos of them on Facebook for validation. I mean, people should do what makes them happy. It's just strange to me because my sister seems to view my mother's life very differently from the way I do. My sister gripes about how stay-at-home moms today aren't respected as they were in my mother's generation, when my mom could blissfully be a homemaker and not be questioned. But I don't see my mom's expected homewifery as having been blissful. My sister may not feel constrained as a housewife, but my observations were that my mother did. And I do find it kind of boring to visit my sister and to have all the conversations focus on cooking the next meal, when there are a lot more topics in the world than that.

Feeling judged as a homemaker-mom also makes my sister reciprocally judgy about people who (gasp) regularly feed their kids microwaved meals and who buy them birthday cakes instead of baking something absolutely unique. To her, taking a child to McDonald's more than once or twice is year is tantamount to child abuse--and that's an attitude that is cruel to people who don't have the privileges of middle-class, dual-parent suburban life.

Anyway, I agree that people in general get quite judgmental when it comes to discussions of home cooking, because of all the issues of gender and class and family arrangements that are involved while often going unmentioned, and that this phenomenon is visible in this thread.
posted by DrMew at 11:35 AM on September 30, 2014 [41 favorites]


Once you can cook for yourself you'll wonder why you ever eat food prepared by others save for a very special restaurant+meal.

I can cook but I don't wonder why I eat out. I know. It's because I'm so fucking lazy. And I like eating in restaurants - they have all sorts of things to drink, and someone else cleans the kitchen, and I enjoy seeing all the other people without having to talk to them.

I can cook, although I didn't learn until I was in my 30s. My mom was one of these performative cooks - she worked very hard to learn to cook in her 20s, and didn't work but is a feminist so she had guilt issues, and she tried new stuff for us, and always needed praise and thanks. And really, praise and thanks wasn't too much for the family to give her for her efforts. But she was also a giant control freak with no patience, so I observed a lot of cooking from outside the kitchen, because I wasn't allowed in it, and she never taught me anything about meal planning, or grocery shopping or things like that.

So I was very resistant to cooking because of all this emotional baggage and trauma (it's sooo fun to be yelled at for offering to help someone who is flouncing around martyr-style because no one ever helps them. And god forbid that you then suggest the yelling is the reason they don't get helped.) But eventually I taught myself. And I'm fair at it - things turn out, I'm not a kitchen slob like the person who wrote the article (why are her veggies all over the floor?), the food is always edible.

But I can't say I enjoy it. I really don't enjoy it. I tolerate it for health reasons. But all in all, I'd much rather be fed. By a restaurant.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


Cutting up the vegetables took hours and pieces of them kept falling on the floor.

OH GOD THE FLOOR IS RUINED.

This is clearly the problem of someone who does not have a dog.
posted by maryr at 11:41 AM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


Oh, totally. Our dog will put up with all sorts of nonsense to keep the kitchen floor clean.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I like to cook cause I feel like I'm learning a real practical skill cause otherwise I'm the kind of stares at a glowing rectangle all-day dilettante who, if left to my own devices, would probably just wander into a lake and drown.
posted by The Whelk at 11:46 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Many people in this thread have said many intelligent and worthwhile things about performing femininity and the dangers of tying self-approval to cooking.

I have a much stupider question: Why couldn't they afford pies if they were able to rent a Cape Cod house and hire a housekeeper?
posted by clawsoon at 11:48 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Because they performed feminity and tied self-approval to cooking.
posted by Melismata at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


restless_nomad:
"Oh, totally. Our dog will put up with all sorts of nonsense to keep the kitchen floor clean."
From the video: "Quite frankly, if you're willing to have a kitten attached to your ass, you get a little bacon."

Truer words have never been spoken.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wait - did she not taste the goldfish cum sauce before serving it to people? Why was the terribleness not noticed until everyone was eating?
posted by maryr at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know, ever since I started cooking for myself, which was late in life, I'll go to a diner and order an omelette and be like, "How much for an extra egg?" "Four dollars." "I could buy a dozen organic eggs for fucking $4! And it would taste fresh!" Restaurants are ridiculous.
posted by phaedon at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait - did she not taste the goldfish cum sauce before serving it to people? Why was the terribleness not noticed until everyone was eating?

She said she had made the sauce successfully and deliciously before--likely she was in a hurry and since everything looked/smelled right, she just plated it up.

Yet another victim of that thing with cooking where sometimes, you do the exact same thing as always and all of the steps are correct but it still is fucked up, because whims of gods or something.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:10 PM on September 30, 2014


Perhaps you are similar to the poster above that does not like to do anything at all in life and are trying to rationalize it?

basicchannel, I've read all the posts twice now, but I can't be absolutely sure you were referencing my post in yours. But if so, my very specifically stated point was that I don't do things with my hands (cooking, crafts, gardening, etc.). I do, however, own and run a business, sit on national boards of directors, volunteer, publish, and have a social life. I just don't, y'know, make stuff with my hands. I generally make stuff with my words, and am rarely unintentionally misunderstood.

Either way, I think I've lost my appetite.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 12:10 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


Four dollars, in a diner? Where are you eating, downtown Manhattan?
posted by Melismata at 12:12 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is clearly the problem of someone who does not have a dog.

A dog who eats raw vegetables. That's a hungry dog.

I did once have a beagle who loved frozen peas from the bag.
posted by spitbull at 12:14 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


The best thing about cooking at home often is truly appreciating going out to a nice restaurant for a change of pace.
posted by Postroad at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


> when at your urging they sample and reject, well, it is not good.

I'm going to go make cream cheese brownies and not offer any to anybody. When you have cream cheese brownies self-validation is de trop.

But this lady needs a better boyfriend. If you made cream cheese brownies and offered me one, and it was TERRIBLE like, you were out of cream cheese and you figured you could substitute limburger if you used extra sugar you may still count on me to choke one down bravely and smile and say they are delicious. Most especially if I am supposed to have special friendly feelings for you, let alone loving ones... your brownies are delicious.
posted by jfuller at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love cooking and I cook a lot, but also, I know what she's talking about and am really not getting the hostility.

My mom grew up in the 40s and 50s, and she was horrified to see me doing big assed complicated cooking tasks. It really concerned her because she and her mother had both been slaves to the kitchen, and both had completely, fully embraced convenience foods so they could have something remotely resembling a life. So seeing her daughter toiling away in the kitchen making chicken stock and baking bread, it was as though all that progress had somehow been reversed. And sometimes--especially if you go look at the whole Pinteriverse--it looks like it has. The sense of obligation in some of the most popular recipe pins is palpable.

My mom and I had a long talk, and I explained to her that I cook voluntarily. I almost never make anything that I don't like or want. I don't cook every day. I don't take orders. My identity isn't all tied up in my worth to others. I do cook for my family and friends, and I do it to show affection, but I do only do it when I want to, and if it goes unrequited, I'll stop before I start getting resentful. Because yeah, sometimes, I have gotten a little annoyed.

Every now and again, when I'm watching someone poking around with at something I've made for them, picking things out, salting it before they taste it, taking too much and then throwing away half a plate full, I think about how little they seem to appreciate the time and effort I've put into that, and yeah, I get a little resentful sometimes. So sometimes, I stop cooking for a while, and sometimes, I stop cooking for specific people.

There've been a few times too that I've had someone (usually a fussy older child) ask me to make something to order--overcook the pasta, put more sugar in desserts, make something less spicy or something--and I tell them that if they want special orders, I'll be happy to write down a recipe for them to modify and make it the way they want.

I'll make accommodations every now and again, but I don't cook on demand, and if you start taking it for granted, I'll probably stop cooking for you. My kid is an adult now. It's not my job to feed anyone anymore, so if I do it for you, I expect some minimal respect and appreciation for the work I've done.

So yeah, I totally get what she's saying.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


> If you don't enjoy cooking, you should just stay out of the kitchen

And my family will eat what, exactly, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

That's like saying if you don't enjoy cleaning the toilet, stay out of the bathroom. There are chores that need to be done, and cooking is one of them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:20 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


There are chores that need to be done

Like staring into the pasta sauce you just made and realizing your life is falling apart
posted by phaedon at 12:25 PM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


> If you don't enjoy cooking, you should just stay out of the kitchen

And my family will eat what, exactly, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?


....whatever they make themselves?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


What we have here is the longstanding problem of distinguishing love from labor.
posted by spitbull at 12:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


I feel like I may be this essayist's nemesis. I cook because I enjoy it, and because I enjoy the challenge of it, an because in general the people I cook for are pretty happy about it. That moment of hush when everyone's concentrating so hard on chowing down they can't spare a moment to talk -- that's the cook's applause. Don't always get that but I have gotten it once or twice and I find it worth it. My dad was the one who cooked in our family, because he liked it and was good at it, and my mom was generally as pleased as a cat in cream to let him do so. (Especially if he made chicken Marsala and molten chocolate cake for her.) that whole side of my family basically expresses a great deal of affection in competitive rivalry about cooking delicious shit, and I kind of love it, even though I only came in third in the (independent judged, with score-sheets and everything) pizza making contest last summer (fontina, proscuitto, shaved asparagus). I feel terribly sorry for this woman, and also smug, and worse, don't feel bad for feeling smug. I hope instead to triumph in the chile making contest this winter.
posted by Diablevert at 12:27 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


But this lady needs a better boyfriend. If you made cream cheese brownies and offered me one, and it was TERRIBLE like, you were out of cream cheese and you figured you could substitute limburger if you used extra sugar you may still count on me to choke one down bravely and smile and say they are delicious. Most especially if I am supposed to have special friendly feelings for you, let alone loving ones... your brownies are delicious.
Yeah, but there's something to be said for honest constructive criticism. I think if you know someone well enough, you can tell them the truth so they can try to improve. Lying to someone for the sake of a relationship doesn't strike me as "better". Of course, that doesn't mean you can't be grateful for their effort.
posted by floomp at 12:27 PM on September 30, 2014


It was an interesting article to me. Me being a late 30s single guy who very occasionally eats anything that wasn't delivered, the notion that cooking can be an expression of affection is not foreign to me. While reading the piece, I did keep getting the schadenfreude-giggles as this poor woman explored her thoughts on the common conflation of self-worth and culinary skill. And then I wondered why I was hating... the firstworldproblems aura is normally something I can look past.

This line:
I'd like to add that my boyfriend is still with this woman, and that I hope she is cooking for him right now!

I don't know what she meant there at all, but it is the bit I came back to as seeming to sum up all the self-entitlement and Princess Snowflake that sets off the giggles in the first place.
posted by bastionofsanity at 12:28 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but there's something to be said for honest constructive criticism.
There's something even better to be said about laughing together about unimportant disasters.
posted by clawsoon at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Next up, an article about a guy, who thinks things are going well, that opens up a can of Alphabet Soup only to find the word "BETRAYAL" staring him in the face.
posted by phaedon at 12:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


"I could buy a dozen organic eggs for fucking $4! And it would taste fresh!" Restaurants are ridiculous.


Never order bottle service, phaedon. You will weep.

Yet another victim of that thing with cooking where sometimes, you do the exact same thing as always and all of the steps are correct but it still is fucked up, because whims of gods or something.

There is usually a good reason, well A reason at least, when you know how all the steps in your recipe work. Maybe she scorched the milk instead of scalding it. She was in a hurry. She didn't know it mattered. It looked the same. If you've never made this mistake, you might not know it happens - but how much you heat the milk does matter.

Without blabbing on forever about it (I deleted a whole bunch of examples before posting), these aren't the whims of the gods. These things are chemistry. Experience and knowledge help avoid these errors, but we all make mistakes when we are in a hurry or think a substitution is harmless or we unwittingly bought the wrong ingredient.

Good cooks still fuck up. But they don't take it as an inevitability.
posted by maryr at 12:32 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I were her therapist, I would prescribe watching the entire My Drunk Kitchen series.
posted by emjaybee at 12:32 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Quick translation of the entire article from one line...

"During the school year, we had a housekeeper at home."

actually means:

I'm entitled to be entitled, I grew up better than you and btw still am, and I deserve to have better meals than you without even trying because I'm richer and smarter and cooler than you.
posted by sammyo at 12:32 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have a much stupider question: Why couldn't they afford pies if they were able to rent a Cape Cod house and hire a housekeeper?

I know there's such a thing as "house poor", but... Expectation Poverty, is that a term? Is there a thing, where they've spent all their disposable income meeting what they think society's expectations are, and have very little left over? I suppose that's possible, particularly in this case. It sure feels like a more likely answer would be some combination of poor judgement and misguided avarice, though.

Regardless, I don't particularly care. This person seems kind of small and spiteful, and as noted above, it seems like any number of basic elements of the human experience could be substituted for cooking in this article, with no loss of insight or significance. OK, you don't like the gaze of the other. I get it. Are we done here?
posted by mhoye at 12:35 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's something even better to be said about laughing together about unimportant disasters.
Sure, that's basically what I mean. That requires both parties acknowledging what the food really tastes like, instead of pretending it's delicious while you force yourself to eat it.
posted by floomp at 12:36 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


One last baking note: I think she's going to be disappointed by her attempts at gallette if salted butter is the only change she made. The fact that it was hot in her kitchen would have a much greater effect on the way the crust turned out and if the crust was that sticky, she may have overstirred the flour.

OK, sorry, ONE MORE last baking note: So although the galette wasn't going to be ruined it was not going to be the galette of the century, and the galette of the century is the only type of galette I am interested in making.

THIS IS HER WHOLE PROBLEM.
posted by maryr at 12:37 PM on September 30, 2014 [27 favorites]


> ....whatever they make themselves?

O.o

Yeah, that's not an option.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:44 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Once you can cook for yourself you'll wonder why you ever eat food prepared by others save for a very special restaurant+meal."

Meh. I'm a good cook (though a mediocre baker) but when I'm alone I rarely cook real meals for myself. A lot of it is about the amount of effort to reward — even with my fiancee and me, we usually have leftovers just because it's hard to reduce recipes below a certain point (there's no 1/3 egg). If I lived alone or was still in my college-era anarch-roomie situation, I'd cook a ton less. And even now, because I've had to work dumb long hours for the past (*does math* oh god) eight months or so, it usually ends up being my fiancee that actually cooks and I have to clean. I'd much rather the other way around.

I grew up latchkey cooking for my brother and myself, and I can understand why people would want to slough off that responsibility. I do think that cooking is a skill that most anyone can pick up well enough to be competent at it if they really want to, and ironically I think that her disconnect from the working class makes it harder for her. I learned a lot about cooking in terrible food service jobs, and pretty much every one of my roommates had a food service job at one point or another. I know how to prep, set up mise-en-place and plate 10 servings of the same dish because I've had a coked-up Greek screaming at me while I trundled through it. Kind of like how my dad has super high standards for clean bathrooms because he had a job years ago as a hospital janitor. Doing something as a job simultaneously builds skills and takes a lot of the romantic mythology out of it.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


Cooking is where I get to pretend I'm a mad scientist, and then make people eat the results.
posted by sciurus at 12:47 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


it's sooo fun to be yelled at for offering to help someone who is flouncing around martyr-style because no one ever helps them. And god forbid that you then suggest the yelling is the reason they don't get helped.

Did we grow up in the same house? My favorite was always the yelling about how no one helps, but once you pick up a sponge to do some dishes then you get yelled at for not doing it right.

Despite all that, I still taught myself to cook while I was in college and I rather enjoy it now.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:47 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Cooking is where I get to pretend I'm a mad scientist, and then make people eat the results.

"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to dine."
posted by cjelli at 12:48 PM on September 30, 2014 [31 favorites]


I cooked professionally for years, and still love cooking (under the right circumstances). Heck, my user name here is my nickname from a group I camped with where I was the camp cook. I can make homemade pizza, with homemade dough and sauce, or peking duck, or sesame-coated seared sushi-grade tuna, or alfredo sauce from scratch, or whatever. I can follow a recipe, doctor a recipe, or even just make something up and it will be palatable. I can cook a 10-minute meal, or spend all day on something special.

And sometimes I fuck up and the food sucks.

And I will sit and not enjoy the meal I cooked, with my family tolerating it with varying degrees of politeness on a scale of "Thanks for cooking, I know you were tired" to "Why didn't you just order pizza?"

Or sometimes I'll cook something I think is awesome, but the rest of my family will be underwhelmed.

So I totally get where this author is coming from. Because when I've spent time in the kitchen trying to please my loved ones and myself, and have failed, and it would have been easier, quicker, and maybe even cheaper to get a pizza, I do feel like cooking is really stupid.

But when I make peking duck with wonton soup and even make the stupid little pancakes from scratch even though I could get a bag of them from the Asian grocer for $2.00 and the kids are fighting over who gets the last one, I feel like a goddamn rock star.

In conclusion, cooking is a land of contrasts.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:49 PM on September 30, 2014 [22 favorites]


sciurus, cooking is exactly like science. Well, baking and molecular biology, at least. So you're not far off.
posted by maryr at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some people suck at cooking. That does not stop me from being unimpressed and nonplussed by people who have not leveled up past a preschooler's ability to care for oneself.

why would you not just put the veggie scraps in a bowl and walk them out all at once? /missing the point probably

TL;DR I am old get off my lawn
posted by Lardmitten at 12:54 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


i'm the dad. i'm the family cook. i often like/love cooking. i often don't feel like cooking. sometimes i make great recipes that everyone loves. sometimes i phone it in and make something that folks are glad to be done with and onto what's next. i do love going out for food, and for a family, the real perk of going out, in my opinion, over and above the social benefits, or not needing to clean up, etc, is the fact that everybody can have something different. we're human, and no matter how good a cook you are, sometimes the family just wants different things.

also, i love cooking because i love eating. i love eating while i'm cooking, and i love sitting down to enjoy the meal with the group (or by myself) after i'm done cooking. i think the tragedy of this article is that she did not properly include herself in the group being served. i think that's the key to her pain. the disconnection.
posted by rude.boy at 12:54 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


....whatever they make themselves?

Yeah, this is the kind of thing that's really easy to say from a distance, but when there's young kids or when one or more of the adults is working insane hours or has Food Issues or money's tight or whatever else, it's not really that simple. And more often than not, it's women who wind up taking on the role of meal planner because they're the ones who'v been trained to, and who tend to be judged by others based on food/household things.
posted by kagredon at 12:59 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


I just wanted to learn how to make a goldfish cum.

Playcoi.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:01 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Some people suck at cooking. That does not stop me from being unimpressed and nonplussed by people who have not leveled up past a preschooler's ability to care for oneself.

...yeah I would say you definitely missed the point. The author *can* cook, just fine. She is choosing *not to cook* because she finds it unpleasant and because it taps into something unhealthy in her psyche.

And also, the insistence that not cooking, or not cooking well, makes one less functional than a preschooler is infuriating. Like, FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE infuriating.

I have yet to meet a preschooler who can hold down a full time job, pay rent, care for one or more pets, regularly clean and maintain a home, procure and manage insurance for both self and belongings, operate a motor vehicle, navigate a mass transit system consistently and under adverse conditions, travel internationally unaccompanied...BUT, none of these tasks constitutes an adult taking care of oneself, apparently, and because I don't often cook, I am functionally 2 years old. Okay then.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:03 PM on September 30, 2014 [16 favorites]


dialetheia: "The hostility in this thread is absolutely mind-boggling."

The author's hostility is mind-boggling.

It's just scorn, scorn, scorn blithely heaped upon everyone and everything. Everyone is pathetic but everyone is also responsible for making her feel pathetic.
posted by desuetude at 1:04 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I kept wondering how many of the above commentators are men. Cooking is a feminist issue and one I have issues with myself - I can cook, and prefer not to for various reasons. Most of all, I think it is horrible to minimize someone's anxieties. Especially when those anxieties are a result of sexist expectations and roles. It's mean and you all should feel bad. (only sort of kidding :P)

I'm happy for you guys that love cooking but yes, you are missing the point if you want to give her pointers. Her problem isn't that she is a bad cook, it's that she has trouble accepting the reality of her interest in cooking, her cooking ability, and the responses that come from her friends and family. This is because of a sexist society that tells us that our worth has to do with our ability to do domestic work. Domestic work that some people would like us all to believe is easy! and fun! and so much better for you!

I've thrown that so far out the window that I now brag about how messy and dirty my house is. I do this because I'm trying to be defiant against our unconscious expectation's placed on women.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:06 PM on September 30, 2014 [27 favorites]


Think how much better we'd all feel if we were rationally meeting our nutritional requirements with a nice glass of Soylent instead of arguing about all this inefficient cooking nonsense.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:07 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Basicchannel, you need to do something other than berate people in this thread.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:07 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


We cook to make ourselves indispensable and special.

Now that's a good recipe for failure.
posted by any major dude at 1:11 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


I cook at home for my food allergies, i enjoy it because the food makes me feel better and doesn't provoke my anxiety like restaurants do (whether the attitude of the staff or just wondering if i forgot to mention something). it's a privilege to have so many choices.
posted by Courtoly at 1:15 PM on September 30, 2014


Oddly, I don't cook well enough to be able to relate to the author's feelings.
I have my recipes and the family likes them just fine, but no one's ever going to accuse me of restaurant grade cooking or, God forbid, cooking like a superstar. So all this bellyaching about cooking and self worth and appreciation is a foreign topic for me.
I have never made my own steak, hollandaise or puff pastry.
(That's what restaurants are for!)

I do have a similar hang up about baking, ever since having kids. I feel like I need to show my love via cookies or birthday cake. But I am really bad at cookies AND cake, and the kids would prefer a princess pink cupcake mix from the supermarket, only I have to do this to be a good mother, see. So it's idiotically stressful and I can relate a tiny bit.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:28 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Doleful Creature: It's just that sometimes you want to cook your meal because it's easier, cheaper, and healthier than the restaurant.

Also faster and cheaper and easier on your stomach!

The six of us just spent ten days at Disney World, and took two suitcases full of food with us. Yes, we are thrifty, but also we wanted "real food" and not cafeteria/restaurant food for so many meals in a row. We brought two sacks of organic apples, half a dozen bags of bagels, some peanut butter & jelly (but forgot the bread *shame*), and some miscellaneous healthy snacks. And what we avoided was fried crap that wasted an hour of our life (and fifty bucks) each morning.

My joke about "Well then, why don't we also bring along a toaster in our suitcase?!" must have been delivered poorly because in the end we did just that. And as I predicted, our bag got some *cough* pretty close scrutiny from TSA.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:37 PM on September 30, 2014


Cooking is not the damn hard. Just cook something simple. You don't have to make a crust or a sauce from scratch every time you cook a meal. Geez.
posted by 3.2.3 at 1:38 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why couldn't they afford pies if they were able to rent a Cape Cod house and hire a housekeeper?

It's possible that there's a bit of WASP self-deprecation/self-denial going on there. One doesn't just buy pies, dear.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:38 PM on September 30, 2014


Cutting up the vegetables took hours

That didn't happen.
posted by colie at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


a sauce from scratch

Even if you do this (for pasta) it's still pretty easy. Throw some garlic and a bunch of tomatoes cut up into a pan on low heat, cover it, stir every now and then, and add anything you think might taste good. It probably will!
posted by Hoopo at 1:55 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Depends how bad she was at it. I mean, if she literally chopped each piece individually and then half of each piece fell on the floor after each chop, and then she bent down each time to pick each bit up and wash it...

Some people are shockingly cack-handed. Especially if she was trying to martyr herself at the same time.
posted by tinkletown at 1:59 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cooksplaining
posted by RogerB at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


My favorite was always the yelling about how no one helps, but once you pick up a sponge to do some dishes then you get yelled at for not doing it right.

ugggggh, this is such a thing, I hate it.
posted by threeants at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


"She had a system, she used a razor blade to slice the garlic so thin, it just liquified in the oil in the pan...."
posted by valkane at 2:03 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


> there's something to be said for honest constructive criticism. I think if you know someone well enough, you can tell
> them the truth so they can try to improve. Lying to someone for the sake of a relationship doesn't strike me as "better".

I acknowledge the disagreement and it's not like I never do that. Constructive criticism can be a bit risky, though, and I am inclined save it for occasions that are not (per clawsoon, above) "uninportant disasters", occasions where the risk of not giving constructive criticism is greater than the risk of giving it.

If someone I like--or actually even someone I don't like--is setting out to make homemade household cleanser by combining chlorine bleach and ammonia I promise I'll have some constructive suggestions for them right off.
posted by jfuller at 2:10 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Having now actually RTFA it does sound like she means she is never doing elaborate "entertaining" cooking again, rather than never making another fry-up or jacket potato.

At least, I hope that's what she means because a) that is the only explanation that doesn't make her sound like a lunatic, and b) there is no weight of expectation on jacket potatoes with beans and cheese, and they are delicious.
posted by tinkletown at 2:16 PM on September 30, 2014


there's some undercurrent that I get from her that she really loathes herself and is basing it on trivial things and that's sad.

Well, I'd say that if you are going to loathe yourself, it's better to do so over trivial reasons like "I've bound my self-worth into my cooking", rather than fundamental problems like "Those dismembered people may mean I'm a bad person".

Back to making that pork roast for my sweetie...
posted by happyroach at 2:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


....whatever they make themselves?

I assume you meant, whatever they feel like asking the cook to whip up?

Oh sorry do some people not have a live-in cook? I must have been unwittingly projecting my own lifestyle and capabilities and privilege onto everyone else, gosh what a thoughtless thing to do.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:39 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I loved this essay and am now following Sarah Miller on Twitter.
posted by cda at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's a good thing she's given up an activity that your whole identity gets tied up in where people are constantly judging your output and where your self-image turns into a rollercoaster of external approval like cooking, and turned to writing instead.

[That's the joke.]
posted by clawsoon at 3:24 PM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


I kept wondering how many of the above commentators are men.

Spot on. Not only because of the blithe dismissals of the very idea that a person's self-worth might be tied in some way to their domestic abilities, which idea is still quite pervasive and self-evident among women even though we've made a lot of progress, but also because of the angry commenters' assumptions that they were explicitly and literally meant to be included in the author's "we" statements.

I read royal "we" statements all the time that don't pertain to my experience (as a woman, as a queer person, as a poor person, as a grad student, whatever) but I'm accustomed to reading past what the author is literally saying and grokking that they are using a rhetorical device to talk about the way they see the world. It comes off as somewhat entitled to assume that when the author makes such a rhetorical statement, that they literally mean that you personally are that way. It's worth keeping in mind that the royal we is a fairly well-used trope, especially in this sort of essay, and if that's a pet peeve I understand, but it's unfair to say she's literally talking about every single human being on earth when she says that. I just don't see that same overly literal standard applied to most other uses of the royal we, here or otherwise.
posted by dialetheia at 3:34 PM on September 30, 2014 [32 favorites]


I'm so glad that before I got into any of the fancy things I see in Cook's Illustrated or on television, I got a good grounding in being a decent cook. First from my mother, and then from her copy of The Joy of Cooking, which I treasure.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:44 PM on September 30, 2014


> ....whatever they make themselves?

O.o

Yeah, that's not an option.


As has been pointed out above - a point I agree with - this wouldn't be an option if we're talking about, like, toddlers.

But I fail to see how a grown adult and/or teenage children cannot learn how to be self-sufficient enough to prepare something to eat for themselves now and then, even if it's just a sandwich or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:01 PM on September 30, 2014


Of course long before my boyfriend cheated on me or I made awful carrot/goldfish cum pasta sauce, cooking shame and sexual shame have gone together.

Damn Heston Blumenthal.
posted by biffa at 4:11 PM on September 30, 2014


Something someone else cooks, ALWAYS tastes better to me.

Honestly, I think the act of food preparation decreases my enjoyment and anticipation of a meal. Between the ingredients, smelling, checking for salt, I guess I've already predicted how it's going to taste, and am slightly bored with it by the time I get to the eating.

I eat less of what I cook myself, and the same goes for my flatmate (US: housemate).


That's of homecooked food - of eating out?
Someone who cooks all day is generally just a better cook than I am, unless I too, did it as a profession.
European style takeaways usually fail on the cost/benefit ratio, but, man. In my town, Malaysian and Vietnamese is just so much better than I could do myself, and is cheaper than other takeaway options.
I just realised, if I get to the income level where cooking for myself is not cheaper for time involved than eating out - I should just eat out. That's not an identity I have for myself (I am a cheapskate), but, it would make sense.
If I was in the US, ok, a lot of the food was really bad (Sorry! Just kind of a lower, lowest common denominator, y'know?), but taquerias around SF were pretty cheap and tasty.
posted by Elysum at 4:17 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Note: I prepare almost all my own meals, I eat out maybe once a week (lunches included), and my roommate cooks dinner sometimes.
posted by Elysum at 4:19 PM on September 30, 2014


Some ingredients don't belong in the kitchen, and shame about anything is one of them.

Her negative thoughts and experiences have (unfortunately) dovetailed with cooking/food prep/jerk-of-a-boyfriend/etc., which is too bad. Look at it this way: she can write about! /mixedblessingalert

But her unhappiness with cooking experiences can't touch the way I feel when I'm cooking, and when I cook I think of my mother, who only became a really great cook after she got married (a peerlessly excellent chicken soup), her mother, whose food I don't remember, but who made pot roast so well people still talk about it, and the guy who taught me how to make fried chicken. And even the so-called failures aren't so bad (nobody died! woo hoo, I think). All the people I've loved come with me for the experience. YMMV.
posted by datawrangler at 4:20 PM on September 30, 2014


> ....whatever they make themselves?

O.o

Yeah, that's not an option.

As has been pointed out above - a point I agree with - this wouldn't be an option if we're talking about, like, toddlers.

But I fail to see how a grown adult and/or teenage children cannot learn how to be self-sufficient enough to prepare something to eat for themselves now and then, even if it's just a sandwich or something.


For a family with a couple of kids you are glossing over about 15-20 years there.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 4:21 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


That's the thing. I like cooking about four times a week. But there are 21 meals to be made, plus snacks, and that doesn't even touch on the weirdness that is my family's variety of dietary needs.

We've had this discussion before. There's always a division between people who can cook or not, as they desire, and thus can see it as art and pleasure, and those who, for whatever reason, have no choice but to cook, three times a day, day after day, for a decade or more.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


For a family with a couple of kids you are glossing over about 15-20 years there.

If there are two parents in the home, what's the other parent doing for those 20 years? Isn't he part of that family?

There's been a lot of talk in this thread about how the burden of cooking falls predominantly on women, and how that is unfair. If that is the case, why are people forgetting that the corpse in the library's spouse (provided there is one, but I note the corpse never said there isn't) is presumably old enough to cook as well?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Last night my boyfriend brought home prosciutto, melon, bread, some Saint- André cheese and a mixture of olives and feta in a little oil and vinegar that they sell at our local supermarket and which, along with just enough salad to ward off disease

It made me sad too, because that was my shopping list for almost 10 years


This is more or less how my ex and I ate pretty much every night that I wasn't making pasta. It is the best, it's easy, and hugely satisfying.

Does get spendy though, if you're not careful.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:41 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cooking is a feminist issue

Several women in my family (and in my in-laws) hit a point in their lives where they just said "enough" and 100 percent totally stopped cooking for other people. After decades and decades of cooking and household management and all the associated underappreciated work, they just decided that the most feminist choice they could make was to stop.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:46 PM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


One upside of growing up with a single mom is that everybody learns to cook or nobody eats. As soon as I hit middle school I was expected to make my own dinner and lunches or be able to help with them and to teach my younger brother to do so.
posted by The Whelk at 4:55 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm all for people quitting cooking, writing, making music, making art, cleaning, trying to fix things, trying to build things, performing on stage, and attempting other "difficult" or emotionally fraught things, because that, dear hearts, is job security for fuckers like me.
posted by sonascope at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is super annoying. Someone has to cook something. It's not like you buy the pie from magic pie elves.
posted by geeklizzard at 5:13 PM on September 30, 2014


> If that is the case, why are people forgetting that the corpse in the library's spouse (provided there is one, but I note the corpse never said there isn't) is presumably old enough to cook as well

If you want to make it personal: there is one and he often makes breakfast, but he works long, odd hours, travels a lot, and him making lunch or dinner is impractical. He's the breadwinner, I'm a full-time mom, the responsibility of dinner falls on my shoulders a minimum of five nights a week. We are not unusual in this arrangement, even in the 21st century.

Why we have this setup involves plenty of feminist issues, but I don't think it's really interesting to anyone other than us.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


I kept wondering how many of the above commentators are men.

Spot on. Not only because of the blithe dismissals of the very idea that a person's self-worth might be tied in some way to their domestic abilities, which idea is still quite pervasive and self-evident among women even though we've made a lot of progress, but also because of the angry commenters' assumptions that they were explicitly and literally meant to be included in the author's "we" statements.


As a data point, I am a woman, I like to cook, and I found the author rather pathetic and her sweeping generalities rather irritating, as I found them difficult to relate to. To me, she seemed to be relating a phenomenon very much tied to her own family dynamics than some broader fundamental truth about What Cooking Means, and thus I thought her use of the royal we was more alienating than illuminating. Offered merely as a data point, as you seem to be asserting that there's a gendered component to disliking this essay.
posted by Diablevert at 5:38 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


If that is the case, why are people forgetting that the corpse in the library's spouse (provided there is one, but I note the corpse never said there isn't) is presumably old enough to cook as well?

I don't know if anyone was "forgetting" so much as assuming that the corpse in the library knows better than we do why her family approaches food the way it does and that it's extremely rude to interrogate her about it.
posted by kagredon at 5:47 PM on September 30, 2014 [21 favorites]


My mother stopped cooking around 1974, citing as the reason my father's critical reactions to her food. Knowing she's essentially composed entirely of raw nerves where criticism is concerned, and in relation to Dad more than almost anyone, I'm slightly skeptical that he did much more on a regular basis than react to her food as food, instead of a symbolic snapshot of her attitudes toward life, herself, him, and their marriage at a precise moment in time. It was immensely important to her, perhaps in particular because her style of feminism held the ideal of doing everything a man could do, as well as what she as a woman had been raised to do, perfectly. And what does it mean in terms of your success as a woman and your equality as a human when the person who's supposed to enjoy and appreciate all that perfection the most responds-- when you aren't seeking constructive criticism but have never been taught how to ask for the feedback you need-- to something that you've internalized as an expression of love and self with, "I would put it back on to simmer for about five more minutes, and also, huh, too much sage."

It can be as if you're on two different, yet overlapping, planes of existence. Only, though, a common way for to achieve that disconnect, hardly the only one. It really just is food, and just the motions of selecting and acquiring and preparing and serving that food, but if everything in relationships (much less life) were a sum of the motions, there'd never be anything for us to get upset with each other about. Or care much for.

Dad is a good cook, and a reliable and fairly emotionless one, which is pretty ideal for getting through the grind of filling 84 plates a week until the kids can help out. If my retching up the codfish at the dinner table or my sister's complaining about a few weeks of casseroles ever hurt his feelings, he didn't mention it. I can't imagine the extra stress that it would have put on the entire family if Mom had cooked for us all those years. Now she reserves her expressions of her feelings about the situation, which is still a situation after forty years, to the manner in which she thanks him for his efforts, or not.

It would be easier to shrug this reaction off as having nothing to do with the way in which I want to approach the world if I'd ever been in a relationship with a guy who took it upon himself, perhaps as reflection of his own gratitude toward the universe and/or me, or maybe a boyfriendly responsibility, to say a single warm thing in regards to my cooking or the effort thereof. Even if you're the evenest-keeled person on the planet, eventually something sweet and hopeful curls inward on itself and breathes its last when you're met with a brief "thanks, hon" at best and maybe a "it's fine" or "it's food" if you request specific feedback. In contrast to which the ones who offer impersonal but constructive suggestions seem like silvertongued flatterers. If I didn't have contradictory data from family, friends, coworkers, and the guests of parties I've catered, I'd have no confidence in my self as a cook for others. Instead I have no confidence in my ability to connect with guys who are also decent at least occasionally thoughtful people.

Add cheating to the mix (and someone else always does) and I have a few solid reasons to enjoy being on my own.

Cooking can be a little bit stupid. I'll continue to cook for anyone who appreciates it, including myself.
posted by notquitemaryann at 5:50 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]



Does get spendy though, if you're not careful.


Do you not just get those appalling overbooked dinner rush nights where everyone wants to sub out their fucking sides and then you come home and the only thing you can stand to eat is stale corn flakes right out of the box though?
posted by poffin boffin at 6:10 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


The idea that homemade food *tastes* better than even "decent" restaurant food is pretty crazy to me - that's half the point of a restaurant, that a specialists are working on your food all day!

I'm *mostly* a non-cook - I actually kind of enjoy it on the occasion that I do it , except cleanup, but I might actually be that hypothetical person who is too lazy to want to do much of anything in life - but I find it perplexing to see people (I'm *not* talking about the author of this piece) so forthright in favor of or against cooking as a thing people should do. I get the relevance of gender roles and the importance of making it *ok* for women not to cook (or to take up carpentry instead, or whatever) but shouldn't the other side of that be to recognize that beautiful Pinterest food as a creative endeavor somewhere along the same spectrum as haute cuisine? I don't know that the problem is that women do things for other people so much as men *don't enough*.
posted by atoxyl at 6:10 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


The best thing about this thread is that it drove me to get some Saint-Andre cheese. Supper tonight was cheese, a couple chunks of calabrese salame, several bok choy stalks, bread, and an orange.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:57 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


The idea that homemade food *tastes* better than even "decent" restaurant food is pretty crazy to me

What? Homemade food tastes better for exactly the same reasons that your homemade oil paintings are better than the ones in the museum, your amateur guitar licks are better than professional guitarists, or your novel is better than Pynchon!

But seriously, yeah if your homemade food tastes better than restaurant food you are totally going to the wrong restaurants.
posted by Justinian at 6:58 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's usually fair to say that homemade food tastes better than restaurant food a) at the same price point and b) if you are actually a decent cook. Neither of those are guarantees, and the price point thing is strictly for materials costs, not labor and travel. Also anything that requires equipment you don't have/don't want/can't afford doesn't work in that equation. I'm sure I could make better fried chicken than Popeye's, but that would require me to have the setup to *fry chicken*. And I dun wanna.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:02 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


I am spending a few days in Flushing, NY, whereas my home is in coastal CA, and it is a useful reminder that home vs. restaurant food comparisons are dependent on regional markets. I honestly cannot find a nice salad in my range of travel. I presume, perhaps too generously, that I could buy the components of one within the same range.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:11 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna say that homemade food can taste better than restaurant food because the sense of accomplishment somehow adds to it, even if only mentally. I've become a pretty decent cook, but whenever I sit down to eat, I definitely feel that the sense of "hey! I MADE this!" adds something to the enjoyment of the meal. And this has been true even before I was the cook I am now - I distinctly remember a night in my first post-college apartment, all alone.. I forget what I'd made but it was really basic, like some piece of meat and a baked potato or the like... and yet when I sat down to eat I just got overcome with this sense of "wow, I made food," plus immense gratitude toward my mother for teaching me enough about cooking that I could follow recipes and not starve. (I actually called her that night, out of the blue, and thanked her for that, and I think she was equal parts pleased and thinking I was off my rocker.)
posted by dnash at 7:13 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also most restaurants are closed at least some of the time that I'm awake, and pretty much all of them require pants, those are two pretty big points in favor of my own kitchen.
posted by kagredon at 7:17 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yup I would have said the restaurant v homemade statement was crazy if I hadn't just spent a week in a small Midwestern town where there were only three restaurants and all of them were pretty weak affairs. I wanted to change all of the marquees to read BLAND FOOD! SERVED COLD!

Although the grocery store was an equally weak affair, so I'm not sure how easily a person who lived really could do better, without actually farming all their own stuff.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:43 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


prize bull octorok: I love cooking. I also seem to have been cursed with a surfeit of picky eaters in my life who could not give less of a fuck if I crust my tahchin just right and wish I would just make, like, quesadillas with extra sour cream instead.

Ugh. I lived with a couple of close friends for years. Me and my best friend since middle school, and his partner at the time who id known for a long ass time too.

Me and him got along perfectly on this. We'd both share food purchasing/supplies/utensils/appliances/etc, and would basically eat anything that was tasty. We regularly tried adventurous ideas or bought huge amounts of something from costco and tried to use it as many ways as we could.

She, on the other hand, was totally fucking insufferable and wouldn't eat ANYTHING. It was as if it was a constantly updating list of ingredients and meals that were unacceptable, and it wasn't like she had any alternate suggestions. It's one thing to have an allergy, or go oh I don't eat dairy or whatever but this wasn't like that. Oh, you want takeout? Well we don't have any money, but we have an absurdly gigantic fridge and huge kitchen with stocked cabinets full of like a month of supplies.

I watched my friend slowly fall down the rabbit hole of shifting the Overton window until her ridiculousness was normal, making awesome meal after awesome meal she wouldn't eat. Or my mom(whose a pro chef) coming over and making totally awesome meals she wouldn't touch.

Now he's convinced the stuff she likes is actually better, and buys it over stuff he used to love. I wish I could hire some CIA psyops camp to de-program him. It's like Stockholm syndrome. No normal person just STOPS liking pizza.

The author annoyed me to the point of anger and disgust, but the whole "make something good with painstaking labor and the other person doesn't care or enjoy it and it slowly grinds you into dust" thing hit home with me.
posted by emptythought at 7:50 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know if anyone was "forgetting" so much as assuming that the corpse in the library knows better than we do why her family approaches food the way it does and that it's extremely rude to interrogate her about it.

It wasn't meant to be an interrogation (although I do apologize if it came off that way, corpse). I do think it's fair, however, that in a thread in which the unfair division of labor when it comes to cooking for the family is being discussed, that if a woman mentions that if she doesn't cook "then what is my family going to eat", without any further illumination as to why she's doing all the cooking, that it is at least fair to question why she is indeed doing all the cooking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 PM on September 30, 2014


and it is a useful reminder that home vs. restaurant food comparisons are dependent on regional markets

Fair enough. I live in walking distance to a lot of wonderful restaurants so I'm undoubtedly spoiled.
posted by Justinian at 8:00 PM on September 30, 2014


[EC, I'm sure you have pure intentions here but it's not great to focus on questioning one member's domestic arrangements like this. Let's keep it to the more general "why do people find themselves in this arrangement?" questions.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:01 PM on September 30, 2014


The idea that homemade food *tastes* better than even "decent" restaurant food is pretty crazy to me

Homemade food tastes better for exactly the same reasons that your homemade oil paintings are better than the ones in the museum...seriously, yeah if your homemade food tastes better than restaurant food you are totally going to the wrong restaurants.


Eh, yes and no. Can I make a better meal than, like, Thomas Keller? Oh, hell no. Can I make better pasta than the Olive Garden? Hells yes. I'd say I could do you a decent goat cheese and fig pizza a la Todd English. I have definitely had the experience of dropping, say $25 bucks on an entree and thinking, "I could have made this better than this," and it's a really frustrating experience. There are plenty of dishes I'm happy to order when I'm out because their complexity or difficult to handle ingredients make them more of a pain in the ass than they're worth to make at home. And sure, a lot of the time when you go out to eat it's precisely because you don't feel like making the effort, and that's fine. But if you're talking about, like grilling a piece of fish or roasting some chicken or putting together an Alfredo sauce, then yes, I think that 75% of the time I can put together restaurant-quality. Sometimes better, because it's exactly suited to my taste. I don't think my skills are on par with a professional; consistently turning out 500 plates a night to the same level of quality is a whole different ballgame than making one dish once, and I certainly still have my fuck-ups. But on the whole I'd rather eat my own cooking than that of most casual restaurants
posted by Diablevert at 8:04 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the biggest advantage I have over a lot of restaurants is that I can make food exactly to my taste. That means leaning heavier on the spicy and sour notes in a lot of things and pulling back on the sweetness. I've also been around food service long enough that I know a lot of the tricks (extra fat, salt and sugar) and am also pretty good at recognizing when I can't make a better version from scratch (I could make a mushroom oyster sauce, but it's easier to buy it at the local Asia Mart). The biggest thing that sets food I cook apart from restaurants I can't afford is that my knife skills and plating are below professional level. That's not to say I don't love eating out for a bunch of reasons, but having control over the sourcing of your ingredients and ability to spend relatively more time prepping per dish means that you can get as good or better flavors for the same amount of money, you just often can't get the same level of technique.
posted by klangklangston at 8:37 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Once you can cook for yourself you'll wonder why you ever eat food prepared by others save for a very special restaurant+meal. Even food that is simple and takes very little time to make is worlds better than something that someone got paid to manufacture for you.

Once I could cook for myself I realized how much I hate cooking, and if it weren't for the savings, I would never, ever do it. (I currently do not do much of the cooking anyway, though.)

Not only because of the blithe dismissals of the very idea that a person's self-worth might be tied in some way to their domestic abilities

I think the dismissals aren't that it "might" be tied in "some" way. I think the dismissals are to the very specific nature and intensity of this particular essay.
posted by spaltavian at 8:44 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


"For a family with a couple of kids you are glossing over about 15-20 years there."

I was cooking for myself and my brother a lot by age twelve or so. My dad traveled a lot and my mom had stayed home while we were younger, but went back to work and school about then. I made approximately one million pita bread pizzas and french bread pizzas and box mac and cheese — I wasn't cooking anything from scratch, but turning on an oven, putting some sauce and cheese and whatever else on bread, and waiting 20 minutes was totally within my skill set. (I do sometimes wonder if it's why my little brother would only eat cheese-based stuff for years.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:48 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


The discussion here helped illuminate something my mum said to me 7 years ago that I found puzzling at the time.

My mum is an amazing cook. World's best briyani, by far. Whenever we have guests she cooks enough for an army and then frets that it's not enough.

In 2007 she came over to stay with me on campus since I was not well. We had a meal plan and they were cool with her getting a meal. It was OK food, not great and certainly not-mum level, but edible.

My mum exclaimed "ah, it's so good to not cook! I don't like cooking!"

At the time it felt like my universe collapsed. Who is she and what did she do to my mum? If she didn't like cooking then why does she make herself make a thousand dishes whenever someone drops by?

Now that I think about it I think a lot of it is that she's frustrated. It's been her and dad since I moved out in 2004; me and my sister visit occasionally and she cooks for us but it's not long enough. My dad can't cook - apparently he botched a meal in college and hasn't even bothered to try boiling water ever since. My mum waits on him hand to foot (sometimes I gripe at my dad about this but then he flips it to me instead).

My dad is fussy. He has his favourites, and even when Mum cooks his favourites he still has his criticisms. He's mellowed out over the years, and even helps out with the cleanup more than he used to, but he's not exactly the most gracious, polite, or appreciative of people. (He would brag to other people about how proud he was of us, but never say that TO us directly.)

Mum has major underappreciation and insecurity issues. For a long time she felt trapped at home as the wife of a migrant who wasn't allowed to work (visa reasons), away from her culture and career and family. She still wishes my sister and I would come home and thinks that if we don't check in about their health 24/7 we obviously Don't Care. We did have a string of housekeepers growing up, not unusual for middle-class Malaysians, but she still headed up the cooking. She's proud of her cooking, and gives me tips on occasion, but she doesn't cook for any intrinsic desire about: she cooks to take care of us, to show us love, to make sure we're OK.

aww mum.
posted by divabat at 8:54 PM on September 30, 2014 [20 favorites]


and pretty much all of them require pants

delivery only requires temporary pants
posted by poffin boffin at 9:12 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a former delivery driver, I can tell you this is not a universally shared assumption.
posted by klangklangston at 9:27 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


> I was cooking for myself and my brother a lot by age twelve or so.

Latchkey single parent kid, I was cooking for my mom and myself a lot by that age, too, and knew how to cook everything she did (lasagna, chicken and dumplings, various casseroles) in short order. This has made me intensely judgey of people who reach adulthood never learning to cook a noodle, which seems to happen because they had full-time moms bringing them afternoon snacks and shit. I feel like wondering how the sausage is made, so to speak, is a cornerstone of intellectual curiosity, and when the factory is in your own HOME, how you could you possibly not wander in? Mental defective and victim of privilege.

Anyway, since this thread is clearly about airing weird prejudices about cooking, that is mine.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:35 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Gor-ella: I kept wondering how many of the above commentators are men.

I can't give you an exact percentage breakdown, but a lot more of them than you probably think are women.

I think it's possible to separate the fact that yes, there are issues with relation to women and expectations with cooking from the fact that a whole lot of this really wasn't about cooking and was just the author thrashing around and projecting a whole lot of crap onto everyone else.

And quite a lot of the comments were to that effect, and weren't just dudesplaining about cooking. I'm not saying there was none of that, but that is not the balance of the problems with this article that posters have brought up here.

I almost wish she just hadn't written about this at all, because it is not what it says on the tin. It's just enough of the cooking thing that anyone who groans at it will get flamed for not understanding womens issues or whatever, but that's just a really thin pot-pie crust over a filling of a huge pile of issues that are just like... woah. There's more to this than "i have this issue, and it's a big issue for women" it's "I have this issue and everyone is experiencing it exactly like me", and even when other women go "uhhh, no" it's still a magnet for comments like yours.

Which is why i end up being kind of angry it even exists. She should print this out and show it to her therapist, from microsoft word, before she ever submitted it.
posted by emptythought at 10:02 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel like wondering how the sausage is made, so to speak, is a cornerstone of intellectual curiosity, and when the factory is in your own HOME, how you could you possibly not wander in? Mental defective and victim of privilege.

Or...they had parents who didn't like to cook? Until my aforementioned stepmother, I grew up with parents who maybe had like 4 dishes between the two of them that were completely "from-scratch", because neither of them were particularly interested in cooking, they both had full-time jobs with a fair amount of "homework", and they had a relatively relaxed attitude that as long as their daughter ate something for dinner that had some form of protein and vegetables in it, she'd probably be fine (and indeed I was, even if I got a little bored of tuna sandwiches and thought that a fancy home-cooked meal was where you sautéed some vegetables and sausage before adding the Ragu jar.)
posted by kagredon at 10:20 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


oh man, I just remembered that my mother, who is a fine woman with many positive qualities, would pack a tuna sandwich and maybe a piece of fruit for EVERY FIELD TRIP (I ate school lunch when there wasn't a trip.)

And my mom's tuna sandwiches were just tuna and bread.

No wonder I savored the rare occasions where I pestered her into buying a lunchables instead.
posted by kagredon at 10:29 PM on September 30, 2014


If you don't cook, you don't get homemade chicken pot pie, pot roast, pie full of fruit but not overly sugar-y. If you don't roast a chicken and make some grits, you won't be having fried grits the next day. The best restaurant kitchen will never make stuffing the right way on Thanksgiving, and they certainly won't make Aunt Dot's cranberry ice. If you don't cook, you can live nicely on store bought and restaurant food, and as many delicacies as you can afford. I guess I would like to try having adequate income to buy whatever I wanted to eat whenever I want. Except that I would spend it on something else and come home and make apple pie. Which is not actually terribly difficult, but if someone makes you pie, they should get a big hug.
posted by theora55 at 11:05 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I'm gonna say that homemade food can taste better than restaurant food because the sense of accomplishment somehow adds to it, even if only mentally."<

Huh, I am a pretty good cook, but to me nothing compares to having someone else prepare a meal for me. I feel food tastes a million times better when someone else makes it, especially someone I love, like my parents, my husband, or my sisters.
posted by Tarumba at 11:37 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


My mum gave up cooking because she was anorexic when younger and basically hated food, apart from chocolate bars.

It's an awful way to raise your kid and she should have got psychiatric help. Instead she repositioned her non-cooking as a radical socialist feminist 70s act, which did no good for anybody in the long term - not her, not me, nor the struggle in general.
posted by colie at 12:15 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's an awful way to raise your kid and she should have got psychiatric help.

what
posted by kagredon at 12:22 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's very damaging to give off the message 24/7 to your own child, in your home and safe environment, that food is a dangerous and depressing place. Or that it's terminally fraught with social class or self-esteem issues.

'I will not cook a simple meal with love and care for myself or anyone else, ever' is a comparable type of self-medicating position to end up in as abusing alcohol or drugs.

Eating disorders are pretty common and often cited as the mental illness most likely to kill you.
posted by colie at 12:30 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh, hm. Well, I liked the article. I didn't feel angered by this at all, didn't feel that the author was assuming anything about me, or "everyone," didn't feel like she was advocating against home cooking (or in fact even seriously saying that she wouldn't cook again), and very definitely felt like it was written much more with dry humor than existential anguish, and that she was doing a lot of poking fun at herself / her family (the "Ha ha, what a loser, stupid snail lover!" stuff, for example).

So, yeah – for me this was basically a brief, self-aware humor piece (it begins by talking about goldfish cum pasta sauce!) conceived around some of her true, complicated, sometimes somewhat neurotic feelings about food and cooking... that she also finds sort of funny. I don't think that she spent hours chopping vegetables or walked a mile and a half to throw away every bit of vegetable that fell on the floor, as it fell on the floor, but that she was humorously exaggerating for effect (this is what it "felt like" not a true accounting of her exact actions in the kitchen) and sort of gently mocking her own frustration and degree of emotional investment. Sort of a self take-down, really, but with actual revelations of raw or unresolved emotions bound up with the act of cooking. For her, not everyone.
posted by taz at 2:40 AM on October 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


Mental defective

Since when is this an okay thing to call a person? Christ on a goddamn tandem bike, this thread is *awful*.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:34 AM on October 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


I have this feeling that since its become rude to criticize peoples' bodies for being too fat, a lot of people have shifted to just being assholes about the food other people eat.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:36 AM on October 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


Seriously. I feel like every food discussion on this site is judgy as hell, but this is the first time that I've seen one consistently devolve into outright shitty not-okay name calling. I mean by all means, let's pull out actual slurs to describe someone whose childhood was different from yours.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:42 AM on October 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


I mean by all means, let's pull out actual slurs to describe someone whose childhood was different from yours.

You are educated stupid!

Am I doing this right?
posted by Spatch at 7:49 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm more than a bit bothered by the admonishments ranging from naive to insulting.

I can cook, but I don't enjoy it. However, if I were to respond to people defending home cooking by not wanting restaurant food / inability to afford it / something relating to their upbringing with:

"Some people suck at [working]. That does not stop me from being unimpressed and nonplussed by people who have not leveled up past a preschooler's ability to [earn an income]."

I would be crucified on MeTa, and for good reason.

This is not a good thread.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:52 AM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]



"'I will not cook a simple meal with love and care for myself or anyone else, ever' is a comparable type of self-medicating position to end up in as abusing alcohol or drugs."

"I hope the author gets the help she needs."

Are you all under some William Sonoma Brooklyn Buddhist spell where not only can you not admit yourSELVES that prep and clean-up are unpleasant, you think anybody who does admit that obvious truth needs rehab? We can't make jokes about cooking now? It's too soon after everybody realized that there's an obesity epidemic? I never read such a pile of humorless nonsense in my life. Of course cutting up vegetables sucks. You are not Jacques Pepin and you don't have time to take a knife skills class much less learn to sharpen a knife, so your knife is dull plus you probably have to wash both it and the cutting board before you can even start. Then, just as the author says and is raked over the coals for for some insane reason by you wack zealots, pieces of vegetable fly all over the kitchen. "Why doesn't she wait and pick them all up at the end?" some saintly somebody asked yesterday? It's a great question! Why didn't I pick them all up at the end the last three times I cut up vegetables and they flew all over the kitchen? Because at the end of, for instance, today's prep session, I had no time to pick up ninebillion little long bean innards that 'ploded all over everywhere when I twisted the longbeans into reasonable lengths because I had to get in the car and drive to work. That was after I got up at five and washed lettuce and cut up the onion and the pepper and the eggplant and the cucumber and the other pepper and the godddaaaamnnn GAAAARLIIIIC which comes from the warm, calloused hand of my dear farmer friend in teeeeeny tiiiiiiny little artisanal cloves that refuse to relinquish their little skins. That's why there are long beans and garlic skins and pepper bits and seeds and lettuce and cucumber shards all over the kitchen floor, waiting to greet me the next time I go in there. And I like to cook. I have described only a small part of the suffering that must be endured by someone who endeavors to cook food, and this is suffering endured by somebody who LIKES to cook. My eggplant longbean thing smells AWESOME right now. I can't wait to eat this salad. But I can freely admit that cooking sucks countless balls.

I can also eat the hell out of some St. Andre without going into an existential crisis because it costs $ or has a ton of fat in it...

...Hmm. Actually, you know what? I don't think you people eat OR cook, that's what. You seem completely divorced from the "hows" and the "whys" of both processes.

Your suffering appalls me, and I pray you find peace. Until then, know that you--and your endangered children--remain in my thoughts.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:16 AM on October 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


" Because at the end of, for instance, today's prep session, I had no time to pick up ninebillion little long bean innards that 'ploded all over everywhere when I twisted the longbeans into reasonable lengths because I had to get in the car and drive to work. That was after I got up at five and washed lettuce and cut up the onion and the pepper and the eggplant and the cucumber and the other pepper and the godddaaaamnnn GAAAARLIIIIC which comes from the warm, calloused hand of my dear farmer friend in teeeeeny tiiiiiiny little artisanal cloves that refuse to relinquish their little skins."

… Yes, getting up at 5 am to do salad prep work does suck. But you know that there are many cooking options where you don't have to do that, right? (And that you can shake garlic in two metal mixing bowls for 30 seconds or so to get them out of their skins.)

The prep work I did last night to make black bean tacos was pretty simple and they came out delicious. Much like the author, you don't have to make a fig galette if you don't have the time or skill to do so.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, klangklangston, you cannot shake the damn things in the metal bowls, making a din like the end of time at five in the morning, and it doesn't get the skins off the little bastards, anyway, because as I said, did I stutter, the cloves are artisanal and microscopic. (That bowl thing is fantastic for normal-sized garlic, though, concur.) I use one of those rubber square things with the crosshatches and it works pretty well. And no, I don't know what cooking options you might be talking about. You mean I could cut up the stuff the night before? Whodahell wants to cut up stuff at nine at night? Nine at night is when we drink of the cabernet and eat of the St. Andre and watch of the Orange Is the New Black. I wake up naturally really early--of course, because my diet is so rich in vegetables it makes me saintlier, and saintly types wake early in the morn, to cut up their vegetables as close as possible to the time they'll be eating them, so that the vegetables do not lose vibrancy and phytonutrients yaddayaaaa.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:35 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do you not just get those appalling overbooked dinner rush nights where everyone wants to sub out their fucking sides and then you come home and the only thing you can stand to eat is stale corn flakes right out of the box though?

Oh fuck yes. Except it's toast. Always toast. If it's just myself, I can't be arsed to cook anything really. The only time I'm interested in cooking is when it's for someone else.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:41 AM on October 1, 2014


"No, klangklangston, you cannot shake the damn things in the metal bowls, making a din like the end of time at five in the morning, and it doesn't get the skins off the little bastards, anyway, because as I said, did I stutter, the cloves are artisanal and microscopic. "

Wrap a towel around the bowls then. And you just have to shake longer with smaller cloves, and if they're really tiny then the skin won't have dried out and you can just use the whole thing.

But I guess if your goal was to demonstrate that no one should have sympathy for someone who self-inflicts food martyrdom, you've succeeded.
posted by klangklangston at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had a realization. It isn't the cooking that I hate. It isn't the shopping. It's meal planning. Oh, how I hate planning meals.

> the grind of filling 84 plates a week

Oh, God, what a terribly apt way to think of it. I'm scared to do the math for my own household.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:00 AM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


'I will not cook a simple meal with love and care for myself or anyone else, ever' is a comparable type of self-medicating position to end up in as abusing alcohol or drugs.

No, it really isn't. Obsessive attitudes towards cooking are a common problem for people in recovery from eating disorders, but it just as often (or perhaps even more often) takes the form of over-investing time and effort into cooking elaborately (link is kind of triggery for food and ED issues, use care.) I'm sorry that your mother had disordered attitudes towards food, but choosing not to cook is not in itself disordered.
posted by kagredon at 9:00 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


(uh, I was editing in more information about the link wrt triggers, but the time expired; it's mainly focused on research about food obsession, but it's in first-person by a person in ED recovery, and there's some description of her own ritualized/obsessive thinking.)
posted by kagredon at 9:08 AM on October 1, 2014


Seriously, some of the holier-than-thou and serious-as-fuck attitudes in here illustrate pretty clearly how a person might want to opt right out of the all the food-related identity politics. On the other hand, the author chose not to title her piece "why I've decided to stop cooking - a memoir" but rather frame it as an "argument", complete with declarations on why "people cook" without a whole lot of indication that she actually does understand that these conclusions are not universally applicable. Make an argument, get an argument.

I come at this thing pretty much from the perspective of The corpse in the library; delivering the better part of 56 meals a week is a job, it needs to get done, in the arrangement my family has chosen, it is my job. It isn't some sort of unadulterated pleasure but what job is? Cooking is hands down the cheapest way to eat healthy food based on mostly unprocessed, fresh ingredients. That's a choice, I'm sanguine with everyone else out there in the world eating how they choose. Except my kid, he's living in a dictatorship, for now. It's dumb to act as if I'm some kind of paragon of virtue, it is equally dumb to act as if I'm somehow steeped in a martyrdom complex under the spell of the Home Cook conspiracy.

Some of the talk about how unreservedly miserable cooking is reminds me of the sort of kitchen-gadget infomercial where a person can't seem to fry two eggs without spattering egg white gobbets and shells and runny egg yolk over a twelve foot radius. You're doing it wrong: it is in fact possible to do it better. That aside though, my other reaction to that is, have you ever worked in a warehouse, or a factory? Cooking is not that bad.

If I was working full time like my wife and doing it all like this my feelings about it would be a different story. See how things turn out to have different significances based on their context? Isn't that weird.

Of the things in that essay I didn't care for the bit of unselfconscious obliviousness that I found most telling was the reaction she projected on C's daughter towards the end - or for that matter the reactions she imagined for her college roommate's imaginary children who may or may not exist.

The sad thing about the essay to me was the idea that giving up cooking would free her from "the struggle to win and impress, to impress even myself". That ain't caused by pies, sister.

Meanwhile my tips are take your knives to a place a couple times a year to get them sharpened (it's not expensive) and use a sharpening steel before every use (it isn't difficult), and Deep Foods frozen Indian entrees and breads are dirt cheap and delicious, for those nights when you just need to Cop Out.
posted by nanojath at 9:14 AM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't care if a person doesn't want to cook anything ever ever because reasons. I just pointed out that if you make that decision when you're in a position of looking after a child, and you're not rich, then you are likely to inflict bad feelings about food on the kid. The rituals of taking in nourishment (and dumping waste) are kind of important from your first suck at a nipple onwards.
posted by colie at 9:24 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


"if they're really tiny then the skin won't have dried out and you can just use the whole thing."
They're small. Not young. But thank you: next time I'll wrap a towel around the bowls as I should have done this morning, and if that doesn't work, I'll just throw the whole head in, skins and all, because now I know that peeling garlic is not difficult and does not take more than thirty seconds unless you're doing it wrong. Also, garlic skin contains the full RDA of resentment.

"I guess if your goal was to demonstrate that no one should have sympathy for someone who self-inflicts food martyrdom, you've succeeded."
This is the original mis-read, now applied to me. How do you read the original as martyrdom and how do you read what I wrote as martyrdom? You have to be peculiarly ungenerous to read writing that is obviously intended to be humorous as solemn and angsty. Prep sucks and takes a long time. Cleanup sucks and takes a long time. Cooking is not like on the cooking shows. Pointing that out is the opposite of martyrdom: it creates happy comradery among people who feel oppressed by the Martha Stewartian hordes who know how to do everything The Right Way and think you are a spoiled child-abusing sociopathic monster who needs to be Baker Acted if you decide you're going to eat expensive cheese for the rest of your life instead of cooking.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:36 AM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


I just pointed out that if you make that decision when you're in a position of looking after a child, and you're not rich, then you are likely to inflict bad feelings about food on the kid.

Really? Are you seriously staking out the position that the problem is choosing not to cook and not disordered attitudes towards food?

Because, uh...that sounds pretty damn disordered, to me.
posted by kagredon at 9:47 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


also lol that things are suddenly okay if you're rich. awesome. we cover all the sources of shame here at metafilter dot com.
posted by kagredon at 9:48 AM on October 1, 2014


"...have you ever worked in a warehouse, or a factory? Cooking is not that bad."

Of course it isn't. And carrot sauce that goes wrong is not goldfish ejaculate. And I did not deposit ninemillion long-bean seeds on the kitchen floor: it was possibly two. Much of the "talk about how unreservedly miserable cooking is" to which you object is deliberate hyperbole for humorous effect.

Here, read this: http://art-bin.com/art/or_weltypostoff.html

Did you think that was a bone-chilling glimpse into the mind of a sociopath? Then you misread it, and you probably also misread the "cooking sux" blogpost.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2014


So apparently I managed to read both the article and 235 comments in this thread before I realized that the author of this article did not literally make pasta sauce with carp milt. My reading comprehension is terrible.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:01 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


(by "you" I mean "you, the collective thread," not any particular person and certainly not nanojath. who I think gave a relatively generous read. Sorry--I'm imprecise today because my dedicated knife sharpener is AWOL and has been for months and trying to cut onions with my chef's knife is like hitting them with a cinderblock.)
posted by Don Pepino at 10:03 AM on October 1, 2014


I know that a lot of people have reacted to this thread with dismay and disgust, due to the rather extraordinary level of vitriol in it, given a topic as apparently quotidian as cooking.

As a sociologist, I find the judgment and counterjudgment fascinating.

We live in the era of what Arlie Hochschild called the "stalled revolution" in gender roles, in which most women, including mothers of young children, now work outside the home for pay, but men have only partially made a reciprocal movement into doing domestic labor like cooking and cleaning. As a result, heterosexually-partnered women with children live with what Hochschild called the "second shift," doing an average of a month of 24-hour-days per year more in total hours of paid and unpaid labor than their male partners. And this second shift has proved pretty unyeilding, having reduced very little since the 1980s.

To me, the big question is why. Can it really be that a majority of heterosexual men with wives and children are such jerks that they happily and consciously force their spouses to serve them at home while they relax with a beer on the couch? Actually, would that that were the reason, because then we'd see an indignant feminist response and the revolution in gender roles would be publicly fought, and, I believe, won.

No, from years of giving college students exercises in which they imagine a family for themselves and how each sort of paid and domestic labor will be handled, I can see that the problem is much more difficult and intransigent, because it relates to identity.

When I ask students to imagine they are married with two young children, and to divide the paid and unpaid labor up, most of the men come up with perfectly balanced arrangements, where both they and their imagined spouse work the same number of total hours of paid and unpaid labor. It's just that most of the heterosexual men plan lives in which they are primary breadwinners who do few chores, married to women who are primary caregivers who only work outside the home if they really want to, and only part time if they do. The domestic labor they assign themselves are the standard 1950s manly chores of yard work and home repairs, and the valorized sorts of childcare tasks--helping with homework, playing ball with the kids, reading a bedtime story. The men have no desire to overburden imaginary wives with an unfair share of the labor--but their identities are bound up in careers, so their solution is not to do half the housework, which they view as tedious and uninteresting, but to want a housewife.

The women, on the other hand, often initially create insane schedules for themselves, and have to cut back when it turns out they've scheduled 35 hours of work for themselves per day. The reason is that they want to work full time, and also want to invest a huge amount of time in childcare and in domestic labor. I'm constantly amazed at the initial urge of so many to assign imaginary husbands few if any cooking and cleaning tasks, because they are certain their imaginary ideal spouses won't clean to their standards. That is, even though they want to have professional careers and believe they are the equal of any man when it comes to work, these young women continue to have their identities wrapped up in being domestic goddesses. And thus they assign themselves a second shift.

Put men and women with their gendered identities constructed along these lines together, and you get the ongoing second-shift issue. The problem is that since it is impossible to work 35 hours a day to be a fulltime professional employee while baking perfect galettes in a spotless kitchen while intensively parenting children, women like my college students who are heterosexually partnered have to shed chores onto men, who are reluctant to take them on. But the women's grabbiness regarding domestic labor, and the men's disinterest in it, ensure both that the second shift persists, and that there is a lot of familial angst over endangered perfect home-cooked meals being displaced by Dad grabbing a family meal from Boston Market on his way home from work.

And that is what I think underlies all the simmering anxieties and hostilities in this thread. Home cooking continues to be put on a pedestal as the foundation of hearth and home, which simultaneously being a big chore for working families, disproportionately done by women who both resent being overworked and have identities invested in domestic labor. Many of us may be childless, or not heterosexually-partnered, or have domestic arrangements very different from the classic second-shift family--but all of us are influenced by a vast simmering social anxiety about changes in domestic roles, and what they mean for our gender identities.
posted by DrMew at 10:07 AM on October 1, 2014 [33 favorites]


And that is what I think underlies all the simmering anxieties and hostilities in this thread. Home cooking continues to be put on a pedestal as the foundation of hearth and home, which simultaneously being a big chore for working families, disproportionately done by women who both resent being overworked and have identities invested in domestic labor.

No doubt you're right about a lot of what brings such ready-made angst to the thread and gets everyone's backs up--but a lot of the grar in this thread simply comes from people talking past each other. Almost no one in the thread is saying "you are a bad person if you don't like cooking nutritious, carefully planned and creative meals for your family every day"--and yet a lot of the "OMG, you don't realize what a CHORE cooking is" responses seem to assume that this is the prevailing sentiment of the thread, and the prevailing basis of the criticism of the linked article.

I'm a man who does essentially all the cooking in our household. I do it in part because I enjoy it, in part because it feels to me like an act of love and care (as it always feels to me when others cook for me, and as it felt for me as a child when my family cooked for me). What I dislike about the article is the author's imputation that nobody really cooks for such motives and that anyone who does cook regularly for their friends and/or family is a sucker. It troubles me not a whit that some people don't like to cook and choose not to do so. I can entirely understand the kinds of "performance anxieties" that spoiled the pleasure of cooking for the article writer, and can absolutely see that it might be best for her, personally, to just give up the whole game. But it pisses me off that she presents this as somehow seeing through a universal con-game which the rest of us dupes are too brainwashed to recognize.
posted by yoink at 10:25 AM on October 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


It's entirely possible to enter a living arrangement with the expectation that household crap will be split 50/50. It's also entirely possible to discover that this expectation is a source of conflict. And to even get at a, say, 25/75 split, the household crap has to be supervised, you have to ask the other person to do those tasks. Add in a wealth imbalance with that lack of desire to value household labor and now you've really got something.

We're gonna talk circles and circles around this until we start valuing the emotional and physical work required to run a house. We get nowhere treating it as a thing women do to themselves.

To be honest, we don't even pay restaurant workers very well. We really give no fucks about valuing the labor that goes into food preparation. At least in the US.

I cook because I like good food and could never afford to eat the way I do outside of my own kitchen. I cook because restaurant food contains a lot more salt and fat than the stuff I make and I while I can enjoy it, I can't live that way on the regular. I'm a good cook because this shit took years of practice. I don't cook for your approval, but I'll probably think you're an asshole if I make you something and you don't at least acknowledge my effort by thanking me.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


I just want to second Yoink's comment above. I don't doubt that all this second shift mishegas plays into some of the dymamics your one discusses in the original article; I respect that her feelings are real and resonate for a lot of people. I just don't think they're universal; little things like the line in there about her guests being just as happy with ice cream as with her galette, that she uses to conclude that cooking' a mug's game, that you can never get enough gratification from it to match the effort you put in...it hasn't been my experience.
posted by Diablevert at 10:59 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Many of us may be childless

I am, and still I am gobsmacked by the time and effort my wife puts into cooking. I do little cooking now, but previously probably did 25%-30% of it, and even then the difference was more of kind than degree. I would focus on developing a small selection of surefire meals that created the fewest dishes, where she would consistently make complicated and/or new recipes, that would leave the kitchen a mess. They were frequently excellent, mind you, but far to much work for her as the cook and me as the cleaner. But she always says what she makes is actually pretty easy, despite me thinking they really objectively are not, though she simultaneously has started to feel bad about making me clean up so much.

I don't know where exactly this comes from; is it just our particular personalities? Socialization? I don't know. I do see a reoccuring trend: I always want to reduce the total domestic work, she's trying to achieve parity. I just don't think I have the energy, or frankly, skills, to do that much.
posted by spaltavian at 10:59 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


"This is the original mis-read, now applied to me. How do you read the original as martyrdom and how do you read what I wrote as martyrdom? You have to be peculiarly ungenerous to read writing that is obviously intended to be humorous as solemn and angsty. Prep sucks and takes a long time. Cleanup sucks and takes a long time. Cooking is not like on the cooking shows. Pointing that out is the opposite of martyrdom: it creates happy comradery among people who feel oppressed by the Martha Stewartian hordes who know how to do everything The Right Way and think you are a spoiled child-abusing sociopathic monster who needs to be Baker Acted if you decide you're going to eat expensive cheese for the rest of your life instead of cooking."

You're coming across like you're kidding on the square, where you're hyperbolizing your laments while still simultaneously wanting to lament. Prep doesn't have to suck or take a long time. Cleanup doesn't have to suck or take a long time (though I totally admit that I enjoy it far less than cooking or prep). You're doing it to yourself, and thinking that your hyperbole is totally funny and understandable, while also thinking that people are sincerely calling anyone short of Martha Stewart a sociopathic child-abusing monster.

No one makes you get up at 5 am to do prep for an elaborate long bean and eggplant meal. Complaining about it without recognizing that just makes it seem like some kinda humblebrag.
posted by klangklangston at 11:19 AM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


make the pie, don't make the fucking pie, do whatever you want, just please stop smearing your martyr's blood all over the kitchen.

I actually found this article really important and interesting, but that may be because I grew up in a family where smearing your martyr's blood all over the kitchen was just what you did. You cooked for four hours for people to eat for thirty minutes and say "Oh, that's really great" and then washed up all the plates so you could do it the next day again. It wasn't about insecurities, it was about it being what women did. Women were responsible for the food and their performance of gender was only as good as the food was. Your worth as a wife, as a homemaker, was dependent on your worth as a cook. "Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy?" How many times are cooking and value tied up together for women? Even though we are not given any magical cooking gene?

I took this as a piece on gender and the expectations for women in today's society, even when we think we don't have them, and as such, it's brilliant and painful.
posted by corb at 11:42 AM on October 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


I really liked this OP and have been reluctant to even post anything because of the remarkable lack of reasonable discussion in this thread, but some outstanding recent comments like Dr Mew's, mandymanwasregistered, and DonPepino's are heartening.

I liked the somewhat frenetic, anxious, angry pace of the memoir and thought it was funny at times, definitely. I thought it was refreshing.

As far as gender and cooking, I definitely feel some anxiety around it. I like to cook simple things for myself, but outside of a repertoire of a few things I'm not very efficient or confident, and now that I don't eat gluten (!!!) options are more limited, so I can't whip up a raft of spaghetti if people are coming over. I'm not the sort of person that can walk into a big dinner party situation and say "put me to work!" and then start making my excellent guacamole or whatever, because I don't feel competent enough in those things, and those times would be great chances to practice, but I'm usually shunted out of the way because everyone's very busy. It's awkward and I don't feel confident, even if it usually leaves me relaxed on the patio having wine with a bunch of men. I've definitely had people (mostly women) fume silently and then call me lazy because I didn't help or couldn't help. Like, "make some guac" is not a viable project for me. "Mash these avocados, with which someone else will make guac" works better for me. When was I supposed to learn how to make guac?

I had some more-competent-at-cooking friends over this weekend, and we actually just did the St Andre - prosciutto- chips and salsa- bread(for them) thing with wine and it was relaxed and fun and fine, but I thought about making some roasted brussels sprouts and panicked several times, because I was debating the bad hostess option 1) let's order something if you're still hungry and bad hostess option 2) make brussels sprouts that are not foodie enough. I've had people return food to the pan before and say things like "can I just add a little x"? It's so weird and yeah, makes me feel bad.

Also, saying "we" doesn't mean "you, personally, 40 something Metafilter user named Henry Whatsit" or whatever. It's startling to take something like this so very personally. To me it's like when people write "We've replaced real life social contact with social media" and someone's like, "I don't even have a Facebook, so this social phenomenon is invalid and I'm angry someone wrote about it."

When she talks about the mingling of food and shame, I think she's signaling the tone of the rest of the piece, and i think it's something people can connect to or not. It's not a manifesto.
posted by sweetkid at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Given how polarizing this piece has been, and the wide range of reasons which people have expressed for either liking it or not, I'd been interested to know how large of an element people here believe cooking is in the larger enterprise of "managing a household" overall?

About ten years ago, my marriage was in a pretty rocky place, and one of the several issues creating conflict was the uneven division of labor in our house, which resulted in my wife doing a lot more than me. In an attempt to correct the imbalance, I took responsibility for the entire set of food-related tasks for our family: I do the cooking, the cleaning up after, all of the meal planning and all of the grocery shopping.

I can't say that I enjoy it much; part of that is due to specific issues in our specific family, such as the fact that my wife is vegan and I'm not, and that our daughter seems to be determined to subsist entirely on beige foods, and that I didn't really learn to cook until the day I decided that I had to in order to pick up my share of the workload, and that I'm still not very good at it.

However, it still needs doing. People gotta eat, after all, and even if we could afford to eat out for every meal, we don't live in a place that affords us many great restaurant options. So the satisfaction I get from it isn't at all a matter of offering up a piece of myself on plate for someone else to approve, nor a means for me to express affection...it's just a task that somebody is going to have to do, and that I enjoy marginally more than the other adult who's on hand to to do it.

I'm super aware, though, that statistically speaking my lack of baggage around the subject of cooking is almost certainly a form of cultural privilege, so I'm not about to get too irritated by someone finding it a sore subject.
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:32 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Gor-ella: I kept wondering how many of the above commentators are men.

emptythought: I can't give you an exact percentage breakdown, but a lot more of them than you probably think are women.

I think it's possible to separate the fact that yes, there are issues with relation to women and expectations with cooking from the fact that a whole lot of this really wasn't about cooking and was just the author thrashing around and projecting a whole lot of crap onto everyone else.


Yep, this was exactly my feeling as well, emptythought. And Gor-ella, in response to your curiosity, I'm a woman, feminist, and queer.
posted by desuetude at 12:55 PM on October 1, 2014


Also, saying "we" doesn't mean "you, personally, 40 something Metafilter user named Henry Whatsit" or whatever

Is Henry Whatsit also not part of "people"?
posted by yoink at 12:59 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


as a person who likes to cook, I did not feel like the author was saying "all people secretly feel this way". For example, I didn't get the sense that she feels like her-friend-the-good-cook is secretly wrestling with the same level of shame and guilt, but the article was not about her-friend-the-good-cook.

Certainly, in a thread where people who don't cook have been called everything from preschooler on up to "mental defective", I think we can cut her some slack for not saying OF COURSE THIS IS ME AND NOT NECESSARILY YOU after every paragraph.

(honestly, the only part I was mildly offended by was the weird anti-intellectualism about Professor Snail*, which is somehow even funnier if he was friggin' Stephen Jay Gould)

*Thesis adviser to Doctor Worm
posted by kagredon at 1:18 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


I wonder if how badly this thread has gone, actually kind of... reinforces the point of the essay? I mean, it's obviously tied up with people's identities, or this wouldn't have gone so badly.

To take it to a simpler analogy, we're discussing Cooking both as a Hobby, and a Chore.
It's generally regarded as ok to say 'Chore X Sucks'.
It's generally not as ok (on Mefi at least), to say 'Hobby X sucks', because hey, if you don't like it, leave it to the people who enjoy Hobby X, etc etc.
But, in this case, Hobby X is not optional, unless you are in an economic position to avoid it.

But it turns out, where X = Cooking, even if you are in a position to avoid it, there are identity based judgements in NOT participating in 'Hobby X', as demonstrated in this thread.

For many people, it's just a Chore, that they are not thanked for, is not appreciated, and they... apparently get a lot of blowback about, if they try to complain about it.


---

For gender dynamics, I (female) just try and cook things that are easy, healthy, quick, with minimal preparation. I've basically figured out a few recipes, and they're now on rotation.
My male flatmate, can actually Cook.
Kind of exception that prooves the rule though, because he definately got that from his Mother, who is Cooking is Love. He cooks less, and I'm pretty sure it's because he gets hung up on doing a Good Job, etc etc. Some kind of perfectionist kick. He eats out way more than me.
Whereas, my Mother, refused to teach me to cook (or do much of the cleaning), because she said I'd be smart enough to figure it out, and she wanted a future for me where I had better things to do with my time.
As crazypants as that seemed at the time, it's kind of worked. I've picked it up as just one of 'required adult tasks', like budgeting, household cleaning, etc, and not a hook to hang my identity on. I still immediately offer food in many social situations, including unhappiness, because I think of it as emotional first aid (glucose levels etc), but I don't have to have cooked it myself. I have dinner parties regularly, but the food is good, not awesome (roast veges!).

---


Also, given the sex-shame analogies, this was also a hyperbolic explanation of why she wants to give up sex, right? Right?
Asexual Aculinaries for the win!


---

[Yoink: I'm missing your point on 'We'?
We usually refers to a group that the speaker of the 'We' considers themselves part of. So, this is usually a subset of humanity, that does not include all humanity. Also, People, without an 'All' in front of it, does not usually refer to All People, but again, subsets, which you can usually deduce from context, even if it isn't explicit.]
posted by Elysum at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, saying "we" doesn't mean "you, personally, 40 something Metafilter user named Henry Whatsit" or whatever.

Yeah, it's kind of in the vein of NOT ALL MEN where people (*not all people!) get incredibly offended if they aren't specifically verbally excluded from GROUP THAT DOES TROUBLESOME THING. Not being part of the intended audience is is, of course, also personally insulting, so they get to gripe one way or the other, without having to engage with the material at all. It's an annoying derail.
posted by almostmanda at 1:25 PM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oooo! Ooo!
More sexual analogies!

Demisexual -> Demiculinary: Only wants to cook for people they love. (A not uncommon hetrosexual wooing strategy, often abandoned past the initial 'dating' phase)

Agastronomic: Doesn't find eating good (home cooked?) food to be special, and won't voice appreciation


So you could cook, but don't care.
You could cook for people who don't care.
You could care, but don't cook.
posted by Elysum at 2:08 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow, I'm now thinking I'm kind of lucky that both my mom and my mother in law are cheerfully uninspired cooks.
My mom cooked healthy good food every evening after she came home from work. She had a couple of recipes on rotation and was content with that. And shrugged off everything else with "I can't bake / don't know how to do that, but we can try if you like. I only learnt how to cook in my thirties, you know. And only because I had to!"
I always thought everyone's moms were like that, apart from the couple of people who just love cooking! I didn't realise that tying your value to creating inspired meals is such a thing.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:09 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's kind of in the vein of NOT ALL MEN where people (*not all people!) get incredibly offended if they aren't specifically verbally excluded from GROUP THAT DOES TROUBLESOME THING. Not being part of the intended audience is is, of course, also personally insulting, so they get to gripe one way or the other, without having to engage with the material at all. It's an annoying derail.

Right, I wouldn't be upset about an article that talked about how "we knit for x and y reasons, and dammit I'm not making anyone mittens this year because handmaking clothes is stupid" because I don't knit.

Didn't a lot of people decide handmaking clothes was stupid? But aren't hand made/homemade clothes better in a lot of ways than things mass produced?
posted by sweetkid at 2:10 PM on October 1, 2014


I always thought everyone's moms were like that, apart from the couple of people who just love cooking! I didn't realise that tying your value to creating inspired meals is such a thing.

My father has always been the more passionate cook. When he had weeknight meal duty he would make roses out of tomatoes as a side garnish and elaborate cucumber fans. For a six and ten year old. We made a few curries together, which was fun, and he makes a great omelette. it's a bit sad because his disabilities have made those things, and so many things he does with his hands, very hard.

My mom is like...okay but the appeal of her food is that it's HER food, whereas with my dad it was HIS food but also always kind of special and good food. He knows I love certain things he makes and goes to great lengths to make them for me despite his disabilities when I'm home. I'm tearing up just writing about it.

BUT making elaborate meals at holidays wasn't tied into "Being Together" and "Being Adults" like it seems to be in other households. We're Indian American, and at get togethers there would be food, and it would be good, but it would be like, hello, how are you, the food is over there, instead of food being the centerpiece, like Gramma's Sweet Potatoes or something.

I'm lost when I get into situations like that. It seems like other people were trained up in it and so are ready to work when they get to a dinner party. I'm just...ready to eat.
posted by sweetkid at 2:16 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm super aware, though, that statistically speaking my lack of baggage around the subject of cooking is almost certainly a form of cultural privilege, so I'm not about to get too irritated by someone finding it a sore subject.

Thank you for this! This is basically what I was getting at when I responded to the question about how many of the dismissive commenters are men. If a woman feels overwhelmed by the pressure to be good at domestic tasks, it seems really ... lacking in perspective, let's say, for a bunch of dudes to come in and lecture her about how easy it is to chop garlic or whatever and she must just be doing it wrong, and anyway cooking is fun and healthy and if you can't do it you have the mental ability of a preschooler, etc etc. I still think it's kind of silly when women act dismissive about that pressure, especially without acknowledging the historic context of why a lot of women might feel that sort of pressure (because to me it's blindingly obvious), but there is a difference between someone subject to that pressure commenting on someone's feelings about it vs. someone who is completely outside of that pressure commenting on it. It's easy for a dude to say he likes to cook and doesn't feel pressured to do it perfectly and doesn't think anyone else should, either - he didn't grow up internalizing a centuries-old message that he was constantly being judged on it!

My dad did all the cooking in my house growing up, and he got all kinds of credit for it - people commented on it, oh what a great husband he must be!, etc. My mom did ten times as much work doing literally everything else in the house that needed doing, and never got any credit for it. The framing was always, "wow, what a good husband he must be to help you out like that!" It's like in Louie where he goes to the PTA meeting - Louie's lauded as a great dad for going for the first time, but when Pamela says it's her first time too, everyone says "where the hell have you been? You must be a shitty mom." It's not that my dad wasn't great for cooking - he did it because he loved us - but it's still fair to say that it might be fun for him in a way that it wouldn't necessarily be for my mom just because the goalposts and baggage are so different for him. Some of this is equally insulting to men, incidentally, and it's a great example of how gendered BS hurts everyone. A man shouldn't be a HERO!!! just for being able to put together a meal, but our domestic expectations of men are generally so low that it's often presented that way.

What I dislike about the article is the author's imputation that nobody really cooks for such motives and that anyone who does cook regularly for their friends and/or family is a sucker.

yoink, thanks for your comment, I can see where you're coming from more clearly now. She wasn't calling you a sucker, I don't think - you just weren't intended to be in the "we" as far as I can tell. She doesn't specify, and I agree that the piece would be better if she did, but I really believe she is specifically talking about women here because the pressure to cook and do it well is still so overwhelmingly gendered. If you don't feel the same pressure, it might be worth reflecting on those gender differences before getting outraged that she isn't speaking for you.

Is Henry Whatsit also not part of "people"?

Not when "people" is being used as a rhetorical device to better explain the way a person sees the world. Again, I have the frequent experience of having to look past the literal "people" to see that the author usually means "people like me" - if you're usually included in the "people like me" statements you read*, it might feel more natural to read it literally, but it is a frequently-used rhetorical device that almost never means "literally all people."

I agree that the author has a lot of unexamined assumptions and some disordered ways of seeing this stuff, but I think it's possible to argue against those assumptions while still respecting that the way a man experiences cooking might be different from the way a woman experiences it, solely due to the very different set of expectations that have traditionally been placed on men and women with respect to domestic duties, and that those expectations might be a big part of her experience where they are not a big part of yours.

*I'm not saying this as a side-eye "maybe you're just so privileged you can't see THE TRUTH" snooty thing, I literally mean that maybe this experience is simply not as common to you.
posted by dialetheia at 2:50 PM on October 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


"I've had people return food to the pan before and say things like "can I just add a little x"? It's so weird and yeah, makes me feel bad. "

Those people are straight up being assholes. Sorry you have to deal with that.

"Also, saying "we" doesn't mean "you, personally, 40 something Metafilter user named Henry Whatsit" or whatever. It's startling to take something like this so very personally. To me it's like when people write "We've replaced real life social contact with social media" and someone's like, "I don't even have a Facebook, so this social phenomenon is invalid and I'm angry someone wrote about it.""

I generally hate this device, and specifically when it's used in the "we" construction. I hate it the most when it's used in fiction, and I generally associate it with middle aged white men explaining the world with tons of unexamined assumptions. This has been a constant peeve of mine since childhood, and I still think it's a weak and obnoxious rhetorical device in nearly all uses. Indeed, if someone said that we've replaced real life social contact with social media, I'd think, "Speak for yourself, asshole." (I'd even disagree that the underlying thesis is that strong, given that social media conversations are replacing email but not so much face-to-face interaction.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:01 PM on October 1, 2014


I generally hate this device, and specifically when it's used in the "we" construction. I hate it the most when it's used in fiction, and I generally associate it with middle aged white men explaining the world with tons of unexamined assumptions. This has been a constant peeve of mine since childhood, and I still think it's a weak and obnoxious rhetorical device in nearly all uses.

I don't disagree at all - the "we" construction is usually a way of signalling "I can't really defend this but I'll just assert it as universal and hope nobody objects" and I totally agree that it usually serves to highlight the author's most unexamined assumptions. It was easily one of the weakest parts of her essay. That said, I still think people are capable of discerning what she means without taking it so literally that they get angry and hostile at being left out of her "we" statement. It might be a sloppy rhetorical device that drives me crazy and weakens her point, but I still don't think it justifies the level of hostility in this thread.
posted by dialetheia at 3:12 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not when "people" is being used as a rhetorical device to better explain the way a person sees the world. Again, I have the frequent experience of having to look past the literal "people" to see that the author usually means "people like me" - if you're usually included in the "people like me" statements you read*, it might feel more natural to read it literally, but it is a frequently-used rhetorical device that almost never means "literally all people."

There is not a single point in the linked article where the author even briefly entertains the possibility that there may be people who have a different relationship to the experience of cooking-for-others than her own. I mean, I get that it's perfectly possible to write something in which you can say "people feel blah blah blah" and actually only mean some small subset of people, but that's obviously not what this author is doing. Again, the very title of the piece frames it as "why cooking sucks." Not "why I decided to stop cooking" or "why women shouldn't cook unless they want to" or whatever. It's "an argument against cooking" tout court. And so the "we" and the "people" are clearly, in the actual context of this piece, maximalist: "we who cook, do so because..." and "people who cook, do so because...."

Take this excerpt:
...the point of cooking isn't fun or even duty, but rather to try to give someone something only you can give. It is all supposed to appear selfless: "I'm making you this pie so you can all enjoy it." But when really, people would enjoy ice cream just as much, their enjoyment can't be the whole reason.

We cook to make ourselves indispensable and special.
The "we" that is repeated throughout that section cannot, sensibly, be understood to mean simply "me and my mother." There is a world of difference between "in my family, the point of cooking wasn't fun or even duty..." and the absolute claim that "the point of cooking isn't fun or even duty." She is making claims about what motivates people to cook in general. And she's simply wrong--and offensively wrong.

Or consider this:
People cook — particularly women, but not only women — because they think people are going to notice them, and love them, but almost no one thinks about who made what they're eating or how it got on the table
This is offensive at both ends. There is the maximalist claim that "people cook...because they think people are going to notice them" and the equally maximalist claim that "almost no one thinks about who made what they're eating or how it got on the table."

I mean, this is stomping into people's dearest emotional relationships--to their parents, their spouses, their children, their friends--and saying "it's all a horrible facade; they don't actually care for you, and you don't actually care about them! There's no such thing as a genuinely open act of love and even if there was, you wouldn't notice it." It's not surprising that it should be met with a certain amount of "hey, speak for yourself!"
posted by yoink at 3:52 PM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


The "we" that is repeated throughout that section cannot, sensibly, be understood to mean simply "me and my mother."

Perhaps from the tiny excerpt that you quoted, but I think it reads pretty differently if you include more of the surrounding material:
My mother was always saying how she just wanted to be alone with her book, but it seemed like whenever this dream might actually become a reality she would decide to make a pie. ... I suggested to my mom once that we just buy pies, and she snapped that we couldn't afford it, so then I said well if it takes you so long couldn't you just work extra at your job, and then you could buy them? And then she accused me of not liking her pies that much. This made me really sad, because that's not what I was saying. I really just wanted her to be happy. ...

In my childlike innocence, I didn't understand that the point of cooking isn't fun or even duty, but rather to try to give someone something only you can give. It is all supposed to appear selfless: "I'm making you this pie so you can all enjoy it." But when really, people would enjoy ice cream just as much, their enjoyment can't be the whole reason.
First of all, the phrase "in my childlike innocence" (which you omitted) is pretty significant. It signals not only that she's being pretty arch and hyperbolic, but also that she actually does believe that there indeed are more benign and acceptable rationales that could underpin cooking for others. And secondly, the previous two paragraphs are literally her talking about her and her mother and her mother's relationship with cooking. It's hardly a stretch to understand this as a continuation of that theme.

I mean, this is stomping into people's dearest emotional relationships--to their parents, their spouses, their children, their friends--and saying "it's all a horrible facade; they don't actually care for you, and you don't actually care about them! There's no such thing as a genuinely open act of love and even if there was, you wouldn't notice it."

Now who's making unsupported, maximalist, hyperbolic claims?
posted by en forme de poire at 4:08 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


If a woman feels overwhelmed by the pressure to be good at domestic tasks, it seems really ... lacking in perspective, let's say, for a bunch of dudes to come in and lecture her about how easy it is to chop garlic or whatever

The thread has been ...fraught, and some comments on both sides have been rather self-righteous and dunderheaded. And I certainly agree that historically, women have faced more pressure to be domestic.

But it still strikes me as presumptuous to figure that the only reason to not like the article is that you're a Dude Who Doesn't Get It. To my mind, the common thread among people who found the essay off putting was that they actually enjoy cooking, and, as in the passages so helpfully quoted by yoink above, the author is rather patronising and dismissive of the possibility that anyone actually does find cooking fulfilling.

On the broader point, while I agree that cooking is tied into all this gendered stuff and that historically it has been particularly important slice of female self-image, of all the bits of domestic drudgery, cooking seems to me to be the one where we've made the most progress. It's not 1960 (the year Peg Bracken published the I Hate To Cook book) anymore. This very thread is littered with examples of grown woman whose dads did most of the cooking when they were growing up, and with dudes who do most of the cooking now. All this competitive TV chefery is part and parcel of a decades-long shift where cooking skills in particular are becoming less gendered. I certainly agree that there's many woman out there for whom cooking is an an arena where they feel particular pressure to live up to some feminine ideal. But I don't think one can safely presume any longer that that's a universal experience --- hell, the author herself is careful to disavow it. ("Women, but not only women.")

I mean, let me be clear: if you don't like to cook, you don't, and that's totally fine. If you do like to cook --and express your nurturing feelings for people through cooking --- I think that's totally fine too, is all. And if the people in your life are unappreciative of that maybe get better people in your life. And if you truly feel that no one can ever be appreciative enough of the emotional turmoil you go through to make a fucking pie, then by all means, stop making fucking pie if it makes you so unhappy. Me, I'm going to continue trying to learn how to make a mean pie. Still can't always nail the crust. But I feel I'll get there, and I'll enjoy the journey.
posted by Diablevert at 4:25 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


But it still strikes me as presumptuous to figure that the only reason to not like the article is that you're a Dude Who Doesn't Get It.

And as far as I can tell, nobody has said that at all. What I've suggested is that many of the dismissals above seem awfully breezy, and that I wondered how many of them were men simply because they seemed to engage with the reality of those pressures so minimally and actually seemed to find it surprising that a woman should feel pressure to make the perfect pie, when to me it's perfectly obvious that many, many women still feel that way. We've made a lot of progress, as you point out, but this is still a set of pressures that most women have to make a conscious effort to reject at some point in their lives. To read this piece and have your only reaction be "well I love cooking, so she's wrong!" with no consideration of why women might feel more pressured in this arena is solipsistic at best (and again, I'm not saying you did this, only that many of the least charitable and most hostile comments in this thread read that way to me).
posted by dialetheia at 4:33 PM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's not 1960 (the year Peg Bracken published the I Hate To Cook book) anymore. This very thread is littered with examples of grown woman whose dads did most of the cooking when they were growing up, and with dudes who do most of the cooking now.

I was thinking about this point on my ride home, and it occurred to me that while my dad did all the cooking, it was clearly a big source of shame for my mom, which I'm sure I internalized to some extent. We never had a single dinner party or hosted a single holiday or did any social stuff that revolved around cooking, and my extended family gave her endless shit for not being much of a cook. I'm certain that she felt excluded from family gatherings where cooking was the main venue for socializing with other women (as I do now on the frequent occasions I'm in such situations).

Most tellingly, every time we went to someone's house or potluck and had to bring a dish to share, my mom would still be the one to cook that dish; I guess it would have been embarrassing to her for my dad to make it, because I can't remember him ever, even once, doing the public cooking.
posted by dialetheia at 5:14 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


It seems (though I haven't gone back and done a headcount) that while there's approximate gender parity among people saying they like to cook or don't like to cook, people talking about themselves or people they know as people who don't like to cook but feel obligated to are predominantly women, because those are who get the burden of that obligation put upon them. Like dialetheia says, some men also choose to take on the role of family-cook, but they aren't expected to, and dudes who can't cook at all are not shamed for it to the extent that women are (not that they aren't shamed for it ever, but the response seems to be more frequently "lol at least there's microwaves amirite bro" or, even worse, "that's okay, you can marry a woman who cooks", not OMG YOU ARE GOING TO TRAUMATIZE YOUR CHILDREN/NEVER GET A HUSBAND/GAIN WEIGHT IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO COOK!!!!) That would be my fine-tuning of the gender politics of the thread.

The class issues are sort of interesting too. Like a few people have pointed out, the OP is not really talking about "can I feed myself at home on a reasonably regular basis", it's about investing in particularly elaborate cooking that carries some definite class markers. It's aspirational. You don't have to cook, but you do, because (reasons that were enumerated in the original post). Klangklangston is right; I don't think she'd have this level of angst about the whole process if cooking weren't already fairly divorced from practical considerations for her.

Like, for my mom, who came from a relatively conservative culture, and a family without much money, there was something aspirational about not having to spend a lot of time cooking. It's not that she doesn't know how (tuna sandwiches notwithstanding)--she's a pretty gifted improviser of the "make something reasonably tasty from leftovers that are about to go off and whatever's in the pantry" variety--but I can't imagine her ever spending more than 20 minutes to make a meal, and I think that for her it would feel like the kind of pointless drudgery that she watched her mom toil under for years. My stepmother comes from a more upper-middle class, western background, and though, as I said, for her it does generate some of the same anxiety and need for validation that it does in the author, I think it does also give her positive emotional benefits--being skilled, being creative, achieving something concrete for yourself and for your loved ones. But those benefits are only reaped when you're already operating at several orders of abstraction from "it's this or beefaroni again" chore-cooking
posted by kagredon at 5:39 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, as long as we're over-sharing --- I mentioned the I Hate To Cook book because my mom had a copy, having been given it at her bridal shower by her sister. My mom can cook and every once in a while she'll get into trying a new recipe, but for the most part she regards it as a bit of a chore, and left to her own devices would probably get by on salads and frozen stir-frys every night. Whereas my dad actively enjoys cooking, and ever since he got a job where he worked mostly from home, he did about 80% of it. Eating dinner as a family was a big thing with us, and he's a good cook and my mom was pretty happy to leave him in charge of that. We have a big extended family and would have 20 people gatherings on the regular and he did the vast majority of the cooking for those too, though my mom has a speciality or two that she chips in with on occasion (she is a good baker). She does get anxious sometimes when she has to cook for him ---- he's generally encouraging, but if she suspects his enthusiasm is not total it nags at her a bit. But for the most part she basically seems thrilled to have that part of things taken off her hands, and that he makes the things she likes so well. (He calls her Queenie. It's pretty cute.) In other ways the do conform to gender stereotypes --- my mom tends to do all the housework and is anal about it, my dad does most of the yard and repair work --- but cooking in my family was pretty from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

I feel like a jerk writing that, to some extent --- I feel like I was pretty lucky to grow up in a house where that was the norm, and it certainly gave me the confidence, once I went off to college and had to subsist on dorm cafeteria food for a couple semesters, to learn how to cook for myself, and my dad's been an invaluable resource for me in that. Maybe I haven't fully appreciated how rare that is. But on that side of the family in general, while my grandmother was an excellent cook, in the succeeding generation it's mostly her sons who have followed in her footsteps.
posted by Diablevert at 5:40 PM on October 1, 2014


I don't think it's oversharing at all, nor did I think the author of the essay overshared. Talking about our specific experiences is probably a better way to approach this issue than making a bunch of grand sweeping statements about How Things Are, and honestly I wish the author had done more of that and less of the "we" statement-making so we could have gotten to this point much earlier in the thread.

I feel like a jerk writing that, to some extent

There's no reason to feel like a jerk - it's great that your family approached cooking in such a healthy way. It just didn't work that way for everyone, and I don't think it's a stretch to assert that gendered domestic expectations are still a big issue for many people, especially in the kitchen.
posted by dialetheia at 5:51 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


But I fail to see how a grown adult and/or teenage children cannot learn how to be self-sufficient enough to prepare something to eat for themselves now and then, even if it's just a sandwich or something.

This is also a great way to introduce your kids to the challenges of meal planning and versatility with existing ingredients (tortilla and American cheese in the microwave is still a start, a proper grilled cheese is a great thing for a teenager to be able to whip up) and then like my parents you can move to full on requiring your kids to prepare two meals a week at least along with doing the dishes always.

That drudgery resulted in a culinary interest and a mix of mongrel skills and Alton Brown obsessive technique. And a total dislike for routine cooking unfortunately..mainly because dishes and grocery shopping with ADHD instead of picking from a random assortment of mom's pantry.
posted by aydeejones at 6:29 PM on October 1, 2014


(Dad cooked too, does most of it now, but mom lorded over the pantry)
posted by aydeejones at 6:29 PM on October 1, 2014


To add data points, I have absolutely known people who seemed to have exactly the same relationship to food and cooking as the one discussed in this piece -- right down to cultivating a sort of carefully-careless sprezzatura about their cooking as a protective shield so that if anything came out oddly, at least it wouldn't have been seen as some kind of big personal investment that reflected on their abilities. I have literally heard people say "I really feel better about it when people finish all of something that I made, instead of leaving any leftovers." Other friends have stories about family members getting forlorn if they stopped eating too soon. (And given the pointed things I've heard about other people's cooking when the chefs were out of earshot, I don't think the pressure is solely internal or imaginary. How you handle it is of course a different issue; no life is free of criticism.)

In my experience it hasn't just solely about class, at least not in the sense that this is an upper-class-only problem. Of course, I'd imagine people who are really food-insecure are probably not going to have this problem (well, at least not in the same way), but if anything, cooking dinner for friends is often promoted as a frugality measure, as a way for people who earn below the median and/or live in an expensive city to maintain their social networks. However, this also puts pressure on you to be a fun, unique host who's going to leave their guests satisfied. I think there's actually a different class angle that comes in if some of your friends can routinely afford to go out to eat something great (or to buy rare, delicious cheeses and wines), in which case it's easy to feel like you're competing against the best takeout in the city any time you want to have people over, or that you have to spend money you don't really have in order to make or have something suitably impressive.

Anyway, based on how often I've encountered this mindset in the wild I was kind of surprised by the number of comments that claim this must be completely and totally unique to the author and her mother - I mean, that's good in a way, if it means that healthy attitudes to cooking and eating are really more predominant. And I do think that while some gender pressures play into it (in addition to what people said about women, I think gay men actually get a little of the same BS: that they're expected to be smooth and urbane and are supposed to effortlessly wear the "right" clothes and cook the "right" delicious-yet-body-conscious things, even if IRL they may be struggling financially or may not have any particular interest in any of that stuff), I certainly know a couple counterexamples. I know at least one straight couple where, sort of like how Diablevert mentioned, the man is the gourmet chef that prepares amazing but painstaking meals, and the woman is a proud kitchen refusenik, and they both appear to be totally happy with how they (individually and as a couple) relate to cooking. And for most of my life, my dad did the daily cooking, with my mom taking the dishes. So I do think that's a good sign.

Also, speaking of the I Hate To Cook Book, it has one of my absolute favorite lines ever: "Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink."
posted by en forme de poire at 7:08 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


cooking seems to me to be the one where we've made the most progress...
This very thread is littered with examples of grown woman whose dads did most of the cooking when they were growing up, and with dudes who do most of the cooking now.


Oh yeah, as a skill, it's improving. As an expectation? Hmmm, I think it's still super-gendered.

I mean, I think EVERYONE I know who is single, and a good cook, especially the guys, have been told:
"You'll make someone a good wife someday!"

Haha, very funny.
It's supposed to be a joke, but you hear it again, and again, and then, well it kinda seems like it isn't much of a joke anymore.


[Flatmate *can* cook better, but actually does like 20% of the cooking, or less]
posted by Elysum at 7:15 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, speaking of the I Hate To Cook Book, it has one of my absolute favorite lines ever: "Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink."

Previously!
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:24 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Prep sucks and takes a long time. Cleanup sucks and takes a long time. Cooking is not like on the cooking shows.

Yes and no. I cook for a living, so I am obviously biased, but I do get that cooking can be a chore. Honestly. I don't cook anything much more complex than a sandwich when I'm by myself, and meals for other people unless it's an occasion tend to max out at 30 minutes spent in the kitchen.

For home cooking, prep absolutely does not have to take a long time, nor does cleanup. Usually the problem of prep taking a long time arises because you're either making something really complex, or because (more often) home cooks don't get any of the training we do in prioritizing individual prep items. Not a judgement at all, and chefs are somewhat to blame for this by talking about getting all your mise en place together before starting any cooking. That's how it works on the line, it's not necessarily how it works in a home kitchen; we don't usually have the time to prep as we go but you do. Cookbooks underscore this by not laying out recipes in a simple "do this, then this, then this" fashion to minimize how long everything takes. (A notable counterexample would be The Family Meal by Adria, which lays out visually what steps you should do in what order--I recommend the book to anyone who finds prep a chore.)

I mean, you can go from zero to finished pasta in as much time as it takes to boil the water and cook the noodles, it'll be healthy, and made entirely from simple ingredients--carbonara, or a basic spaghetti with tomato sauce. You can even shorten that time by using canned tomatoes for the spaghetti. Those sorts of dishes hit the virtually impossible trifecta: cheap, fast, and good. Also easy (notwithstanding further commentary below). And minimal cleanup. Too often, dishes like that are presented as somehow being a failure to spend twelve hours nurturing a tomato sauce, and they suffer from the "It's all so easy" taint.

As for doing dishes that are complex, necessitating long and annoying prep, that's on you really. Again, yes, chefs take a little blame because of how often we say "Oh it's just easy!" but mostly it's a matter of choosing to do things that take a long time.

I think we're also to blame for over-complicating things and insisting on a bunch of steps that make perfect sense in a restaurant setting, but don't make so much sense for home cooks. Take plain old stock, for example. Yeah, it's easy to make, relatively speaking, but we tend to go through all sorts of steps that just aren't necessary at home; your stock is going to be just fine if you just dump some bones and rough-hacked mirepoix in a pot and call it a day. What I'm saying is, it's fine to half ass, and we should be more careful about giving shortcuts for recipes, saying it's okay to skip this step or that one, that sort of thing. We bear a lot of the blame for people feeling bad about cooking; it's fine to buy stock instead of making it, it's fine to buy vegetables already chopped up, etc etc.

But we make people feel guilty about not cooking everything from scratch using, as mentioned, artisanal garlic. Use a spoonful out of a jar, if it makes more sense for you. Buy stock for making soup. Whatever. The really important thing about cooking at home should be (it isn't; I get how many fucked up expectations are laced around the subject, gender roles not having shifted nearly enough) about knowing what you're putting in your face and being able to fend for yourself--so many of us are just a paycheque or two (if even that) from having to be self-sufficient and not having the luxury of buying food someone else has made.

And all that being said, 'home ec' needs to come back as a mandatory subject for every child in school. Basics of cooking, cleaning, and personal financial management should be taught every year you're in school in age-appropriate ways.

Cooking is scary and fraught. It shouldn't be. Not cooking anything beyond the rudimentary shouldn't be shameful. But it is a very basic life skill to learn, like say doing laundry. I'm not saying at all that everyone can or should be Martha Stewart. That's ridiculous and unrealistic. But I do think everyone should be able to cook a handful of simple, cheap, nutritious things that taste decent without being made to feel bad that they didn't hand-raise the chickens themselves in the backyard, within their means and physical capabilities. I'm not talking fig galettes here, I'm talking the ability to make a grilled cheese sandwich, a basic cooked breakfast, a simple casserole. Nothing complex, nothing requiring rare ingredients, nothing that takes more than twenty minutes or so of your time. And everyone--everyone--who does any cooking at all should be made to feel proud of an accomplishment, and not shame at not reaching some arbitrarily high bar.

I've tried to be careful in writing this; I really don't want to come across as though I'm discounting or waving aside the all-too-real and often difficult relationships people have with food in general, with cooking, and with the societal expectations around both. I'm trying to talk about what things could be, what they should be, and that the more painful and drudgery-laden aspects of cooking can be minimized.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:17 PM on October 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


My dad did all the cooking in my house growing up, and he got all kinds of credit for it - people commented on it, oh what a great husband he must be!, etc.

I do almost all of the cooking in our household and even in our social cohort (largely educated, socially progressive, etc) it is unusual enough that people comment on it constantly. Usually those comments are positive, sometimes puzzled or joking, and more often than you might expect they contain a barely-veiled criticism of my partner for not taking on her expected role and hence being a bad wife.

Cookbooks underscore this by not laying out recipes in a simple "do this, then this, then this" fashion to minimize how long everything takes.

Just the other day Mark Bittman had an article in the Times making this exact point, and giving a couple of example recipes (one quick but intense dish, another long and slow but with almost no work). Making that efficiency second-nature takes a lot of practice, though -- I've been cooking for myself for decades and I still goof it up all the time.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on October 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


"it's fine to buy vegetables already chopped up"
Maybe in your world. Absolutely not in mine. This is where I get supersanctimonious and actually do what klangklangston has been accusing me of doing this whole time that I have not been doing this whole time, namely announce that I must do it the hard way and present myself as a saint and a martyr (actually not, though, because I like this part, too). I have to get up every Saturday morning at 8 to get to the farmers' market by 8:30 so as to get the vegetables. Then I have to spend the next hour putting away the vegetables. If I don't wash and spin the lettuce Saturday, I won't eat it--it is long proven. So I must wash the lettuce. If something intervenes? Lettuce will liquify in the refrigerator. Always. No exceptions. (klangklangston! ALERT! This proves that I lied! I lied in the 5 a.m. minirant above where I said I washed lettuce! I didn't because I ain' fna wash lettuce on a weekday morning: that would be torture. I took a gallon ziploc of lettuce out of the crisper and dumped it in a tupperware bowl. A leaf of arugula fell on the floor. It is still there, along with the cucumber shards etc. reproaching me cruelly every time I enter the kitchen o the agony.) "Vegetables already chopped up" are slave-picked gassed-green shipped-from-godknowswhere pallid ancient withered insipid bits of cellulosic vileness and if you feed them to your family you may as well be forcefeeding them storebrand koolwip through a hose in the kitchen floor that leads to the crawlspace under the house where you have them all shackled to iron rings. That is me kidding on the square.

I do not find cooking "scary and fraught," good lord. It's fun--that's why I get up at the crack to do it and to go get the stuff so that I can do it. I like it a lot. It's just that parts of it are a pain in the ass, and the learning you'd have to do to render them not a pain in the ass is lifelong and not something most people can pick up right away, and it's really not a terrible thing to admit that every time you make a pie you notice that the last time you made a pie molten sugar dripped all over the bottom of the oven and you didn't clean it up and now it's on fire. There are a few solutions to the pain-in-the-ass problem. One is to get all zen and mystical about peeling garlic and turn it into a semireligious experience. Then there's the one I favor, which is to seek out new wizbang technological solutions to the garlic problem like the rubber mat thing and the twobowls method. And then there's a horrifying "solution" from out of a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie, which is to spoon garlic out of a JAR. Nope.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:57 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I do not find cooking "scary and fraught," good lord.

Many people do, as they have conveyed in this here thread. And if you're going to choose to do things the harder way, you don't really get to complain. As klangklangston said, that's just a humblebrag, and it's gauche at best.

Shortcuts are fine. Why? Because one of the major issues besetting home cooks is confidence--again, demonstrated right here in this thread. They see us (well, not me; I have a face for radio) on TV whipping up these gorgeous dishes without breaking a sweat--dishes that some food stylist generally massages for the hero shot. Using some prefab components is a gateway drug: it increases confidence in the end result. Increased confidence leads, incrementally, to branching out and trying new things. That is good for everyone. The sanctimoniousness shows an enormous lack of understanding of what life is like in the real world; a single parent working two jobs simply doesn't have time (or, usually, money) to be at the farmers market early in the morning or what have you. If there's a way they can put something reasonably nutritious and tasty on the table for their kids in twenty minutes instead of forty, that's a net gain for them--and it's better for the children, too. Being the sanctominous martyr, in fact, contributes to the very problem noted in the article this thread links to, and the problem that many people in this thread have articulated as hitting close to home.

Nobody should feel shame for not going to the farmers market, or not getting up at 5am, or not making a perfect fig galette. Or not peeling their own garlic. It would be nice if everyone could, if everyone wanted to, but that is not now and never will be the reality we live in. What can be changed is the culture of shame and guilt and unrealistic expectations that surround the act of feeding yourself and others. There should, instead, be pride in basic self-sufficiency and/or helping to provide for others who provide for you in turn. Anything that helps combat that shame is a good thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:18 AM on October 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


"There should be pride in basic self-sufficiency and/or helping to provide for others who provide for you in turn."
How is making a grilled cheese sandwich or boiling spaghetti and putting it on a plate better basic self-sufficiency/providing for others than putting a wedge of cheese and some olives on a plate? She tried cooking, she didn't like it, she elected to stop doing it and eat the amply available excellent food already prepared and all around. That's at least as good a life decision as deciding to quit trying to make complicated things and instead concentrate on finding the hidden joy in boiling Ronzoni and putting Prego and canned garlic on it.

"Using some prefab components is a gateway drug." That's a good point, and if she were a novice cook just learning how, that might work for her. But that's not what she is. She's somebody trained from childhood to cook from scratch and after years of practice, she's decided it's not worth the hassle. The culture of shame says that makes her a bad person in need of counseling. The culture of pride--MY culture--says that makes her a sensible person.

I'm not humblebragging, I'm just bragging. I have hours of free time and a decent gas stove and access to farmers who sell everything from chanterelles to duck eggs. I love to cook, I have plenty to eat, and if somebody takes a bite of something I cooked and then scrapes his plate back into the pot and says, "can I just add some fresh-peeled shaved garlic," I even have a house to kick that POS out of. I'm probably not going to be here forever, but for right now I'm in the lower middle class and the livin' is fine. As for complaining being "gauche," I'm baffled. Complaining is the conversational staff of life. If you're in some putrid socioeconomic class far enough above the one I'm in that it provides you the means to reproduce but not quite far enough above me that you have time and money to feed yourself and your issue on from-scratch farmers' market preparations and if on top of all that your peers don't count ready-to-eat food as sufficiently self-actualized and think if you feed your kids cheese and olives and the occasional box of Popeye's you are incompetent and maybe even evil, then I think your situation is terrible and I sympathize with you. I'm certainly not going to call you gauche if you complain about it. I think your complaints should be welcomed by a large and appreciative audience. Anybody who doesn't like cooking should absolutely stop it right now and tell everybody who objects to go pound sand, at length on the internet where I can read all about it.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:15 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow, just read this on The Toast.

It's really apropos, Pear Nuallak talking about her abusive Thai grandmother, the expectation on women to be nourishing and the role of food in all this.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:31 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


I went to sleep rested, un-buoyed by success, and un-flattened by failure. I thought of the snail genius, and how he probably never cooked a day in his life. Cooking tells you things about yourself that a busy man like him very likely didn't want to bother finding out.

What a weirdly sweeping assumption to make. She sure seems to be projecting some odd stuff on Dr. Snail. (No photographs in his books?!)

I can also eat the hell out of some St. Andre without going into an existential crisis because it costs $ or has a ton of fat in it...

I gave up on St. Andre a long time ago because it's almost impossible to find a decently-ripe piece. I'd rather buy a silky wedge of double-creme brie.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:35 PM on October 2, 2014


Nice essay, Omnomnom. It's really worth a read.
posted by klangklangston at 7:36 PM on October 2, 2014


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