20 Mar Ladies, We Are What We Cook
ext time you find yourself terrifyingly bored at some de rigeur gathering – I’m talking bridal and baby showers, children’s birthday parties, Tupperware or the like – I’ve got just the thing to light a fire under the other ladies, guaranteed to instantly banish your boredom.
(Ah, you say. Now, this is dangerous line of thought. Who wants to talk about sex, politics or even sexual politics with a group of people whose ideas are likely informed by the crones on “The View”?)
Not a bit of it. I’m talking about food. What you eat. What you can’t eat. What you are allergic to. What makes you fat. What you love, hate or fear about food. What food meant in your family when you were growing up. The list is seemingly endless…
I predict you will find that many women in America spend a great deal of time obsessing about what they put in their mouths. I don’t know why this is, but this phenomenon is a fairly recent one.
In my childhood in the 1960s, my immigrant family hardly ever talked about food. Instead, they cooked. I live in Europe these days, where morbid obesity is still unusual, and most women are not noticeably overweight. And, they cook.
SICILIAN STREET MARKET: Beverly De Soto explores the famous market at Catania, where many of her own family’s recipes originate from.
I live in Europe these days, where obesity is still unusual, and most women are not noticeably overweight. And, they cook.
So, why do European women cook? Well, it is a matter of (wait, hold your nose) “lifestyle.”
With the welfare state taxing and redistributing the way it does, most women don’t have the “disposable” income to blow on fast, cheap and unhealthy food. Without millions of women roaming the highways looking for a fast food fix, Mc Donald’s ain’t on every Eurocorner, if you follow me.
So, they cook for themselves and their families. Which means that their families tend to sit down to a meal together at least once a day.
Like normal people.
The frantic American family lifestyle “choice” to cram chemically-altered food-like substances down our throats on our way to those all-important soccerpracticeyogagolfgymlunchappointments — simply, blessedly, doesn’t exist here in the Old Country.
So, why do American woman of (ahem) a certain age despise what the Brits so endearingly refer to as “cookery”?
Now, here’s where we get to the sexual politics. Back in the 1970s, the girls who went to college emerged with a chip lodged firmly on their shoulders. The personal was the political, and so the ordinary became the battleground. Housework was political — and cooking was really political. Very heady stuff for two generations of young women brought up sandwiched between Hollywood’s salacious mores and the fury of their feminist professors.
In my MBA days at Dartmouth, I was the only American woman in my class who cooked.
“Oh,” my female classmates would sniff, “I don’t cook.”
In the 1980s, not cooking was a way to show how you had more important things to do than slave over a hot stove. Hillary Clinton expressed it for an entire generation of American women when as a brand-new First Lady she sneered to a reporter inquiring about her plans, “What do you think I’m gonna do? Bake cookies?”
Fast forward to 2013, and America is laboring under an epidemic of obesity, health scares, anxiety, depression & divorce
Fast forward to 2013, and America is laboring under an epidemic of obesity, health scares, anxiety, depression, divorce – you name it. I think there is a connection here. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out even further and say this: your family dinner table is your family – and your family’s future.
Now, in case you think this is merely polemics, consider that the number one predictive factor for whether an American child will do well at university is not their parents’ level of education, socioeconomic status, race, religion or any other demographic.
It is whether their family ate dinner together.
Ah, consider the slavery of the poor European woman, chained to her stove. In her size eight dress, cooking healthy food, for her calm family.
Indeed, who would ever want to live like that?