Feminists are insufferable: Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner

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“The Tyranny of the Home-Cooked Family Dinner”

Author and perpetual feminist victim Amanda Marcotte

Author and perpetual feminist victim Amanda Marcotte

Slate: The home-cooked meal has long been romanticized, from ’50s-era sitcoms to the work of star food writer Michael Pollan, who once wrote, “far from oppressing them, the work of cooking approached in the proper spirit offered a kind of fulfillment and deserved an intelligent woman’s attention.” In recent years, the home-cooked meal has increasingly been offered up as the solution to our country’s burgeoning nutrition-related health problems of heart disease and diabetes. But while home-cooked meals are typically healthier than restaurant food, sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton from North Carolina State University argue that the stress that cooking puts on people, particularly women, may not be worth the trade-off.
I'm guessing it wasn't discussed at this gathering...

The researchers interviewed 150 mothers from all walks of life and spent 250 hours observing 12 families in-depth, and they found “that time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others make it difficult for mothers to enact the idealized vision of home-cooked meals advocated by foodies and public health officials.” The mothers they interviewed had largely internalized the social message that “home-cooked meals have become the hallmark of good mothering, stable families, and the ideal of the healthy, productive citizen,” but found that as much as they wanted to achieve that ideal, they didn’t have the time or money to get there. Low-income mothers often have erratic work schedules, making it impossible to have set meal times. Even for middle-class working mothers who are able to be home by 6 p.m., trying to cook a meal while children are demanding attention and other chores need doing becomes overwhelming.
Money is also a problem (I wonder why?). Low-income women often don’t have the money for fresh produce and, in many cases, can’t afford to pay for even a basic kitchen setup. One low-income mother interviewed “was living with her daughter and two grandchildren in a cockroach- and flea-infested hotel room with two double beds,” and was left to prepare “all of their food in a small microwave, rinsing their utensils in the bathroom sink.” Even when people have their own homes, lack of money means their kitchens are small (oh noes, confined cooked space!), pests are hard to keep at bay, and they can’t afford “basic kitchen tools like sharp knives, cutting boards, pots and pans.” (Ever hear of Goodwill?)
Beyond just the time and money constraints, women find that their very own families present a major obstacle to their desire to provide diverse, home-cooked meals. The women interviewed faced not just children but grown adults who are whiny, picky, and ungrateful for their efforts (sounds like these families have spoiled brats). “We rarely observed a meal in which at least one family member didn’t complain about the food they were served,” the researchers write. Mothers who could afford to do so often wanted to try new recipes and diverse ingredients, but they knew that it would cause their families to reject the meals. “Instead, they continued to make what was tried and true, even if they didn’t like the food themselves.” The saddest part is that picky husbands and boyfriends (those evil men again) were just as much, if not more, of a problem than fussy children.
The researchers quote food writer Mark Bittman, who says that the goal should be “to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden.” But while cooking “is at times joyful,” they argue, the main reason that people see cooking mostly as a burden is because it is a burden. It’s expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates (as if every family is full of these) who would rather just be eating fast food anyway. If we want women—or gosh, men, too (as if men have never learned how to cook)—to see cooking as fun, then these obstacles need to be fixed first. And whatever burden is left needs to be shared.
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0 responses to “Feminists are insufferable: Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner

  1. wow… Last night my family had fried chicken (I cooked), corn on the cob (my little one and I shucked), banana pudding (my little one and I made) and to save time (gasp) tatter tots instead of homemade mash potatoes. Hard work? …sure, but spending time with a child that tells me he wants a wife like me that smiles while I cook…… priceless….
    I guess these girls would find baking homemade bread every week for my family mentally exhausting….I feel sad for them… I love my family.
    …time management anyone?
    ps. i predict the banana pudding be gone by Saturday if not by tonight. We won’t even talk about my dear friend Marmee that cooks for 11 kids. I call that selfishness and an awesome mother and friend that still has time to teach others.

    • “I call that selfishness and an awesome mother and friend that still has time to teach others.”
      Surely you meant “selflessness” there? Not to pick on you, your comments pleased my heart — I think that way down inside, most men would love to have a wife who smiles while she cooks!
      My own wants and needs are quite modest — if I even had a woman who would cook me fish sticks and tater tots once or twice a week, and lasagna once or twice a month, my life would be immeasurably improved!

      • …giggle.. thank you for the correction. my heart is full this morning.
        …funny we had fish-sticks this week as well. I was determined to have leftovers from some 60 sticks!… well, no such luck! …i ate the last four! If I could, I would ship you some banana pudding for such kind words… they were needed this morning. Thank you for making my load lighter today and making me laugh.

        • you know, j. case… I DO have a recipe for tater tot casserole. It makes two very large pan-fulls….except I cheat and do my own soup in it and not the chicken soup it ask for. 😉 …if you would like it, please let me know… Happy Friday!

          • “Thank you for making my load lighter today and making me laugh.”
            My pleasure! You have no idea how much it delighted me to read that!
            “I DO have a recipe for tater tot casserole.”
            Sounds yummy!! 😛 But two big pans full?!? Oh my, I’d be eating it for days and *still* end up throwing out a panload….
            Even so, I’ll still share with you my recipe that I invented and call “Barbarian Chili Dogs”, if you’re up to it.

            • lol…yes, please! Sounds dangerous!
              ps. with the two pan fulls…either you give one to a friend or freeze the other…

      • “if I even had a woman who would cook me fish sticks and tater tots once or twice a week, and lasagna once or twice a month, my life would be immeasurably improved!”
        That’s just sad….
        To all the hate-spewing feminists:
        Home-cooked family dinners are healthier, less expensive, and occasions for the family to actually spend time together. That you see cooking as yet another form of oppression by “the patriarchy” is really a testament to your brainwashed soul-lessness. Why do you even bother to have a family?

        • Why do they even bother to live. Just end it all already!!

        • “if I even had a woman who would cook me fish sticks and tater tots once or twice a week, and lasagna once or twice a month, my life would be immeasurably improved!”
          ‘That’s just sad….’
          What, that I lead such a solitary life? It’s not what I would have chosen for myself y’know, but I wasn’t consulted; as a man far wiser than I am once observed, “Real life is all the stuff that happens while you’re busy making other plans”.
          As the years have gone by, and turned into decades, I’ve always been able to hold on to my sense of humor; it is a gift from God, and it is a gift from my mom, and the only times that I’ve been truly frightened for myself have been the brief periods when even that dried up and died within me.

          • Amazing how you took my comment to be an insult. I felt sorry for you, and sad that American men can’t find women who want to cook.
            Cooking for our families, like any financially uncompensated service, is an act of love — and should be understood and appreciated as such by husbands, children, and wives (there are many men who cook!). Meals prepared from scratch, instead of fast and junk food, is also good for our own health, which means cooking is also an act of love to ourselves.

            • Doc… (to me) it did sound a bit harsh with a three word sentence. Perhaps with the rest of what you stated… …that American men can’t find women who want to cook. …but I knew what you meant! 🙂 You speak so eloquently at times while hitting the nail right on the head!
              I have to remind myself others might not read what I am feeling. At times I wish we could see one another!

            • “Amazing how you took my comment to be an insult.”
              But I said no such thing! Despite the brusqueness of your 3-word comment, I simply asked what it was that you thought sad, rather than jumping to conclusions, and added a few thoughts of my own on the matter — my life IS sad, I am beset by sorrows and losses, but as long as my sense of humor stays intact, I get by; life is what it is, and many other folks have things far worse than I do.

  2. Golly, my mum, whose family were LEGAL immigrants from Sicily, and from whom I first learned to cook ‘from scratch,’ used to say “There’s nothing more pathetic than a man who can’t cook and sew for himself!”
    I was raised in a tough, old-time Chicago neighbourhood, now gentrified beyond my belief, and 8th grade boys at L M Alcott PS were required to take Home Economics classes, which included cooking & sewing.
    You cannot imagine what it was like seeing the toughest guys squirm in their attempts to master the basics!
    Yet every future Mafioso already knew how to make a good red sauce, pasta, and prep seafood, skills needed when it was “time to go to the mattresses!” Those were the days, for sure!

  3. This whole column is a very nice complement to the “Feminism is Communism” column that is also freshly posted today. I’ll try to make a link here:
    The feminists and other commie-libs set out with a plan to do everything possible to destroy the home and the family, and I see this “study”, along with the accompanying whining, to be just more of that effort. Family mealtime, especially dinner, was one of the things that they set sights on as a good place to drive in a destructive wedge, and they’ve done that from multiple directions — from one side, they insult and denigrate, and from another side they whine about how difficult and unfair things are.
    It’s not always easy to cook a good meal for a family? Gosh, who knew!! Trying to please other people can be frustrating and isn’t always possible?? Noooooo, say it ain’t so!! Where’d you park your squad car, Dick Tracy?!?
    Hey libs, get a clue! Life itself is usually hard, and rarely fair — gird your loins and get over it! And shut up, sit down, and get over yourselves while you’re at it. Your life being hard does not mean that you are oppressed, it’s just one facet of the human condition, and if you’d stop trying to blame everyone else for that, you just might find some satisfaction, and even pleasure, at the accomplishment of dealing with problems and difficulties.

  4. “the stress that cooking puts on people, particularly women, may not be worth the trade-off.”
    I’m sorry what? Its stressing to cook a homemade meal now? I have never eaten fast food due to my mother and grandmother always cooked and as i got older they tougjt me.it just looks and smells disgusting. Would you rather put chemicals in your children and yourself which will lead result in bad health.
    They’re just lazy and stupid, buying ready to heat up food.
    No. Fresh vegetables from garden, meat and eggs from local a local farmer. Freshly caught fish.
    No chemicals in the food. A proper meal with nutriton as it should be.
    Shame on the women who calls themselves feminists just to get attention. World is turning into a dangerous hazard. Not the way our lord intended it for us.
    Boycott all fast food restaurants and do as I do written above you’ll feel much better within just a few days when your body has been purged from chemicals.
    God be with you all and may he always protect those who keep their faith close to their heart no matter what.

    • “I’m sorry what? Its stressing to cook a homemade meal now?” Just for the record, not only do I agree w/you, but I find cooking AND doing the dishes BY HAND at the window to be relaxing & soul-satisfying.
      My mother taught me that “It’s as easy to cook for six as for one or two,” [took me 40 yrs to get that under control, although one of my housemates said “We have the best left-overs in Victoria!”],

  5. And if you have little time prepare a meal and in a hurry make a snack like avocado with tomatoes and sea salt.

    • Good one, I’ll do that tonight! Why is it that avocados [which only grow in a greenhouse in Kanada], cost less here than in the US? Can someone enlighten me on this?

  6. First we’re told being a housewife and all the duties that usually come with it (such as the topic of cooking) is “beneath our true potential”, only to turn around and say preparing a meal is TOO DIFFICULT?!? It took every ounce of self-control to prevent me from screaming incoherently. *Sigh* Were do I start?
    …Never mind. I’d better keep that question rhetorical, because I’ll probably never shut up.

  7. My family knew that whatever I put on that table YOU WILL EAT. My kitchen was not a restaurant. Food is not a luxury.
    That being said, I would quietly give the child who hated peas less peas than the others. The child who was allergic to seafood his own special tortellini. The husband who lost all his teeth to a congenital gum disease specially cooked tender meat.
    And all of it was an expression of love.

    • “And all of it was an expression of love.” As indeed it was, as I do w/my meals, as best I can.
      In Zen Buddhism, the abbot often selects the monk whom he feels is most enlightened to be the cook, as a special regard is deemed necessary in food preparation.
      Here is a traditional Zen poem about our daily chores:
      Doing dishes,
      cooking meals,
      splitting firewood:
      what miracles these are!
      Everything is blest, if only we have the eyes to see, ears to hear, and our hearts are not hardened!

  8. “Hey libs, get a clue..” I SO agree, since everything I’ve heard so far that comes out of their very own mouths demonstrates that they are not even CLOSE to having a clue. Very sad–you’re missing so much–hope you make some real discoveries about life before you run out of time.

  9. Even before we got married, my partner in life and myself had sworn to take on the responsibility of having a family. That meant that one of us would NOT be punching a clock, which also meant that one of us would be the “bread winner” while the other was the “domestic engineer”.
    Neither of these positions is easy at all. Both have an enormous strain on them, and society trying to tell you all the time that it’s wasteful for both parents not to work. We decided to thumb our nose up at society, and raise a family the way we had been raised instead.
    We sacrificed a LOT to do this. We could have had a much larger house, and two cars all the time, and nicer furniture (the nice furniture was all the stuff I built in the garage.) We almost never got to “go out”, and even a purchase of 100.00 had to be a “joint venture” for approval.
    We lived in a time when parents had stopped doing the “dad goes to work and mom stays home” thing. We received more than a little criticism for this. We even had people tell us our children would be “sociably challenged” because they didn’t get the advantage of growing up in a “daycare” system.
    Let me tell you. All that stuff is crap. Words that could NOT be MORE true are, “If you are not raising your children, then someone else is.”
    Who would you trust?

  10. My husband has retired, and I work a full week, so we only see each other on weekends. But when I come over on Friday night he has the most awesome dinners waiting for me. Somethimes they are simple and hearty, sometimes very complicated and gourmet, and sometimes they are “secret” family recipes, but the pride that shines from his eyes when I praise his always-delicious food is worth every hour that I work.
    Feminists are indeed pathetic little filthy insects to denigrate one of the most creative endevours that a woman or man can perform. No, I take that back. It’s an insult to the insects of the world.

  11. Thank you for this post!
    One of my most prized possessions is what I refer to as my Master Cookbook, the only cookbook I own with my tried and true recipes I accumulated all my life.
    I am getting married this coming June and can’t wait to make these meals for my husband and any future children someday.
    I never eat at restauants because I feel I make meals that taste 10 times better than any restaurant plus it saves a lot of money to eat at home and I know restaurants prepare meals with lots of artificial ingredient- colors, flavors, preservatives and msg, and I don’t want that stuff in our meals.
    I cook as organic and natural as I can. I am an excessive label reader.
    I prefer to prepare my own food.
    I have always been the “Happy Homemaker” type.
    When my fiance was making an appointment for us to meet with his pastor who was going to marry us for premarital counseling, my fiance said the pastor’s wife rolled her eyes when my fiance said that I wanted to be a stay-at-home wife and mother if my fiance’s income allowed it.
    Needless to say- we got another pastor to marry us.


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