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Home > On cooking, self-reliance, and being bought

On cooking, self-reliance, and being bought

August 28th, 2006 at 10:16 pm

So in my last entry, I established that I like to cook. A lot. Every day, in fact.

I thought it might be interesting to ruminate over how I got to where I am now. Because looking back at my history, I assure you that I wasn't always like this.

In the wee years of my youth (um, 10-ish years ago?), my mother told me that I needed to learn how to cook, because it's something that I'll have to do for my future husband.

Being a budding feminist who abhorred traditional gender roles (and, um, a rebellious teen to boot?), I was extremely indignant and offended, and vowed that if I even got married in the first place, *my* husband would be the one that cooked for *me*, thank-you-very-much. And I refused to cook out of sheer spite (or engage in any activity that could remotely be construed as "domestic", for that matter).

And this continued on... until college. Where everything changed.

Suddenly, I didn't have parents who cooked for me anymore. For the first time, I was responsible for feeding myself. And although there was a mandatory meal plan, the food served in the dining halls... left... much to be desired, let's just say, both culinarily as well as nutritionally.

Obviously, I wasn't alone in having to deal with this. I saw my college friends react by dropping frighteningly large amounts of money on eating out meal after meal, and I thought, "There is no way that such expense is sustainable!"

The turning point for me came when one of my friends invited me and a bunch of our friends to hang out with her at her mother's house. Her mother had prepared a meal for us, but she had no idea that in this particular group of people, vegetarians outnumbered carnivores, and one of our members was fully vegan.

The vegetarians ended up doing all right, all things considered, but the poor vegan had absolutely nothng he could eat. Even the salad had mayo in it.

My friend's mother was very apologetic, but it was my vegan friend's response that surprised me.

He said, "It's okay, please don't worry about it, this happens all the time. If you don't mind me looking through your fridge and cupboards, I can make myself something to eat."

And that was exactly what he did.

That was when it clicked. Being able to cook was a powerful skill, because you are no longer limited to someone else's menu. And this is especially relevant when you have dietary restrictions. I realized that as long as I needed to eat, I should be able to cook. Otherwise, I'll just be continuously reliant on others to provide one of my most basic physiological needs. And in most circumstances, I'll have to pay through the nose to get it.

I immediately stopped resisting learning how to cook to rebel against gender roles. Cooking is not relevant to gender. It is relevant to survival. It is a useful and indispensable LIFE SKILL. Being able to feed oneself is not only an act of responsibility, but an act of self-love.

I started to teach myself how to cook the summer after freshman year. It was rough at first, but I kept trying, and I gradually improved. And I've never looked back. When you get right down to it, cooking is edible biology and organic chemistry, and I am nothing if not a science geek, who is curious about how food is made, and likes to eat well. Smile

Recently, my new roommate, who cannot/does not cook at all, has gotten me thinking about all of this again. I've been whipping out meals every single night, and he apparently likes what he sees. He's always coming out of his room to survey what I'm making when I'm busy in the kitchen, and he'll constantly ask to try my food. I have given up on ever expecting to have leftovers (and the tragically small and low-quality cookware in the apartment does not help matters).

If I were in his situation, I would say, "Hey, can you teach me how to do that?"

Him? "I'll pay for all of your food if you'll make what you make for me, too."

Consumerist till the end. Trying to buy my services.

I'm not sure if I'm flattered or insulted. But maybe I'm just overly sensitive due to my history. (I just feel uncomfortable cooking for males who don't cook themselves. I am not their goddamn mother. Or wife, for that matter.) I *could* put the money I save (all of $60/mo, heh) towards an iPod, but... I still feel... used. I don't want cooking to turn into a chore or an obligation.

I told him I'll think about it. And that if he wanted this, he would seriously need to get bigger pots and pans, because the ones he's got can barely fit enough food to feed just me.

Wow. I don't really know what to say. I probably should have seen this one coming.

5 Responses to “On cooking, self-reliance, and being bought”

  1. LuckyRobin Says:

    First thing I did when I started dating my husband was teach him to cook. His repertoire expands every year. He just this year learned how to make "good" gravy and I was never more gleeful when he did. I hate making gravy, though I am good at it, it is just so much stirring over heat and I don't like heat much, even though I love cooking in general.

    For years we have had the "I'll cook if you clean up the mess" rule in our house. Works great for me both when I do want to cook and when I don't.

    I am teaching my daughter to cook in two years when she turns twelve and my son in 5.5 years when he turns twelve. That's when I learned, and I'm glad I did. Both kids have been able to cook in the microwave since age 5 and they love the independence.

    Have you offered to teach old moneybags roomie? Or just waited for him to ask? He probably won't ask, but he might still surprise you if you offer. Then maybe you can come home to a good meal he puts on the table sometimes.

  2. amberfocus Says:

    I think I have subconsciously made "can cook and/or bake" a requirement for dating. I'll only do something for the SO that he is willing to do back in some fashion. And vice versa.

    Good for you on planning to teach your kids! Your kids have about the same cooking capabilities as my 33-year-old roommate. Well, he can also use the toaster. Can your kids use the toaster?

    As for teaching 'old moneybags roomie' (heh, I got a good ironic chuckle out of that one, thanks!), I did offer. And I even showed him how to make a sushi roll. But the reaction that he gave was somewhere along the lines, "Wow, that's really cool" with the implication of "I'm so impressed, you're truly the expert, I'll leave this stuff to you." I have a feeling this will be his reaction to everything.

    (BTW, hand-rolling sushi is not hard. It takes all of five minutes. I once gave a workshop where I taught 15 people how to do it. They all learned fine.)

    He won't cook. Not that it's any of my business what he does in his spare time, but he basically just watches Netflix movies, browses eBay, plays Half Life 2, and reads the fine print on the credit card offers he gets in the mail.



  3. Dido Says:

    I really like your paragraph about cooking as a life skill and act of self-love.

    I too always figured that following a recipe was just another type of chemistry experiment!

    Your story reminds me of when I was your age. My first year out of college and in graduate school, I lived with a roommate who was a good cook. We decided to divide up the chores so that Chris did all the cooking for both of us and I did all the routine cleaning (dishes, bathroom, sweep/mop floors, take out trash). During that year, I not only learned to eat a greater variety of foods from what Chris cooked, but I also learned how to cook from watching and some instruction. Those skills have stood me in great stead in the 24 years since.

    As a side note, my father was the cook in my family, and Chris is also a guy, so all of my cooking knowledge comes from men. My SO is a good cook, but I end up doing a lot more of the cooking for the two of us because he's also good at household repairs, which I am not, so my tradeoff contribution is cooking our meals when he comes over and helps fix something in my house.

  4. Dido Says:

    I see in one of your comments on the other food post that your roomie is eating your cooked food anyways. If he's doing it anyways, make him pay for it!

    Think about it as using him rather than him using you (as implied in the "I'm not your mother" feelings). If he pays for the food and the larger pans, that's all the more money you can bank towards your savings goals for virtually no additional work, since it takes about the same amount of time to cook two portions (or four) than it does to cook one.

  5. amberfocus Says:

    > I really like your paragraph about cooking as a life skill and act of self-love.
    Yes, the key for me was realizing that by refusing to learn how to cook, I was only hurting myself, not a lofty, abstract evil such as "gender roles". Because really, in the end, who had no food to eat? Me! Blah, I have to value myself more.

    I'd love to have a cooking buddy, but no such luck, yet. I had no one to learn from when I first taught myself to cook, so it was trial-and-error after trial-and-error. SO MANY ERRORS. No wonder people give up!

    As for my roommie eating my food anyway--that's only if he gets to it first! Occasionally, he'll also avoid a dish because he doesn't like an ingredient I used. And he happens to dislike one of my favorite veggies--broccoli. Ha.

    I know that financially, I win out if I take his offer--I cook anyway, and I'll probably even up my spending if he were footing the bill (but I'll only "save" for myself what I would have spent myself). Right now, it's the easiest way I see to accumulating a guilt-free iPod fund.

    On the other hand, he's flaky/disorganized as hell when it comes to scheduling shopping trips, it takes so long to do a shopping trip because he insists on oogling over every single item/aisle instead of getting the stuff he needs and moving out. I could just send him to the store instead of going myself, but...

    *sigh* Dilemmas.


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