The XX Factor

Cooking Is a Great Use of Your Time

Margaret , I’m usually the first to get my back up against the wall when mostly male foodie-writers implore already overworked women to get back into kitchen and save the health of the nation by doing more cooking from scratch. For instance, Michael Pollan has teed me off on this front before, since he clearly thinks women are easier to bully on this front, and so bully women he shall do. But I don’t feel intimidated by a few articles here and there aimed at foodies about how to make your own bread from scratch, particularly when you’re talking about Mark Bittman, whose recipes often are about minimizing the number of steps from A to Z. They’re speaking to hobbyists; I never get the impression that Bittman thinks time-consuming recipes are some mandate on his readers.

The domesticity trend definitely has its anti-feminist side, especially when you see articles like the infamous Lisa Belkin-penned one on the (statistically insignificant) ” opt-out revolution .” And should anyone try to sell me on the joys of housework, I’m going to laugh in his or her face. But on the whole, I can’t be upset at this trend, because at its heart, the promotion of cooking and other domestic arts seems aimed at an audience that wants to have relaxing hobbies that produce things they can be proud of. I want to hate Martha Stewart but I can’t. Half the time I watch her show out of the corner of my eye at the gym, I can’t help but think that the project she’s working on seems like fun.

You ask if spending seven hours making bread is a good use of a young professional’s time. Well, I guess part of me has to ask why all our time has to be accounted for as maximized productivity. As someone who enjoys puttering, cooking is an excellent way to unwind after a day spent doing real, career-advancing, political-goal-advancing work. I slap a record on the record player and chop by hand and take a moment away from the latest technological craze to enjoy a little Luddite sensuality.

My potential feminist objections to the cooking craze have been mollified by the number of couples in aforementioned urban professional careers who spend their down time together in the kitchen. Turning it into a hobbyist craze has done more for pushing men into the kitchen than any amount of feminist guilt-tripping could ever do, and for that, I’m grateful to writers who push elaborate recipes as mountains to be conquered instead of just dirty work done to feed a family, thereby making it more appealing to men.