Thursday, April 18, 2013

Processed

Sometimes an example of something I've been holding forth about for some time just kind of falls into my lap, or laptop as the case may be. Food-movement proponents want us to eat seasonally, but they themselves travel the world and get to sample the local cuisines of wherever they damn well please. They want us to cook more for ourselves, but they themselves, while they no doubt cook some of the time when home, are off sampling every last restaurant in Paris, but nothing too old-school. Processed food is fine, if it's an up-and-coming Parisian chef processing it.

And it's the kind of Paris travel journalism aimed Americans who've tired of Saint Germain, and who need to explore the Canal Saint-Martin area. Or who have grown bored of that as well. Not, in other words, trip-of-a-lifetime tourists. Writing restaurant reviews for the sophisticated crowd is a tough job but somebody's got to do it, and I say this as someone whose own work has led to lower-priced but plenty delicious Parisian food adventures, so no, not bitter. (Slightly bitter, but so it goes, pursuing dissertation research, not food writing.) My point is merely, gently, that if your year includes X fantastic meals in Parisian (and Californian, and so on) restaurants, then you're really not in a position to say how much of a sacrifice it is to go week after week, making the most of leftover lentils.

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Somewhat of a digression, but this cannot be emphasized enough, gender. Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan want a gender-neutral return to cooking. And it's just like Dan Savage's demand for a gender-neutral return to extramarital dalliances and looking the other way. We don't live in this gender-neutral world. So "monogamish," in the context of the world of actual people, means returning to the era of, men do as they please, and women don't dare divorcing them for it, because that wouldn't be nice to the children, as if the fault in such a scenario lies with the wife.

When it comes to cooking, same deal. As Jessica Grose recently reminded us, women still do far more of the housework. When men cook - and many do! - it's something special, something they've chosen to do, not something they feel obliged to do. The burden (and I say this as someone who enjoys cooking but knows enough to be realistic about it) could in theory fall equally to both sexes, but in practice, it doesn't. Demands that "we" spend more time in the kitchen are demands on women. Gender-neutral home-ec is a nice gesture, but it would hardly make a dent.

5 comments:

Petey said...

"Food-movement proponents want us to eat seasonally, but they themselves travel the world and get to sample the local cuisines of wherever they damn well please. They want us to cook more for ourselves, but they themselves, while they no doubt cook some of the time when home, are off sampling every last restaurant in Paris, but nothing too old-school."

Personally, I prefer Angela Merkel's locavore guide to Greek cuisine.

(That's your "too much horrible" for the day. Have I ever mentioned that I do not like Angela Merkel? And isn't it about time for another round of Nuremberg trials? What the hell is it with the Germans anyway? High-school teachers should be assigning their students essays on how to prove anti-German bias.)

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"Gender-neutral home-ec is a nice gesture, but it would hardly make a dent."

But men can be every bit as barefoot and pregnant as women, no? Except, er, never mind...

Flavia said...

Actually, my spouse does all the cooking (and baking). All. Of. It. Including making the coffee in the morning. He also does 100% of the grocery shopping.

I realize this isn't common, and I absolutely take your larger point, but I do think cooking is a more gender-neutral domain than other routine domestic activities. The general principle of chore division tends to result in the person who cares more about X doing more of X. So just as women spend more time cleaning house because they care more (in part because, yes, they get judged more harshly for failures in that area than men do), surely dudes with Pollanesque levels of interest in cooking at home are probably more likely to do it themselves--or not do it, as the case may turn out.

Phoebe said...

Flavia,

That could be. I do know plenty of men who cook, including who are the household cook. But I think Jessica Grose's point re: women being judged for not doing housework does extend to cooking. Possibly much more, though, when there are kids. When it's about mom cooking or not. As in, if a kid is seen with junk food, the question asked will be why the kid's mother allowed this to happen.

Britta said...

My bf is Italian and his mother does all the cooking, although he can cook a few dishes. I got him to do about 50% of the cooking by 1) refusing to spend money eating out, and then 2) offering to cook something that he doesn't like (not on purpose, it's just he doesn't like the stuff I cook when I'm lazy/tired.) Now that he cooks regularly, he's also more willing to cook because he's gotten faster/better at it. He does call his mom about 4 times during the cooking process to make sure he's doing it right, though ;)

Also, maybe this is a little embarrassing, but even though I don't agree with her policies at all towards the EU, I kind of like Angela Merkel. I don't know why, but there is something about her person that seems very...likable. I think the current state of Greece is atrocious, but the Greeks are probably the most responsible of any of the underwater countries for their predicament. They never qualified to join the Eurozone in the first place, but got help lying about the state of their national finances from American investment banks, and the government basically doesn't collect any taxes, especially from the rich. Sadly, it's the middle class and poor who get screwed over by this. I understand the German frustration towards Greece though, since billions of Euros were sunk into Greece that could have been spent helping Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal. FWIW, I think austerity is neoliberal BS that has been proven over and over again not to work, but also, throwing billions and billions of dollars into a corrupt and dysfunctional government that has no plans or desire to help its citizens is also not a very great idea.

Britta said...

Oh, Petey, I think you are right that the Germans have an amazing ability to make other Europeans hate them. It's almost as though the Germans were getting jealous that the Americans had taken over MHN (Most Hated Nation) status in Europe, so they had to do something to win back the lead.