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If you enjoy cooking, good for you. But for women who don't, to have cook three meals a day, day in and day out, all of their lives is nothing more than torture.
If you enjoy cooking, good for you. But for women who don’t, to have to cook three meals a day, day in and day out, all of their lives is nothing more than torture.
Cooking is a scam perpetuated on women by the patriarchy.
Just typing that down makes me feel like a deflated balloon. So relieved.
Never thought I would write a post like this, but I have been thinking about it a lot and discussed it with both a man and a woman friend and surprisingly, both agreed, so I got some validation for this.
To put this in context:
I started cooking as a hobby only when I was 19, purely out of interest. After that, I only started daily cooking after I got married at 29. Even then not much because my ex had his breakfast and lunch at the office canteen, but after I had a child and got separated, it was more or less a daily affair.
I come from a family of foodies and the dining table was always strewn with dishes from one end to the other, but both my grandmothers and my mother always had domestic help, as in cooks, even though they all were excellent cooks themselves and loved plying their families with all delicious as well as ‘exotic’ foods rustled up from the TV, magazines, friends, etc.
This was always ably enabled by the men in the family, who were all foodies. My mom would not have been able to juggle her career as a doctor without efficient house-help but my dad used to pitch in with the usual chores if the help was not there – such as washing the dishes or doing the laundry.
But food management was always left to the woman of the house.
In every family that I know of, whether it was my grandparents or parents or aunts/uncles, cousins, friends. Every single one of them.
You have to understand that it’s not just cooking that is the labor here, which is merely the physical part. There’s also the mental part, which is the meal planning, grocery planning, budget management, pantry stocking, fridge stocking, etc.
Mostly when men boast that they ‘help’ their wife in cooking, or they come in to the kitchen to cook a dish on a special occasion (like my dad if my mom was sick or the cook was off), then they are just waddling into the kitchen and cooking and leaving. There’s no thought given to the before and after process.
This is a mental and physical labor-intensive thing that women have been exclusively doing for millennia, day in and day out, for breakfast, lunch, 4 pm snacks, dinner, with not a weekend off or even a festival or special occasion off.
Yes, even festivals, no matter what the religion, is built on the backs of women’s labor. Every plum cake you eat, every biryani you wolf down, every sadya you devour, have you thought if the women in the house had had time to rest and frolic like the men and kids do?
We all have to eat. It’s a basic human need for survival. And foodies like me need yummy food too, not just any food!
But why has it evolved to be that only women have to do it? Even if it was like that in olden days, why even now?
If you do it because you truly enjoy it, well and good.
But what if you don’t enjoy it but still have to do it because nobody else will? That pisses me off.
Women are given a lot of patriarchal validation for honing their cooking skills. I got this a lot from my father, who loved my cooking and my food blog, and was my ardent follower. I got this a lot from my ex, from his colleagues, from my ex-in-laws as well, who praised my cooking skills.
I also actually get this a lot from my own son, who loves my cooking so much that he absolutely hates eating out and SULKS if I take him to a restaurant. And because I cooked a wide range of cuisine from Kerala to Punjabi to Thai and Mediterranean, he hates ‘junk’ food and will compromise only if I take him to a ‘proper’ restaurant where he can get ‘proper’ food.
All this used to make me puff up with pride once upon a time.
I started a food blog when my son was one year old, in 2010. I started a Facebook community around that blog which is now still active though I stopped blogging, but would update the page with my daily cooking.
I got a lot of pats on the back for this from my aunts, cousins, friends.
I write about so many other things, such as movies, books, politics, feminism. I write poetry. I write short stories. I make memes. But none of these would get as many comments as my recipes and food posts.
And now, I just resent that.
I hate it as much as I hated it when my dad introduced me to my ex-husband’s aunts at my wedding reception saying, ”She’s a fantastic cook”. I felt sad that he didn’t say, ”She’s a fantastic writer”. Or that she’s funny. Or that she’s caring. Or that she has good general knowledge. Or that she used to win the first prize at every English elocution and essay writing competition and drama from school to college. He didn’t say all that.
All he said was that, ”She’s a fantastic cook”. Because he knew that’s what would impress my ex’s family. Because, patriarchy.
Can you imagine how much talent and potential and intelligence and works of art would have been unleashed in this world by women if they didn’t have to cook three meals a day, day in and day out, all of their lives?
After 60, men can truly retire or continue their work or start a new hobby. But women? Do they ever retire from this?
Ever since I got back from Kerala, where my mom has a cook and I never had to cook a single meal a day, and that freed me up with so much time to just do what I wanted to do, I am thinking about this.
The first thing I did was to hire a cook. I had never done that before. I never had even a domestic help in the 6 years since I left my marriage.
This is not an ideal situation, because I am outsourcing the cooking to another woman, who does not have the privilege to free herself from these patriarchal shackles. I am well aware of that.
I made my peace with it by saying that the money I give her for her labor is making a financial difference in her life.
I made my peace with the ‘schoolteacher’ voice in me that said as a single mother, a cook is a luxury that I cannot afford and I would be better off investing that amount of money in an SIP or RD.
I told that voice in me to FO.
When I don’t have to bother about cooking, I am left with so much free time in my mind and on my hands. It doesn’t matter if I use that free time to sleep or watch Netflix or meet up with friends or go on a date or paint or read or have a pedicure. I don’t care.
If I ever invite a man into my life again as a life partner, I can sure as hell assure you that I won’t be the only one responsible for the before and after of food appearing on the table on a daily basis.
This is why for the past decade or so, I have not been cooking on my birthday. Everyone asks me, what’s special, and I say I ordered out, I am not entering the kitchen on my birthday!
And festivals? I cater in the food!
Memories can be made from more than just food.
Image source: shutterstock
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Karishma has been writing short stories since she was 8 and poetry since she was 12. She ended up studying Zoology, then Montessori, and then psychology, always feeling ‘’something was missing’. She worked in the read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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