I’ve often pondered some of the ideas put forth in this article by Emily Matchar, “Is Michael Pollan a Sexist Pig?” Not if Michael Pollan is a sexist pig, because quite honestly that particular thought had never crossed my mind. In fact, that’s a pretty weighty accusation to throw at a person, so I’m still not inclined to think that thought very hard.
But what I have wondered, and quite often, is how feminism could have affected how we eat. The article clearly shows other historical factors– not just feminism– affecting how we perceive and produce food. Big business isn’t really discussed. Yet. After all, this is an excerpt from a book. I’ve got the feeling Big Business will be getting its own chapter– at least I hope so. On the other hand, I don’t see how something as huge as feminism could not affect how we eat. I really want to read this book!
You see, I am also reading this article in the New Yorker about Shulamith Firestone. It provides a lot of context, not just about Firestone, but about the movement in general. It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that this era did see marriage as shackles, childbirth as a brutality– so why not see food preparation as something equally destructive? They had to be militant at this stage, as counterintuitive as it seems to me now as a modern woman, because they had so much to rebel against. They were probably a fairly unlikable and brash bunch– at least that how it seems in this article. But if they lived in a society that was so primed against them, and they really believed in their cause, I’d really like to know how they could possibly have fashioned themselves in any other way and still get the job done.
They did get the job done.
We have the luxury now of being diplomatic. Many of our husbands and fathers are not afraid to call themselves feminists. Women in the 1960s did not have that luxury.
So, when the Salon article (book excerpt!, I must remind myself, to allow for the things that I felt needed more discussion) dismisses feminism from the question of household food preparation, it feels hasty. How can something so far-reaching not affect something that mostly housewives did?
On the other hand, blaming feminism and the working woman for our nation’s nutritional decline is a cop-out. I make meals at home nearly every night, and it takes about half an hour or less, if it doesn’t involve making dough or something. All from scratch– if you count some occasional frozen vegetables as scratch. For example, here’s a sample dinner: catfish, greens and rice.
I put the rice and water in the pressure cooker. It will be done in about 15 minutes. In the saucepan it takes 20– still no big deal, right? I like using the pressure cooker, though, because I can make enough rice for my husband to take for lunch for the next few days.
I put oil, garlic, fresh greens and cherry tomatoes in a stockpot on medium low. They’ll be done in about 15-30 minutes, too, depending on if I’m using kale or collards. If you’re in a hurry, don’t cook kale! Choose something like chard or collards. Or spinach! That’s done almost before it hits the pot!
Then I heat the frying pan with oil, slap some catfish fillets in some flour (both sides), and cook them for about seven minutes on each side. Everything’s usually done at about the same time. It’s one of our favorite dinners, and it honestly only takes about half an hour to make. No cans of soup, no bottled sauces (however, I LOVE the Island Soyaki they have at Trader Joe’s. No preservatives, though!). It’s not fancy, but it’s fast, tasty and homemade, and there are no processed foods in it. Admittedly, I’m not working this semester, but I’ve been making variations of this dinner since I was about eighteen– working, not working, pregnant, nursing a baby, single, married, perky, and in a zombie-like trance.
Nearly all the dinners I make are interchangeable with this timeline. Exchange chicken, beef, or another fish for catfish. Switch another vegetable for greens. Do noodles or gnocchi instead of rice. It still all takes about half an hour. Seriously, what’s the big deal?
So when people tell me, “Oh, I’m so tired when I get home from work!” I think, what do you do for half an hour that isn’t this? I also think of my husband, who often comes home straight from work and shoves me out of the kitchen so that he can do this himself. He comes home and wants to cook. And I think that’s what it all boils down to, regardless of gender. You either want to spend that half hour avoiding preservatives and extra sugary calories or prepackaged hidden sodium, making a home cooked meal, relaxing with a glass of wine and chatting about your day– or you want to spend that half hour with your feet up on an ottoman, channel-surfing or on the internet. If you are the latter, don’t be lazy and blame it on feminism. Call a spade a spade, and declare that you’d rather be doing something else.