Like most women, I have a large collection of cookbooks in my kitchen. I’ve got the requisite Company’s Coming series, the 4-H 2 volume set, the school’s millennium project cookbook, assorted Weight Watchers cookbooks and more. Heck, I’ve got David Poulsen’s “Cowboy’s Country Cookbook”. Autographed.
I’ve got leaflets, booklets, photo copies. I’ve got shared recipes on index cards and scraps of paper. I’ve got product tie-in recipes ripped off cans and boxes. I’ve got recipes from Mother, from friends, from television and magazines. Recipes promising good nutrition or sinful indulgence. Recipes promising mouth watering results in only 30 minutes. Recipes calling for eye of newt and wing of bat. And all beautifully illustrated with luscious photographs of meals artfully arranged by food stylists.
The one definitive title, however, is Peg Bracken’s “The I Hate to Cook” book
Though it was written forty years ago, I do remember as a new bride in the mid ’70s, thinking it spoke to me. With chapter headings like “The Leftover — Or Every Family Needs a Dog” and “Company’s Coming — Or Your Back’s to the Wall.” It’s funny stuff. Bracken points out, quite correctly, “that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking.”
It made good reading. And I even tried some of the recipes which is more than I can say for many of the cookbooks in my collection.
It’s not that I actually hate cooking per se. It’s just that it’s not that important to me. It’s more a gender duty, an obligation as wife and mother. And don’t think it’s easy to confess all this. Even in 2003, in some circles, much of a woman’s self-worth is measured by the flakiness of her piecrust, the tenderness of her pot roast, the lightness of her omelette. I don’t make these rules and I certainly don’t have to accept the results.
I can appreciate the passion and talent of all the Martha Stewart wannabes. I can even grudgingly admire those women who live to cook. I just don’t happen to be one. I console myself with the fact there are many things I can do that elude others. I can paint a beautiful landscape. I can write a powerful sentence. I can solve problems. I can make people laugh. In the big picture, I’d put those talents up against any bread-baking-shish-kebob-skewering-mushroom-stuffing-cake-decorating woman anywhere.
I’ve seen one episode of the Iron Chef and think it’s asinine. I know cookbooks and cooking shows have huge followings and tremendous economic spin-off and that’s great.
I’ve tasted some wonderful food. Food to die for. I’ve also been in settings where food is measured by the lineal foot as opposed to the taste factor.
I’ve been in fine restaurants where presentation and the fawning of the servers is almost more delectable than the two tiny roasted potatoes, three baby carrots, one asparagus tip and paper-thin prime rib entrée.
Recent survey results show the majority of people, at 4 P.M., have no idea what’s for supper tonight. That’s me. Didn’t thaw anything out. Didn’t pick a recipe. Didn’t buy the ingredients. Haven’t got a clue.
So, yet again, I’m praying for an invitation out. The charity of strangers. A church supper. Anything. From where I sit, just don’t make me cook.
*Reprinted with permission