Mark Bittman on Feminism

By Kay Steiger

bittmanWhen Mark Bittman and José Andrés came to my place of work, The Center for American Progress, last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with Bittman and talk about a bunch of things. Weirdly enough, like many discussions I have, the topic turned to feminism.

For a long time, I resisted this notion that I should cook because as a feminist blogger and writer I resented the idea that as a woman I’m expected to cook.

I think it’s an unfortunate circumstance; it’s a perfectly understandable circumstance, but I think that’s why in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and well into the nineties food had a problem in this country because women—quite correctly—resented being put in that position. … But maybe in the long run, it’s better. … [Hopefully] you’ll wind up with a partner that either wants to cook or agrees that you’ll cook when you feel like it. That’s the status now and I know where you’re coming from, but you’re not going to not cook either because you like it.

Part of the reason food went downhill in this country, the biggest reason, was this marketing assault on the part of convenience food manufacturers that said, “Well, food needs to be convenient.” But why did people want to hear that? Women wanted to hear that because they were sick and tired of making dinner every night while raising the kids and, increasingly from the seventies on, having jobs. So they wanted to hear, “Oh, you don’t have to work so hard. You can put something in the microwave.” It’s too bad, it’s shit, but that’s the way it goes. But now we have—you know, maybe it’s just my kids—but we have this generation of people who say, “I want to cook. I want decent food and I’m not going to get it if I don’t cook.” Everybody knows you can’t afford to eat out all the time.

Go ahead and read the whole thing.

4 responses to “Mark Bittman on Feminism

  1. Hmm. Your instinct may have been right! Check out this NY Times interview and note the section on cooking and its role in creating/perpetuating “a novel system of male cultural superiority.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/27/books/27garn.htm

  2. I totally hear you.

    I love cooking. My two biggest hobbies are cooking and photography – I am not that good at either one, but I love them. When it came time for my birthday gifts, it was pretty obvious to anyone who knew me well that it should be something cooking related (because the photography stuff I want is too expensive to be a gift). Well, some of my friends vetoed that because they said it was sexist! I still like what they got me, but … either of the cooking options would have been a lot better.

    If it was someone who doesn’t know me very well, I would get that they’re concerned about what a cooking related gift might say. But come one, these are my friends! They’ve all been invited to dinners at our place, they all make fun of me ad how I like to cook and make stuff from scratch!

    Not only that, but I got no birthday gift at all from my parents because of the same reasons. First of all, I would have preferred a crappy little detail they had bought by themselves, but that didn’t happen; and when they came to visit they asked me what I wanted. I gave them a couple of cooking related options or told them that anything photography related they might find. My mother insisted on buying me clothes – I insisted on refusing (honestly, clothes I ca buy for myself, clothes I don’t really care for, and in clothes my mother’s taste and mine differ). She – my mother, who is an amazing cook – refused. So I got nothing.

    It’s not the gifts themselves, because in both situations I would have been more than happy to get absolutely nothing and just have a nice evening out with my friends and parents. It’s the fact that they asked, I gave options, and they very forcibly ignored things that I would love just because they though that “cooking” + “woman” + “gift” was inappropriate.

  3. I had a friend in college who was so clueless he didn’t know how to do his own dishes (apparently his mother had hired help). Another friend (male) and I taught him how to thaw meat, brown meat, saute onions, etc. so he didn’t eat out every night. For graduation, several of us went in together and got him several cookbooks — including a cookbook like you would give an 8-year old (Cooking for Dummies was too advanced).

  4. Pingback: Taste T.O. - Food & Drink In Toronto » Food for Thought - Tuesday, June 2nd

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