Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Kitchen Tools and Other Dupes
I've been reading a variety of food-related weblogs since starting my own. In general, I've been inspired far more than I've been annoyed. But in agreeing with a recent post on Smitten Kitchen*, I was reminded how much "my husband won't eat ____, so I can't cook ____" posts or comments on food sites have confounded me.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about excluding ingredients because of food allergies or dietary choices like veganism. Also, choosiness is not a big deal when the picky eater prepares his or her own food and doesn't enforce his/her rules on others. I don't think people should be forced to eat food they don't like (though it might "build character," or stretch the palate if done judiciously).
I do think it's too bad when a cook or eater is limited by his/her partner's palate, especially when there are statements being made that I feel give evidence of a certain level of arbitrariness, silliness and exaggeration on the picky eater's part (such as, "He doesn't like vegetables" or "He won't eat anything green").
I will admit that I have a fairly low tolerance for irrationally (yeah, that's a subjective word) picky eaters in general (it slows everybody down; why enable it?) and I would not be able to suffer the fool gladly if my husband fell into that category. But I also don't like the sexism lurking behind the assumption that a woman should only cook what her partner likes to eat.
I see sexism here because, so far, I have only witnessed these "I can't cook x because my significant other won't eat it" comments being made by women about their husbands or boyfriends. I'm sure there are exceptions out there and examples of men cooking for picky women or LGBTQ?UI2APO couples/groups in which this is an issue, but I haven't run across any yet - and I expect they're in the minority.
Also, I suspect there are men (and perhaps women) who think it is "macho" for a man to not like vegetables, which is ridiculous, and who might therefore play up what is actually mild distaste for a few specific vegetables prepared specific ways - or a general preference for meat dishes - in order to seem more stereotypically manly.
I'm also interested in the history and reality of the sociocultural role of "woman in the kitchen," but I'll set that aside for now, before this post gets even more complex and semi-colon-y, saying only that I do think that "Who Cooks for Whom - and When, and What and Who Cleans Up?" ought to be a topic of conversation in every new partnership - and should never be automatically decided based on biology or gender.
Whew. Hold on. Nobody who likes to cook or eat needs to step out of the kitchen at this point. But I played around with making some rules and will consider myself free to adjust them as needed - in the interest of equity. I know; life isn't fair. My mom always said so. But here are some of my personal Fair Kitchen Rules (subtitled: Don't be a Tool):
1. As long as there are at least two capable adults/children over twelve eating and living in my house (including me), I do not desire to be and therefore will not be the only person who prepares meals.
2. With a few birthday-type exceptions, I am not going to make an entire meal or main dish I don't like if the person who does like it could make it for him or herself.
3. I will not make a habit of not preparing foods that I want to eat because my spouse has a stubborn aversion to an ingredient or the idea of an entire food group (vegetables, fruit, etc.). I will sometimes be willing to modify recipes I want to try within reason and keeping in mind my own taste.
4a. If the sight or smell of a dish or ingredient [example: hard boiled eggs] being prepared legitimately, physically grosses someone in my household out I will try to make it only when that person is out of the house - unless it can't be avoided for some social/medical/emotional reason, in which case I will at least try to warn him/her in advance that I'm about to work with [hardboiled eggs (or whatever)] in his/her vicinity.
4b.If the "grossing out" is found to be accompanied by uncontrollable vomiting, I will make the item in question only when that prone-to-reverse-peristalsis person is out of the house long enough for me to create the food, consume it entirely, dispose of the evidence, and air out our living space.
5. If another adult or child in my house makes something I have never had that does not appear on my "I'm allergic to or have a moral/ethical aversion to eating that" list and is not inedible, I will try it. Others living or eating with me aren't required to do the same with food I prepare, but I will respect them more if they do.
And etc. I live in a situation in which we are both open to sharing the cooking, both like food, and also are both fairly non-picky eaters, so it may be that I am lucky, but I think something halfway equitable can be worked out for any open-minded, reasonable family members (or even set of friendly roommates who share kitchen duties) who care about each other.
It's not really about rules or declarations, either. Here's the gist: I make us things I want to eat some nights. Other nights, he makes us things he wants to eat. Some nights we make things together we both want to eat. Rarely, one of us makes something he/she knows the other person really likes even it isn't a personal favorite. If there's something one of us doesn't like that the other person has made we usually try it anyway. If it is a major problem, the person feeling disgusted or not-that-into-it can just make himself or herself something else. And, of course, there are far too many nights we just go out to eat.
Finally, and I recognize this solution does not help stay-at-home-parents with uncooperative spouses (or work-at-home parents), if no one but me will eat it and there are too many leftovers I'll take it in to work. They'll eat anything there.
* These thoughts came together in semi-coherent format because I agree with the writer of the mentioned Smitten Kitchen post, who said, "I often read comments and emails from people who talk about liking or wanting to make a dish but they can’t “because my significant other doesn’t like [insert ingredient]!” I have to admit, I am often perplexed. If they want to eat it, why don’t they just make it anyway?" Right on.