Throughout my life, I have often been told that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. A horrible stereotype from which the demand of sandwich preparation is created, a demand that is often heard in the Axe cologne-filled hallways of American’s middle schools. The expectation of being the designated cook that this sentiment places on women is not only incredibly misogynistic but also makes me feel incredibly guilty for what I am about to confess. It has taken me a long time to accept the truth but I am finally willing to share my story. I don’t like cooking and I’m not very good at it.
Not only as a woman but also as a Southerner, I am expected to be an amazing cook along with having a long list of family recipes that have been passed down through generations that I can make instantly without ever looking at directions. This stereotype couldn’t be any further from the truth.
My Southern family does, however, have a few heirloom recipes such as “Chicken ’n Dumplin’s” and “Granny Bo’s Wackies” (a no-bake cookie) but I have never made the former, and the latter I haven’t made in years. I couldn’t even tell you the first step of making “Chicken n’ Dumplin’s” unless the first step was “take out your great aunt’s recipe book and open to page….”. My intolerance to dairy also makes achieving the status of a great Southern cook all the more impossible as I cannot throw pounds of butter into whatever I’m cooking with reckless abandon because it is definitely not without consequences for myself.
My inability to cook lies in my love for order and lack of food-related imagination. I have an irrational fear of adding unmeasured amounts of ingredients to a recipe and I do not have the ability to be incredibly creative when it comes to food. These together make the reality of eating pasta for almost every meal even more delicious. There have been actual periods of my adult life during which I have eaten only spaghetti for days (no regrets). Finally, I also don’t know how to make a great grocery list and just end up buying the things necessary for the few recipes that I don’t have to look at the directions the entire time while I’m cooking a meal (a true miracle).
To make up for not being a wonderful cook, I can say that I am a wonderful baker (cookies are my specialty). When baking I am so much more open to straying from the directions. I can even bake several things without looking at the instructions. Bake sales, potlucks, and Christmas time is when I shine most. I am not sure why these things seem near to impossible whenever I make things with a much lower sugar content but my free baking spirit makes me feel less guilty about being a boring, by-the-book cook.
Although I am not able to cook myself or anyone else much more than spaghetti or chili, I am still a woman. My ability to make cookies does not make mean more or less of a woman. The stereotypes I have been surrounded by should not be taken seriously and should be completely shattered. I should not feel bad for not possessing the ability to make dinner without detail instructions of lots of practice.
Despite my feelings toward women’s expectations of being a natural cook, I am so lucky to have people in my life who also do not believe the sexist sentiment and even offer to cook for me as much as possible.