I’m very good at being domestic, you know, cooking and cleaning, but sometimes in my warped paleo-feminist mind, it makes me feel bad about myself. The brand of feminism that took hold of me in the 1970s was all about rejecting the traditional roles of housewife and homemaker, and applying myself to some higher goal, like becoming a scientist or a Senator. Breaking the chains that bound me to the patriarchy was a sacred duty meant to help all women free themselves from the dominance of men, and for decades I dedicated myself to rejecting pancake breakfast norms. Now, after 32 years of marriage and becoming a widow, 11 years of being single, and hooking up with a man again during a raging pandemic, I have a whole new appreciation of my domesticity.
I don’t remember what I ate in my 20s and 30s, but I’m sure it wasn’t as good as the food I’m cooking now. My mom started teaching me to cook when I was five, and by the time I was nine I made dinner for my family every Wednesday night. But my cooking skills really took off in my 40s, when I started farming and became a foodie. Growing my own food, learning the biology of taste and eating seasonally refined my palate. These days I’m a gastro snob. I love good food, cooking and eating fabulous meals, foraging for ingredients and meticulous preparations. Particularly during lockdown, cooking has become my daily art project, my meditation and my reward. Mealtime is quality time with my domestic partner as we focus on our enjoyment and share the comfort of abundance. Food is security, and we are fortunate to be food secure.
On the farm, I learned the notion of a kitchen-centered life. Food harvest, prep, storage, cooking, serving, preserving, eating, salvaging leftovers and composting were all activities organized in the kitchen. Exactly the life I was trying to get away from in my youth when I dreamed of independence from family and escaping my dreary small-town existence. I didn’t see the science or politics of food until I became a farmer in midlife. Then with beef cows, goats, a flock of chickens and a vegetable garden, I was invested in eating my harvest. As a result, our kitchen was the heart of our home. Now, science and politics aside, I need to cook to stay sane. In pandemic isolation, preparing food keeps me busy and gives me purpose. We are physically and mentally healthier because of the way we eat.
Feminism has evolved from being anti-homemaker, and so have I. Cooking and cleaning are not how I thought I would be spending my time, but I’m not ready to jump back into suits and pantyhose either. I ask myself why I’m not doing something more substantive with my life. Then I tune in to this moment and witness the global drama. In our second year of the pandemic, small pleasures don’t seem so small anymore. Maybe there is no higher goal than being good at cooking and cleaning. I love being domestic. I’m cooking up serenity here. Sure, I could have spent the afternoon on a PowerPoint presentation about junk food agriculture and the benefits of eating whole foods. But instead I made spicy whole wheat banana bread with chia seeds. See what I mean? PowerPoint or banana bread? Which would you rather have?