Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories … into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing.” -The New Republic                                                       "[P]rovocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker                                                                       "I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it."– The Hairpin                                                         “Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle – family farming, canning, crafting, can, without sacrificing feminism’s hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when ‘people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.’” - ELLE                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—Publishers Weekly                                                         “A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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Are you a bad human if you hate to cook?

 

Oh no you didn't, Peg!

That New York Times potluck story has been generating all kinds of really good discussions on the topic of “should we feel obligated to cook from scratch?” (check out The Feminist Kitchen’s smart take). Which isn’t surprising, given the moral weight put on food and cooking these days.

The foodie movement has lately turned a lot of people on to the pleasures of cooking and eating well – America has been having a real culinary renaissance, which is awesome. Then, in the past few years, the whole locavore phenomenon has made caring where your food comes from seem like the good, environmentally sensitive thing to do. And the obesity epidemic has given home cooking a new sense of purpose.

All this has led to the idea, now common in progressive circles, that it is not OK to hate cooking. For example, here’s Michael Ruhlman, one of this country’s most prominent food writers (and one I generally admire), insisting that enjoying cooking is what separates us from the animals and the robots:

But I know for a fact [emphasis mine] that spending at least a few days a week preparing food with other people around, enjoying it together, is one of the best possible things in life to do, period. It’s part of what makes us human [emphasis mine]. It makes us happy in ways that are deep and good for us.

Now I love to cook, personally, and have spent much of my working life writing about food. But I have plenty of friends who would rather scrub the toilet than make dinner. Cooking doesn’t make them happy.

What should we say about these friends? Is there something wrong with them? Are they suffering for lack of this “deep and good” human pleasure? Have they simply not been properly taught the sensual delights of boiling up a big batch of spaghetti carbonara? Do they need to attend the Michael Ruhlman School of Best Possible Things in Life to Do?

Cooking has its indisputable virtues – it’s potentially cheaper and healthier than eating out, for one. But assuming you can afford to buy healthy take-out, or you have a partner who likes to cook, good for you, I say! Cooking – and communal eating – are common but hardly universal ways  of deriving pleasure. I go rock climbing every now and then, and have met tons of climbers who get their pleasure and camaraderie on the crag (some even go with their kids!) and see eating as a total inconvenience, food as fuel. Do I identify? Not at all. Do I think there’s something wrong with them? Definitely not.

Frankly, if we could invent a healthy dinner in chewing gum form, a la Willy Wonka, that would suit some people just fine and I see nothing wrong with that (so long as it doesn’t turn you into a giant blueberry!). I get that it’s a good and worthwhile thing to teach people about food, but there’s something creepy and snobbish – not to mention historically inaccurate (through much of history, cooking was seen as a lowly task, to be farmed out to servant girls and even to dogs – seriously) – about insisting we all ought to love it. As Addie Broyles of The Feminist Kitchen says: “There are lots of ways to keep yourself challenged and engaged with the world around you. Food is just one of them.”

 

1 comment to Are you a bad human if you hate to cook?

  • I have a good friend who doesn’t cook…but she’s putting the effort into making a trifle for Christmas lunch which is really nice. But I had to laugh when she told me she’s getting her mother-in-law on video call to help her make it ;)

    Cooking isn’t for everyone but in a family there should be someone who does it; above said friend’s husband is the cook in the house and actually loves it. If no one cooks then how can you eat healthily on a normal income?