In today’s New York Times, foodie guru Michael Pollan waxes poetic on why we all must cook. You guys already know this topic annoys me, as I argued last week in The Atlantic that not everyone likes to cook, and that healthy fast food would be a perfectly valid option for them.
As Pollan (quoted by Mark Bittman) says:
“We do find time for activities we value, like surfing the Internet or exercising,” says Pollan. “The problem is we’re not valuing cooking enough. Who do you want cooking your food, a corporation or a human being? Cooking isn’t like fixing your car or other things it makes sense to outsource. Cooking links us to nature, it links us to our bodies. It’s too important to our well-being to outsource.”
“Outsourcing” is such a loaded, nasty word. Why is eating out or buying pre-prepped food “outsourcing”? Is buying my clothes rather than sewing them myself “outsourcing”? Is sending my kid to public school rather than homeschooling “outsourcing”? We live in a society. It seems perfectly reasonable that some people cook, others buy cooked food.
And it’s unbelievably twee and silly to be all “cooking is a must-do because it links us to nature.” Because, come on, you know what else links us to nature? Hiking. Raising pigeons. Giving birth in a field. Some of these things may be fun and good for us (I’ll skip the latter though, thanks), but they’re not mandatory for healthy living.
Home cooking is not some universal “natural” activity either. In some countries, it’s practiced much more than others. I live in Hong Kong, where few people cook much at home because of small kitchens, long work hours, and a cultural tradition of dining out as a social activity. Is that unnatural? Are people here disconnected to their bodies? (The obesity level is really low here, btw).
Another major point of annoyance is Pollan’s repeated insistence that home cooking died because women were duped into thinking it was cool and feminist to stop cooking:
And yet Big Food has convinced most of us: “No one has to cook! We’ve got it covered.” This began 100 years ago, but it picked up steam in the ’70s, when Big Food made it seem progressive, even “feminist,” not to cook. Pollan reminded me of KFC’s brilliant ad campaign, which sold a bucket of fried chicken with the slogan “Women’s Liberation.”
Bullshit. As I’ve argued before, it wasn’t in the 1970s feminist era that “big food” sold women on the idea of not cooking. That happened several decades before, in the 1940s and 1950s, long before second-wave feminism was a gleam in Betty Friedan’s eye.
I do appreciate this bit:
“But if we’re going to rebuild a culture of cooking, it can’t mean returning women to the kitchen. We all need to go back to the kitchen.”
OK, whatever, Michael Pollan et al. Go back to the kitchen if you want. Let your partner cook if you want (and they want). Eat Whole Foods salads every night if you want (and can afford it). But quit it with the annoying insistence that everyone who hates cooking is just deluded, and that tying on an apron is the only way to avoid obesity.
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