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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“Culinary nostalgia, like any nostalgia, is borne of romance and distortion”


image via Oxford American

While we’re on the topic of over-romanticizing food and cooking, here’s a brilliant piece from Courtney Balestier in the Oxford American, on the pleasures and perils of our current foodie nostalgia:

Perhaps the appeal, to us twenty- and thirty-somethings going about life like it’s one long home-ec class, is that georgic chores like composting food scraps or butchering pigs are just beyond our memory’s reach, but not so far beyond it that we can’t imagine them. The distance makes them perfect focal points in our digitized pastoral—learning how to distill whiskey or pickle okra in a Mason jar is at once old-fashioned and modern, comforting and adventurous, nostalgic and novel. It feels familiar, even if we’ve never done it. (And it doesn’t hurt that these activities are tactile antidotes to the inevitable emptiness of ordering dinner online and liking status updates.) Besides, making mayonnaise sounds more fun when buying a jar of Hellmann’s remains an option. Culinary nostalgia, like any nostalgia, is borne of romance and distortion.

DON’T FORGET: Pre-order Homeward Bound by May 7, and we donate $1 per copy to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

3 comments to “Culinary nostalgia, like any nostalgia, is borne of romance and distortion”

  • This doesn’t quite add up for me. I feel nostalgia for things I did, not for things I do.

    And the quote, “Culinary nostalgia is born of romance and distortion.” is much weaker in the face of “And it doesn”t hurt that these activities are tactile antidotes to the inevitable emptiness of ordering dinner online and liking status updates.”

    I can tell you, I feel no nostalgia when I eat my own salami. I have never made salami before. I did not grow up with homemade salami, and I don’t come from a salami culture. But my salami sure is a tactile stand against an empty life. I feel pride, not nostalgia. I glow with satisfaction. I feel that I have—by fermenting and curing meat—truly accomplished something significant.

  • Hannah Nanna

    You know, there have been several times when I’ve wanted to comment on your posts, but I ended up feeling like I’d need my own blog in order to really respond, so I say nothing. But I’d like to comment…so I’m going to do my best to keep it from approaching novel length.

    I was raised on a small family farm by my grandparents and parents, in an isolated rural area. By the time I came around, my parents had fought their way into a more comfortable existence. But my mom and grandma, especially, remembered the times when their ability to eat was very directly tied to their labor. So I was raised by people who didn’t waste anything. If there was fruit this year, you canned, froze, ate, baked or juiced every last one of them because next year there might not be any.

    When I was a kid, I thought farming was stupid. These people worked their asses off only to be poor. When my dad told me that there was a certain irreplaceable satisfaction that comes from the really tangible work of farming, I just couldn’t fathom what he meant or how it could possibly be worth it.

    When I got to college (in a liberal leaning metro area far away from my home), I was the right distance away from my parent’s and grandparent’s struggles and in the right social atmosphere to romanticize this culinary nostalgia. And now I’m back at the farm, living it out to some extent. I’m not sure what to say about it all, except that it’s a very strange and confusing conversation for me to watch happening in our national culture. I can’t exactly relate to my grandma (and her stories of waiting for years and years to be able to afford a can of ravioli from the grocery store…spoiler: when she finally got it, she didn’t like it at all) and I just can’t relate to these kids of suburbia and the city…with their simultaneous romanticism of rural life (“oh how quaint!”) and their disdain for rural people (with their often conservative leaning politics and distrust of intellectual elitism).

    I’m interested in seeing where the conversation goes. The more people who process their own food, the more the romanticism will wear off, but I also think the future might be one where more of us will need to return to these techniques in order to keep our stomachs full.

  • Nate

    My fondest culinary memories from my country upbringing are the black raspberries in the summer and the morels in the spring. Of course, those were both foraged, i.e. paid for in time and patience. Believe me that there is no distortion if you’ve actually lived those memories!

    I think a lot of the non-stalgia(?) comes from the recent spate of food porn that has been foisted on us. Most of American culture is pretty thin gruel. People read/watch the latest agrarian love-fest, see that life can have meaning, and then rush out to purchase their new identities ($10 pickled okra & heritage chickens, please). Next thing you know young people are walking milking goats on leashes in major metros.

    The cooking is about status: first the money to purchase exotic ingredients and then the free time (the ultimate luxury item?) to prepare them. The new TV dinner is pizza dough that takes two days to make.

    It’s all absurd, but not nearly as absurd as Michael Pollan printing bestsellers by watering down forty-year old Wendell Berry essays or Barbara Kingsolver writing a memoir about her family’s quest to feed themselves where they take a month-long foodie vacation to Italy in the middle of the growing season.