With Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us, online recipes abound. Directions for cooking the perfect turkey and accompanying side dishes are served up in abundance.
And they make me feel like saying, “Oh, stuff it!”
When you visualize holiday dinners, do you see harried and flustered men in the kitchen, wearing aprons, sweating while basting a twenty-pound turkey, or measuring vanilla into the pumpkin pie mixture?
When you visualize holiday dinners, do you see women ensconced in front of a TV, enjoying a cocktail and snacks while cheering on their football team, while waiting to hear those gratifying words “Dinner is ready!”
No, of course you don’t, because that wouldn’t be traditional, would it?
Well, as a long-time feminist, I say…to heck with tradition!
I rebelled against the little-woman-as-the-cook stereotyping decades ago, and I can only say my life has been the better for it. I never learned to cook as a teenager, because my mother had a strange but delightful philosophy about teaching me and my sisters to cook: “You’ll have to do it when you get married, so I don’t want you to have to do it now.”
The need to cook was avoided throughout college because of a generous meal plan and the survival skills of my college boyfriend. He had his own apartment with a kitchen, and there was never a question of my entering that domain for anything other than what could be foraged or sipped. I don’t remember specifically what he cooked, but there were a lot of noodles around. I was easy to please.
My first apartment post-college had a kitchen, of course, but it was never utilized. Working full time and going to graduate school at night left little time to even contemplate cooking. There were always salad ingredients and a few frosty pot pies around, and that was wholly sufficient.
Post-college, through nine years of dating, I never cooked a meal for a man. I think many were stumped, but if the subject were ever broached, I simply said, “I don’t cook—at least not in the kitchen.” Really clever diversion, that.
One boyfriend was a gourmet cook, and it was through him I learned to appreciate what went into putting an exquisite meal together. I admired the process from the safe vantage of his living room, it’s true, but I admired it nonetheless.
That same boyfriend once joined my family for Thanksgiving. While my two married sisters and my mother prepared the holiday meal, I drank a Bloody Mary, munched peanuts and watched my beloved Dolphins football team with the guys.
A female-voiced entreaty came from the kitchen, calling my name and enlisting my help with the time-and-labor-intensive dinner preparations. I was annoyed. Why, I asked myself, do I have to do it? The only difference I could see among those of us in front of the TV was that I had pronounced mammary glands. Moreover, my gourmet-cooking boyfriend was in the house. Too, as I recall, it was a crucial third-and-ten situation for the Dolphins. I reluctantly ambled into the kitchen and did what I could to avoid any real cooking. I arranged food on platters, pretending to be useful but staying far away from simmering pots and steaming fowl.
But it was on that Thanksgiving Day that my disinterest in cooking morphed into an aversion. After hours and hours of preparation, everyone was seated, the prayer was said, and the men piled their plates high and ooohed and aaahed—for all of ten minutes. And then they stood up, mumbled inadequate words of appreciation, and dashed out for the second half of the game.
And I, I who would have been just as happy with a turkey pot pie and another Bloody Mary, was one of the little women who would be responsible for cleaning up all those dishes and pots and pans. Everything was wrong with that picture.
Over the following thirty-five years from that fateful day, advancement of women’s rights and the tenants of feminism surged into our collective psyche. For all the battles women have won, the battle of who wears the apron in the family, especially when it comes to preparing holiday meals, hasn’t even begun. There may be minor skirmishes, but women still wield the gravy ladle.
I’m thinking that this holiday season, and for years to come, women should teach men the true meaning of equality by letting them venture into their territory; i.e., the kitchen. Especially on holidays. Women should proffer their aprons and their time-honored recipes to men, and let them experience the joy of preparing a delicious holiday meal for their wives, mothers, and children.
Picture it: There he stands in the kitchen, swathed in an apron, sweat glistening on his brow as he stirs one pot after another, his forearms disappearing inside the turkey as he pulls out the gizzard and innards. Quite a picture, isn’t it?
Somehow, I don’t think any words he might utter would be as blasé as, “Oh, stuff it!”