Who destroyed the 'gentle art of feminine food'?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

In case you were in any doubt about the way feminism has destroyed society, the Daily Mail has decided to tell us this week that us women’s libbers are also responsible for the popularity of fast food, obesity in children and the death of home cooking.

In an article written by food writer and journalist Rose Prince, we’re told that as a result of the call for equality 50 years ago:

“Domestic cooking was chucked aside as an irrelevance, an icon of unfairness to women — which allowed a very eager food industry to leap forward with the convenience-food solution.

Yes, it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity.”

You know when you read something and that urge to repeatedly bring your head into contact with your desk immediately comes over you? This was one of those moments. Prince names a host of issues – children not exercising, consumption of convenience foods, less time spent eating – all tenuously linked to the fact that some decades ago, women wanted equality and better lives and therefore, apparently, stopped cooking nutritious meals.

Now Rose Prince has a new book out. Kitchenella is apparently a celebration of simple cooking on a budget which is “not about showing off and extravagance, but generosity and kindness; a subtle and intelligent way to nurture”.

This sounds good to me. I love cooking – yes, you read that correctly, a feminist who loves cooking – I have to cook on a budget and I also think that cooking for people is a really great way to show generosity and kindness. It’s a great mission statement for a cookery book – so why does it have to come alongside such ridiculous assumptions about societal problems?

Doubtless it has something to do with the newspaper Prince is writing for on this occasion. But to look no deeper into the reasons people aren’t getting adequate nutrition or living healthy lifestyles is naive.

For a start the effect of consumerism needs to be looked at – the way that labour-saving appliances and foods have been sold to us over the years as ‘essentials’. Then there’s ever-quickening pace of life and rising cost of living which leave people with not only less time to prepare food, but less money to spend on it.

We know it’s all right for those who have the time and the cash to source their produce at farm shops and trendy delicatessens, feeling happy that they’re buying organic and cooking out of the latest must-have tome from Hugh or Nigella.

For most of us, however, that’s not reality. And when the cheapest food in the supermarket and the quickest food to prepare is the unhealthiest, we end up with what’s known as food poverty. It’s estimated that food poverty affects four million people in the UK. If you can’t afford to travel to somewhere which sells fresh or healthy produce and don’t have the time to cook it because you’re holding down two jobs, convenience foods are going to win out.

There’s a rather large pair of rose-tinted spectacles being employed here: I don’t think most people are under any illusion that everyone cooked fabulous and nutritious meals in years gone by. People cooked with what was available to them. And today we have a lot more choice.

What’s also of concern is Prince’s allusions to the “gentle art of feminine food”. I agree with her when she says that lots of today’s TV chefs showcase recipes which are too expensive and complicated for a lot of time-poor people with limited funds to bother about.

But following this up with the statement that “being a feminist does not mean dropping femininity”? If I see one more newspaper or magazine article wheeling out that old chestnut as if it’s the most important thing women today need to know I’ll probably lose it.

Prince’s article contains a rather bizarre account of how she found the sight of Germaine Greer cooking “like a Fifties stay-at-home mum” on Celebrity Big Brother “touching”. Bizarre to me and just as bizarre to the rest of you kitchen-loving feminists out there, feeding your families and friends, dreaming up new dishes and selling your creations.

Thankfully her new book is aimed at “modern cooks, both men and women”. Because there I was wondering why men as nurturers, cooks and carers weren’t mentioned. Maybe the thought that some women just might not care about cooking is also too much to bear.

This article originally appeared at BitchBuzz. Image via twopinkpossums's Flickr.

1 comment:

sianandcrookedrib said...

well said hannah!

this article was so silly.

firstly, i'm a feminist on a budget and i love cooking. in fact, yesterday i cooked treats for my office, from scratch.

the problems of childhood obesity hav nothing to do with feminists saying no to cooking, and everything to do with aggressive marketing from fast food outlets, poverty, selling off of school playing fields, unsafe streets and all the reasons you mention.

i am sick of this daily mail nostalgia for a simpler time...ignoring the fact that even in that 'golden age' of the 50s and before, rationing and poverty meant many children were hungry and not well fed.


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