Sorry, Broadsheet, I love you, but on this one you're missing the point. Michael Pollan's arguments in this weekend's New York Times Magazine aren't ham-handedly anti-feminist, even if I do like the expression, "his penis is showing when he says..." and he doesn't mis-interpret Betty Friedan half as badly as you mis-interpret him.


Yes, there was a time when cooking was almost universally and solely a drudgery inflicted upon women who would rather be doing more stimulating things, and no doubt some women still experience that pressure, but the fact is that freshly-prepared foods are qualitatively different from (and better than) processed and pre-packaged foods, and we all would be healthier and happier if we made our own meals at home, all of us, men and women, etc.

As the Broadsheet says:
Sacrificing certain ideals to prioritize pursuits we find more rewarding -- or more urgent -- is part of being a grown-up. And for women, having the option of feeding ourselves and our families without working pro bono all day is part of what allows us to function as (mostly) equal citizens.
So putting a high priority on food prep is not grown up? The suggestion is that cooking is... infantile? Isn't having others bring you food all the time while you remain ignorant of what's in it and how it was made, helpless to take the power out of their hands and put it into your own, isn't that infantile?

I have a young friend who'd never before shredded cheese before I taught her to at the age of 21. "The only thing you need to know how to make is reservations," her mother had taught her. Lovely. Inspiring. But. In the meantime she pays 11 times the price per ounce for her cheese to be pre-shredded, and it's coated in cornstarch to keep the pieces from sticking. Paying more and having unwanted starch (or preservatives, or whatever) added to your processed food is not power. It's a problem.

Viewing cooking as drudgery is also a problem. Follow the long chain of evolution back to our earliest forebears, even the primordial ones, single-celled organisms, hell, even clusters of proteins, and if there's one thing we've all been able to do from the beginning it's obtain a meal. Sometimes that's been harder, sometimes easier, and sometimes individuals have contracted with others or oppressed others in order to avoid the work, but if we don't do it, we don't live.

Being able to feed ourselves well and wisely is, in fact, the greatest and most important piece of power we can possibly hold over our own fates. Nutrition determines a lot about us, including our body size, our relative intelligence, our mood, our overall health... we are what we eat. That's why there's so much emotion and energy in this country for better control over where our food comes from. We need to control what we put in our bodies. We all know this. We all feel this.

Kate Harding of Broadsheet titled her criticism of Pollan, "Michael Pollan Wants You Back in the Kitchen." Does he? Yes. Does that "you" mean only women? No. Pollan is arguing, instead, that we'd all (man, woman, or otherwise) be healthier and happier if we took the time to prepare our own meals -- and marvels that we might spend only a few minutes a day making food (and a few minutes quickly wolfing it down) but that we would spend hours watching TV and movies like "Hell's Kitchen" and Julie & Julia which are all about cooking food.

His observations are interesting, his conclusions positive. And yet the sting of sexism still makes some out there say, "no! Don't try to convince me to cook my own meals! I'm a grown up and grown ups have better things to do!" Yes, they also have better things to do than lying in bed for hours, or walking to the toilet and and wiping their own behinds, but they still do it, because it's part of caring for oneself. Feeding oneself is a big part of being a grown up, Kate Harding. If you don't wanna 'cause you don't like it, that's fine. But don't make it out like it's an anti-feminist attack. It's not.

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