Women can take the heat
So, according to the papers last week, actress and businesswoman Jane Asher (she of the fancy party cake fame) says it's "quite right" that women no longer learn cookery skills from their mothers because it shows that "women have now been let out of the kitchen".
Well and good, of course. But while, yes, I consider myself a feminist (not in a bra-burning way - for this would be rather foolhardy for one who… how can we put it delicately… needs all the support she can get) I do wonder if this is a sweeping statement too far.
Thing is - whether male or female - we all need to eat. And if the art of boiling an egg, peeling a potato or gefilte-ing a fish is no longer to be passed from parent to child (of either sex - I'm oh-so-modern) then aren't we simply condemning future generations to a life of subsisting solely on ready meals that require no more than a flick of a microwave switch to have them prepared for the table (for - although indeed there is heating involved, I can think of nobody who could justifiably describe this as "cooking").
Or are they supposed to be eschewing food preparation altogether and going raw - eating apples, cucumbers and broccoli for all eternity? Perish the thought.
I rather enjoy pottering around in the kitchen (sorry Jane… but I do have a career as well so perhaps you'll forgive me) and there's nothing I like more than a decent home-cooked meal. But am I now to refuse to make kneidlach on the basis that I was taught how to do so by my grandmother and so by utilising these skills I am simply perpetuating hundreds of years of female oppression? Should I abstain from roasting chicken on political grounds because it was my mother who taught me how to do it in the first place?
It is true that the majority of the food preparation in our home falls to me. But that's not because I'm chained to the stove, but because my husband and I both work and therefore split the chores between us. And, hell - I'd rather be rustling up a risotto than doing all our laundry (and anyway, he rather revels in his title of "head of hygiene services".)
When, last weekend, I found myself chopping, slicing and stirring for hours on end it was not due to any form of patriarchal domination but because I had asked a bunch of friends over for dinner and really wanted to try out some new recipes. My choice.
I wonder whether, when my daughter asked whether she could help, I was supposed to say, "no - this will simply reinforce the fact that a woman's place is in the kitchen. Go and do something like washing the car instead"? Or was I right to allow her to be my sous chef, to - apologies Jane - start picking up the basics from her mother and understand the creative joy of making something amazing from scratch.
As long as husband is around to demonstrate the ancient art of washing up, of course…