Sister, the Things You Do In the Kitchen Are More Important Than What You Know, Especially During the Holidays

4798It's Christmastime--and I'm thinking of sweet corn. When it arrives at the farmers' market in mid-July, my family knows to expect fresh corn chowder. Last summer, we rented an apartment in Montréal, Quebec, and when chowder season dawned, to my delight, I unexpectedly found an immersion blender in one of the kitchen drawers.
I was enamored with the little appliance. Where had it been all my culinary life? I must have gushed on--and on--about the immersion blender, for we weren't back in Toronto one week when my husband and 9-year-old son came home wearing proud smiles and carrying a medium-sized box. 

So it was that I added an immersion blender to my growing inventory of kitchen tools. This is the kind of consumer instinct on which kitchen retailers like Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma are counting this Christmas. They trust we'll stock our kitchens with gifted gadgets--and fail to remember that we're actually cooking far less than we ever have. 

In her recent Atlantic essay "The Joy of Not Cooking," Megan McArdle compares the amount of time our grandmothers and mothers spent in the kitchen to the time we spend in them now. In the 1920s, women traditionally spent 30 hours a week in the kitchen; in the 1950s, 20 hours. Today, our culinary commitment tops out at 5.5 hours a week. 

Ironically, when we cooked most, our kitchens were least accommodating. Writes Steven Gdula in his book The Warmest Room in the House, at the turn of the century, "kitchens were as close an approximation to hell on earth as one could find." By contrast, today's gourmet kitchen, outfitted with a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Viking Range, and a host of sexy countertop appliances, is meant to offer us a picture of "romance," says Jack Schwefel, CEO of Sur La Table. 

But exactly what are we romanticizing with our Le Creuset cast iron cookware, Breville toaster ovens, and Shun knives? And if we're not actually using them, what vision of the good life are we trying to buy? Or, might it be most fair to conclude that only the wealthy, who can afford these culinary accoutrements and the luxury of cooking as leisure, are guilty of idealizing domesticity? 

Before we pass the buck up the ladder, let's consider the explosive growth of Pinterest, which broke through the 10-million unique-visitor mark faster than any other website. From the sheer volume of pinners and pin boards, we might conclude there's been a resurgence of interest in the domestic arts--regardless of demography. But could it be, as McArdle points out, that the majority of us love the idea of cooking and baking and decorating more than the practice? 

This month will find many of us busy baking and roasting and ricing. (No potato ricer? Add that to your wish list). But I don't know if it's romance that we'll be finding. Sure, were we the spiritual equals of Brother Lawrence, we'd be meeting God in all the flour and praying as we peeled. But like Rachel Held Evans admits in The Year of Biblical Womanhood, a lot of women hate Christmas. 

Source: Christianity Today Her.meneutics | Jen Pollock Michel
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