Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (the final post)

I realized I never finished my final topic from the latest book I reviewed. Don't worry - it's not going to be about how you should eat more vegetables or make your own cheese (although Kingsolver definitely does, and describes the process in the book). Instead, it's a societal issue connected to cooking - women's roles. I know the excerpts are long, but plow your way through (and you can consider it your "intellectual" reading for the day and avoid any feelings of guilt for realizing the only other thing you read today was either work related or unnecessary information about Miley Cyrus).

From the book,

"Cooking is a dying art in our culture. Why is a good question, and an uneasy one, because I find myself politically and socioeconomically entangled in the answer. I belong to the generation of women who took as our youthful rallying cry: Allow us a good education so we won't have to slave in the kitchen. We recoiled from the proposition that keeping a husband presentable and fed should be our highest intellectual aspiration... Somehow, though, history came around and bit us in the backside: now most women have jobs and still find themselves largely in charge of the housework. Cooking at the end of a long day is a burden we could live without."
Hell yeah - I didn't go to college for four years to become an expert chicken roaster! Yet... I do like roasted chicken, and I'd hate to pay Colonel Sanders $9.99 each time I get a hankering for it. Hmmm....
"When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profitteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it. 'Hey, ladies,' it said to us, 'go ahead, get liberated. We'll take care of dinner.' They threw open the door and we walked into a nutritional crisis and genuinely toxic food supply...
Exhibit A: Eggo Waffles.
Exhibit B: Easy Mac.
Exhibit C: Hot Pockets.
Exhibit D: Totino's Pizza Rolls.
Exhibit E: Taco Bell.
"Now what? Most of us, male or female, work at full-time jobs that seem organized around a presumption that some wifely person is at home picking up the slack -- filling the gap between school and workday's end, doing errands only possible during business hours, meeting the expectation that we are hungry when we get home -- but in fact June Cleaver has left the premises. Her income was needed to cover the mortgage and health insurance. Didn't the workplace organizers notice?

"Career women in many countries still routinely apply passion to their cooking, heading straight from work to the market to search out the freshest ingredients, feeding their loved ones with aplomb. In France and Spain I've sat in business meetings with female journalists and editors in which the conversation veered sharply from postcolonial literature to fish markets and the quality of this year's mushrooms or leeks. These women had no apparent concern about sounding unliberated; in the context of a healthy food culture, fish and leeks are as respectable as postcolonial literature. (And arguably more fun).
Agreed. It's irritating that women are still only given two options in life - be a career woman or a homemaker. Dang it, I like both! I derive significant pleasure from lecturing teenagers on the intricacies of the Cold War, and from successfully creating a soup from scratch. I'll gladly argue about the merits of the Presidential candidates, the solutions to climate change, AND whether Angelina and Brad should add any more kids to their litter (clearly you can see where I stand on that last important issue). I am proud of my college degree and my scrapbooking prowess. The women's movement of the 60s and 70s was about choice - and if I want to choose a little bit of everything from the buffet of life, so be it! (To be clear, I will also choose a little bit of everything from a Ponderosa buffet, provided the different foods on my plate do not touch.)

Kingsolver does acknowledge that viewing cooking as a creative process and not just a chore requires important elements such as the contributions of other family members, a reprioritizing of household chores (you can't have homemade broccoli soup and spotless kitchen floors), and again, the right attitude. Much like what Kingsolver addresses in the other sections of her book, you have decide if nutritious, well-balanced meals are a priority - if you'd rather eat a Turkey and Cheese Lean Pocket off your sparkling clean kitchen floor, so be it (but I'd strongly urge you not to).

Thanks for sticking with me through this drawn out review/reflection on the book. I know most of us are not going to change our habits overnight (point in fact, I'm really hungry for some pizza rolls right now), but at least finding a few minutes to think about your priorities and habits is always healthy.


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