As part of my big Life List project, I recently started really learning how to cook. My wife has traditionally been the master of the kitchen in our family. I’ve contributed a meal here and there (mostly of the frozen pizza variety), but if it took me longer to make it than to eat it, I usually abstained.
Caroline didn’t always regularly cook for us, but when our son came along, she began feeling the traditional obligation to be the one who provides good meals for the family. It really amazed me how easily she fell into this role, considering that I tried my best to not be a source of pressure for her to do so. But the roles from our families of origin and the traditional models that we grew up with in the media provided more than enough incentive. Plus she was good at it.
So far I’ve taken full advantage of her stepping into that role, given my lack of skill, and if I’m honest, desire to help. Part of this I think had to do with the household I grew up in. Not only did it conform to normative gender stereotypes, but my parents didn’t put a high value on food as a pleasurable pursuit. Eating was for nourishment alone. Cooking was a means to an end.
What has helped change that paradigm for me is having a few foodie friends who have really opened my eyes to how enjoyable food can be. Not only have they significantly broadened my palate, but they’ve turned me on to enjoying the process of making it. I’ve discovered it can actually be a stress reliever, instead of just a source of stress.
As I’m having my eyes opened to the joys of cooking and eating well, I’ve realized that I want to make that the norm in our family. In our day-to-day lives, I want us all to participate in the process. It may be a lot to ask some days, but I think it’s important to do it together. I want to pass along to our son the importance of eating well as a pleasure in itself — not just to break gender stereotypes, not just to pass along the necessary cooking skills, but to set it up as part of a life well-lived.
As our family is making this shift, I’d love to hear how other people make this work. I know there are some foodies out there. Who does the cooking in your household? Are you intentional about bringing your kids into the process? How are you teaching them to love food?