For years my culinary resume consisted of the likes of grilled cheese, cereal, french toast and ramen. You better believe it: I could pour a mean bowl of cereal. I was never quite the chef in the kitchen as much as I was a glutton in the kitchen. Despite my protesting, my girlfriends who practically departed the womb adorned with aprons and bearing spatulas have continued to encourage me, persuade me, and beg me to tap into the domestic sphere of my brain for my own betterment. As I’ve come to realize, there are certain things I lack a solid grasp on. These subjects are: math, science and domesticity. My brain refuses to connect the dots when faced with projects of, or pertaining to, the above. Is it true that no righteous man would wed a woman lacking in these areas? Is there not more they can look to for confirmation that they have a competent and faithful wife? Must my cooking skills and cleaning abilities be equated with my intellect, strengths and faithfulness as a woman? In short, is there really a woman who perfectly embodies all the roles of housekeeper, career woman, mother and wife simultaneously? I dare say I don’t believe so. For some time, due to an unfortunate and unidentified chemical imbalance in my brain, I dated a man who was really a 3 year old trapped in the body of a 6’4, brutish caveman with stunted mental developments. In my vulnerable state, recovering from the aftermath of a 9.8 on the romance Richter, I blindly walked into this new relationship hoping that it would heal me and nurture my growth. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. But anyhow, in the interim, as I carried on blissfully ignorant to the landmines that lay ahead, I suddenly thought, why don’t I give this domestication gig a try? I had a guinea pig and as his weekly visits increased from 2 days a week to 4, he began depending on me for nourishment as well.
As he lumbered about my studio apartment, reminding me every minute of how oppressing this relationship was becoming, I began to distract myself from his insolence by experimenting on new dishes. I refused recipes emailed by my girlfriends and boycotted cookbooks. If I was going to try this I was going to do it on my own terms armed with imagination and gusto. I started with salads, then appetizers and graduated to a few pasta and fish entrees. Couscous concoctions were plated with stuffed avocado halves, I placed my own spin on baked tilapia, tested different marinades on grilled salmon, and even experimented with a few homemade sauces after I grew tired of several variations of sausage, peppers and onions. What I learned was that my creativity and innovation did in fact carry over into my culinary adventures. I viewed this endeavor as an experiment just as we did with science projects in grade school. I also learned that when executed under my own conditions, cooking became a past time with an enjoyable amount of challenge.
After a few weeks of this, realization began to creep. Dish washing began to feel laborious. The studio began to stink of oils, spices and grease. I began to feel like a plantation slave in front of the heat of the stove. It was clear: I had not needed cooking as a new hobby at all; I was only seeking refuge from the unavoidable. I needed out. I needed a new life, a new perspective and freedom from my rotting, dead end relationship. Not a distraction from it. And with that, it was over. I kicked him out of my apartment and threw some tupperware after him, packing up the last of the tuna salad I whipped up for the next day’s lunch. By crushing my spirit and nearly murdering the person I was inside, he forced me to channel my energy towards things that I felt I still could control. And with that, I sought structure, discipline and tradition which was what led me towards Project Domestication. With new life breathed into me and the rotten boyfriend and leftovers discarded, I got my mojo back.
Having closed the chapter on my brief detour into the world of condiments and basters, I wondered: have the women in my life been encouraging me to excel in one area of womanhood over others? Or were they instilling in me the need to become a “better” woman? If so, is there a standard of domesticity to be met which qualifies me as a successful woman? Why do they believe such things and furthermore, why don’t I? Am I defective because I don’t find baking a peaceful past time? Am I less intelligent because I don’t collect recipes? Though I’ve always been quite content with my hobbies of consistently sharpening my talents; nurturing my mind, body and soul; maintaining a stellar closet; and ensuring that my hair, skin and nails are always photo ready, I can’t help but wonder if these ‘other’ women believe that I am less of a female for not adhering to their planes of thought and not feeling enlightened by such a lifestyle. After surrendering with my defeated spirit and playing house for those miserable 10 months in what seemed like an alternate reality for me, I’ve concluded that unless you are a female with a self made empire who can come home from the office, enthusiastic to cook a five star meal, 7 days a week while dashing back and forth in Louboutins, still fully accessorized in your Chanel suit and be able to clean the house after your family is fed and wake up each morning with radiance glowing through your skin, then I do not envy or admire you nor do I find your perspective on the necessities of domestication to be substantial. However, if you are such a woman then I bow to you for your praise worthy skills in time management and your zest for life. What I am guessing is that women who look at me pitifully for not being eager to dream up a good meal to put on the table are also women who don’t dream big; beyond the motherhood and housewife career. I don’t have babies in cradles and cleaning products dancing around my daydream bubbles, I have dollar signs in bank accounts and my own personal freedom instead. Perhaps it is a difference in dreams then? Would life for my husband and children be any less comfortable if a chef were cooking and a housemaid were cleaning? No, I think life would be quite comfortable, if not more, if I were able to provide these services and ensure a golden lifestyle for my family. Hence why my dreams have always been to build a solid financial foundation rather than a domestic foundation. Maybe happiness cannot be bought but domestication sure can. And it’s quite simple actually: you exploit your freedom, tap into your resources, build your empire, make your profits, pay for the services to keep your household clean and you will live happily, beautifully, wealthily and teach your children the importance of chasing happiness, independence and wealth rather than the importance of being on your hands and knees scraping away mediocrity and unsupported perceptions of female normality.
I would not be opposed to revisiting my cutlery and assuming a position in the kitchen once again but, it would have to be during a period where I have the luxury of taking up a new art form, where I can view kitchen capers as a study of gastronomy rather than a chore to toil away at. It would never hurt to birth a new talent but, for the majority of the time I’d much rather be enjoying the secrets of gourmet dining than creating it. As the ultimate minority in this day and age, a minority within race, gender and thought spheres, I can say that I am, and forever will be, a proud individual. I know this because no matter what society demands, and what the world becomes, there are three things I will never be afraid to admit: my ethnicity, gender and opinion.
With a naturally competitive spirit (while I may never convert my perspectives on domesticity and the female’s role to that of the more traditional or stringent perspectives of other females) I am not against improving myself, nurturing and broadening my skills to new found areas. I believe that growth is necessary in all aspects of life and I also believe that domesticity is currently an uncharted land for me to discover. Once charted, I would be able to customize this arena to my liking with my own personal style. There may be intriguing sides to domestication to be found, such as personalities like my inner Martha Stewart but, not because I have to and not because it will make me any more of a woman than I already am. If my blog survives my maternity, I don’t doubt that there will be many more entries to be chronicled. Stay tuned and in the meantime, keep a clean home and nice smelling kitchen.
- Home training (justjoxy.wordpress.com)
- Domestic Me (ggiblog.wordpress.com)
- Star cook Nigella’s husband ‘prefers breakfast cereal’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Hay Festival 2011: How to Be a Domestic Goddess is an ‘important feminist tract’, says Nigella Lawson (telegraph.co.uk)
- So long as it’s not Pedigree Chum (stillnonethewiser.wordpress.com)
- Lily Allen living in domestic bliss, awww! (heatworld.com)