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Microwave Feminism

Barefoot in the kitchen? No way!

By David Szanto*

The scenario: the food life of Ivana and Richard, a Montreal couple in their early 40s; independent workers, no kids; a partnership of love, respect, and sharing. Their problem: “We can’t havecheese in the house. Richard would eat the entire block in one night. No chips either. Or crackers. I have to cook for both of us, or we’d each gain twenty pounds.”

Richard is, let’s say, less actively conscious of his dietary intake. So Ivana was doing all the planning, shopping, and cooking. A post-feminist success story, she faced a disheartening choice: reversion to 1950s housewifery, nuking frozen dinners nightly, or settling down to a whole lot of havarti for supper. That is, until the partners figured out some relatively simple solutions that now have them riding a wave of domestic and equitable deliciousness. (And all without the Lean Cuisines.) A few examples: “I cook what I know, and she puts up with it,” says Richard. This means breakfast every day is steel-cut oats with fresh fruit and yogurt. It used to mean miso soup with homemade dashi stock, tofu, and nori. Ivana came to enjoy both dishes, not just because she wasn’t cooking, because Richard is really good at making them. (Plus, she can sleep in.)

She cooks, he plates. Richard is a designer, and has a great visual sense. So Ivana makes a delicate oven-poached arctic char with broccoli purée and black currant coulis, and Richard makes it look pretty. Then he washes up. Balance comes in the long term. Frequent dinner parties during the summer months mean that Ivana can be a gracious host while Richard tends to the hibachi. And when things turn cool, she reminds him that he likes cooking with his buddies, and then hands off the kitchen to a gaggle of goose-roasting guys.

Ivana puts his perambulations to use. “When Richard goes out to the studio or to see clients, I think about his route and ask him to pick up certain things.” She spends less of her time shopping, and still gets the good olive oil and organic chicken that is otherwise a little too far out of the way.

Clearly the achievements of feminism are larger than balanced-out kitchen duties and shopping lists, but as the smaller issues get solved it might just open up ideas for some bigger challenges. After all, if you’re going to shatter that glass ceiling with un upraised fist, you might want to slip into an oven mitt first.

* David Szanto is a PhD student in gastronomy at Concordia University and a professor of food culture and communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.

Summer 2013, Vol 5 N°3

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