Apparently, Michael Pollan has another book out and this time he is preaching about home cooking.
My mother did the vast majority of the cooking when I was growing up. Shopping and cooking seemed to take up the bulk of her week. And she got little pleasure from it. It was an obligation and a chore. So when Michael Pollan says that “we have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965,” I want to know whose hours those were. And who do you need to be for a half hour to seem like nothing?
I used to work with a woman who had a full-time job, full-time school, and two children. The only moments she had to herself were the ones she stole to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom of her apartment, usually with two little boys knocking on the door. But Pollan says “it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.” Because clearly anyone who is not cooking for their kids is just flitting away their time on nonsense.
A couple hours after reading that Pollan interview I read a piece in the Post about how people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Sadly, it doesn’t break down the study by single/coupled and parent/childfree. But it does make clear that women are much more stressed at home than men are. Because the expectation is that you come home from work and then need to worry about cleaning, cooking, carpooling, planning…
I know how much time my mother spent shopping and cooking every week. And I know how many weeks have gone by where I have spent zero time shopping and cooking. So I think Pollan’s 30 minutes per day stat is horseshit. But lets say for a moment that I buy into that. Here is a small sample of things I would rather do than cook.
- have sex
- raise hell
Not necessarily in that order.
Does Pollan know about the people who live on a few hours sleep per night because they cannot squeeze work, laundry, and child rearing into a day? Has he never known a new mother who hasn’t taken a shower in 3 days because there was no opportunity? Does he know the guilt bombs that are lobbed at women who dare to take a moment for themselves?
Pollan is just adding to that little voice that tells people, especially mothers, that they are selfish shits if every moment isn’t dedicated to being a Stepford wife. He is that person who makes a woman feel bad for hitting the McDonalds drive through and taking a 30 minute bath – the only time she will have to herself that day. But really, what are the chances that the Berkeley-educated, white boy, son of a financial consultant and a writer , who was born in the 50’s would have any clue what life would be like for a Haitian immigrant woman with three housekeeping jobs and a gaggle of kids to take care of?
I know that the food system is fucked up. I know that the majority of the working poor work in food services. I know that the processed foods we eat are deadly. I actually do agree with the general goals of Pollan’s work. But you cannot talk about cooking without any mention of how gendered a task it has been. And you cannot talk about taking time to cook without any understanding of how little extra time some people have.
He deserves to have a dozen poor, overworked mothers take one of his books and smack him over the head with it. Luckily for him, they don’t have the time.