Last week I had an experience that almost turned me into a vegetarian: I bought chicken from a butcher specializing in sustainable/organic meats...and it was the most expensive chicken I have ever purchased. While the nice lady behind the counter told me the price and started packaging the bird in fancy paper touting all sorts of organic stamps and labels, I just stood there in a weird shocked silence, unable to take it all in, and then with my body on auto-pilot I paid. The whole way home I just kept telling myself that it wasn't possible I just paid that much for a chicken and if this was the cost of buying "responsible" meat, we were going to have to 1) find second jobs, 2) stop caring about how livestock is treated, or 3) give up meat. None of those really feel like good options to me, and I haven't yet worked out what we're going to do about it, but in the meantime we won't be roasting any more chickens.
I found myself at the butcher in the first place, because we were having friends over for dinner (diehard meat eaters who wouldn't touch a vegetable with a ten-foot pole, or fish or cheese), and Niek wanted to work on his chicken roasting skills. In the last few years, he's become something of a chicken roasting afficianado, and he'll most likely be working on perfecting his technique for the next few decades.
And this brings me to the actual point of the post, which is supposed to be about the gendering of cooking and my experiences in the Netherlands. Growing up in the Heartland, I didn't see a lot of men using their skills in the kitchen. I don't think I can say that any of my childhood friends' fathers cooked, and I don't remember my dad ever making us dinner (now that my dad is retired, he's taken on a lot more of the dinner making duties, so kudos to you, Dad). Grilling on the barbeque doesn't count, since I would say it's seen as a pretty masculine activity. There are plenty of discussions in our modern world about how home cooking is still perceived as women's work, and I really wanted to site this article, but my proxy server to the university's research library wasn't granting me access, although I found an amusing anecdote about gender and cooking here and a rather angry assessment of Michael Pollan's take on the matter here. Interestingly enough, all of the partners of my friends know their way around a kitchen, and some of them even do the majority of the cooking in the relationship. Regan should tell you about her husband's forays into bread, cheese, and beer making. I'll refrain from using my guy friends as a representative slice of American culture since I dabble a little more in that crazy intellectual/academic world than most people. But whoah, am I digressing a little bit?
This is really about gender and cooking in my home away from home. Most of the home cooking I have experienced in the Netherlands has either been in my own household or in that of my in-laws where my mother-in-law wouldn't dream of preparing a meal and my father-in-law has been in charge of family dinners since my husband can remember. It was early in our relationship that I learned that Niek's dad was the cook of their house, and I remember being a little shocked hear it. It shouldn't really have come as a surprise to me considering that Niek cooked dinner for us on our second date and cooks about half of the time now. Maybe if both of us didn't work it would be different, but since we both find ourselves busy with work and we both actually enjoy cooking, we are able to maintain a fairly even split. I love that I find myself in a family that supports everyone's interests and skills and doesn't really seem to divide household responsibilities among any sort of gendered guidelines. Are there swaths of Dutch culture that see women as being responsible for cooking simply because they're women? Absolutely. Is it a hard an fast rule everyone ascribes to? No, and I am quite happy for that.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
As I stood over my suitcase last week trying to figure out how we were going to pack everything without going over the weight limit, I started questioning my dependence on American goods. As you can see, I brought back the every important essentials of life like cake flour and chocolate chips. It really took more willpower than I thought it would not to buy the seven other varieties of King Arthur Flour at the local grocery store. I'm pretty sure most people who visit the U.S. do not think to themselves, "I should really bring this rye flour back with me. I might need it if I suddenly get the urge to make myself some bread. Maybe I should go get some of that corned beef I saw on sale, too. Then I could feel like I was at a deli anytime I want!"
We did pretty well coming right in at the weight limit for our luggage. We could have made it without borrowing a second suitcase from my parents if it hadn't been for these:
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I took an unintentional break from blogging during the rest of my time in L.A. and then the three weeks I spent at my parents' house in Indiana. There was just a lot going on, and I was too tired to open my computer most days, let alone write a blog post. That's alright since I saw most of the people who read my blog. To those of you who do read and I did not see during my almost eight weeks in America (which is a shame and it would be nice to meet in real life sometime) you can catch up with my picture journal below. Because, I just know you are dying to know what I did. My life is, after all, intensely interesting.
Here we go...
I studied a bunch with my friend, Naomi, and we drank a lot of coffee together, just like true graduate students should
Regan arrived home from Nigeria (yea!), and finally after many years of cajoling she convinced me to go to Disneyland. Ask Regan about Disneyland sometime. She will tell you all about her happiest place on earth. It was actually way cooler than I thought it would be and it was lovely to have one last day with Regan and Naomi. Thank you, Regan, for convincing me to go.
We managed to squeeze in a trip to Chicago for a few days where we marveled at Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, walked around the city, visited the Art Institute, ran along the lakefront, and I introduced Niek to the joy of a deep dish pizza.