You know those mums who joke about serving chicken nuggets to their kids on occasion? As is frozen, battered processed chicken parts are the pinnacle of terrible parenting.
Well, let’s just say I’d be hitting the peak of terrible parenting every damn day if my husband didn’t do all the cooking.
I’m a mum who doesn’t cook, and I’m OK with that.
In recent history, cooking and motherhood have always been closely linked. I’m reading the Little House on the Prairie book series to my son right now, and back in the mid-1800s Ma Ingalls got down with some seriously rustic meal preparation. We’re talking making her own jerky from scratch, but with less beef and more squirrel or something. Pies without the benefit of pre-packaged crust or even refrigerators. Candy made from a combination of snow and maple syrup milked from a tree out front.
Jumping way forward, my grandma’s Betty Crocker cookbooks were all about fancy roasts and loaves of every kind. There was salad, yes, but not your basic packaged easy lunch option. This was Waldorf Salad with ingredients of yester yore such as lemon juice, chopped apples, and two medium celery stalks.
Cooking-related advertisements have traditionally targeted women, especially mothers. Women dressed to the nines, their perfectly-curled hair framing their rosy cheeks and smile. Always a casserole dish in hand.
Even now, many mums cook. The old-fashioned cookbooks and ads have been replaced by pinned recipes on Pinterest, and the sharing of those warp-speed cooking videos. Mums share “easy” recipe ideas in person as well as on social media. Generations pass down family favourites.
And maybe family cooking tradition is at the root of me not cooking.
My mum was never someone who loved to cook. She had her few basic recipes: English muffin pizzas, chicken made with a can of mushroom soup, meatloaf. My dad would barbecue. Always a little on the crisp side. Love you, Dad! As we kids got older, there was lots of heating up taquitos or frozen chicken sandwiches for lunch. Cereal for breakfast. And I was totally cool with it. I didn’t go hungry, and I knew nothing different. But I didn’t develop that familiarity with or appreciation for cooking that many young people do.
To me, cooking was something you did out of necessity, not pleasure. And in fact, cooking wasn’t really even a necessity.
Once I was away from the college dorm cafeteria, I lived mostly off of easy salads, sandwiches, and frozen meals.
Meeting my now husband as I was finishing up my last year of college was a major culinary awakening for me. He grew up in a house where food preparation was a way of showing love. I learned there was an art to cooking well, and he was a master. Perfectly-seasoned prawn. Tri-tip steak with just the right amount of pink inside. Homemade pizza. You name it, he made it, and made it with flourish.
My husband and I got married and went on to have our two kids, with him cooking and me on dish duty. The kids and I look forward to eating his meals, and we enjoy sitting down together as a family to get down with some seriously delish grub. Plus, he gets major iron chef bragging rights.
I can count the number of times I’ve cooked dinner for us on one hand for sure, and probably a couple of fingers.
I mean, I can probably follow a simple recipe. But I don’t have his passion for cooking, that’s for sure.
When I prepare my kids breakfast or lunch, it’s usually frozen waffles or cereal, or maybe a lunch plate of turkey slices, cheese, fruit and avocado. They love it, TBH.
But there is certainly pressure in society even now for mums to cook. Feeding our children is at the core of caring for our kids, and caring for our kids is what good mums do, right?
I realise the importance of providing children with nutritious, mostly unprocessed foods, and a variety of healthy choices. But cooking just isn’t my bag, baby. If something should happen to my husband, I would buckle down and try to do what I would have to do to make sure my kids are well-fed.
But for now, I’m counting my lucky chickens to have a husband who likes to cook, and am grateful to live in a time when a woman’s place is only in the kitchen if she wants it to be.