These two titles express the ambivalence that I often have about cooking. These books were in my mother’s estate, so I know that she had the same ambivalence, though she more often embraced Peg Bracken’s I Hate To Cook Book, finding much less joy in cooking. And who could blame her, expected to feed her family every day, year in year out. There were no fast food places, no Uber Eats, no Grub Hub to bring food to the house. When we went out to eat, probably twice a year, we went for Chinese food. The first pizza place didn’t even open until I was in seventh grade. No food was “convenient,” though my mother was thrilled about frozen vegetables, a relatively newly available item.
I learned to bake as a child, totally self taught from her copy of The Joy of Cooking. Baking had precise measurements and instructions, and they were easy to follow. Baking wasn’t necessary and I never felt any pressure do it. Baking rewarded me since everyone in the family was glad to have the cookies, cakes, and muffins I created. I went on and learned to make candy using the same book. Camp Fire Girls encouraged my love of baking and I also learned some candy making techniques from our leader. But I never cooked dinners. And baking, however delightful, does not a dinner make.
My late sister unapologetically never cooked. She had no ambivalence about that stance. She had, perhaps knowingly, married a man who did all the cooking! I, on the other hand, emerged into adulthood with the same ambivalence of my mother, but with many more choices available as time went on. I actually love cooking once I get started, but I still carry the vestige of that expectation to have dinner on the table every night. This expectation is mine alone, and is not shared by my husband. In fact, he is pleased whenever I cook and is content to fix himself something if I don’t.
Should I cook, should we go out, should we order in, should I open a can of soup? My sister clearly chose a simpler path, never having to quiz herself daily. I continue to deal with my ambivalence. Clearly you can take the child out of the 1950’s, but you can’t take the 1950’s out of the child!