Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If I could turn back time

Saturday night we were at an African themed dinner party at a friend’s house.

“Can I do anything to help?” I asked hopefully, poking my head into the kitchen. If I didn't help now, I’d be one of the ones stuck doing the dishes after dinner.

“No thanks,” replied my husband, as he prepared a spicy Moroccan vegetable dish.

“No, it’s all under control,” L said as he slid marinated prawns onto a skewar.

“Sure, can you take this drink out to my wife?” asked D, checking the coconut rice pilaf.

I left the three men in the kitchen, measuring, chopping, sipping wine, and laughing as they put the big meal together. I bet they slapped each other’s ass after a particularly good taste test, just like after a sweet goal on the rink.

A generation ago it would have been different. The kitchen would not be a testosterone zone when dinner was prepared. It was the 70’s, and women were driving the equality train, demanding that men take their share of household work. But most men then had not been brought up learning how to cook. Meal preparation was a mystery. So they dutifully (or under threat of no sex) took on the job of cleaning the kitchen up after meals. My father, for example, jumps up after a meal and heads to the kitchen, where he washes, wipes, scrubs, and packages and labels leftovers with military precision. Every item in the dishwasher goes in its assigned place. (He once accused me of “dishwasher anarchy” when I loaded it.) Dad’s lack of culinary skill is legendary, so he took on the job of chief pot scrubber without complaint.

These days, one person cooks, the other cleans up, just like in the 70’s. It’s only fair. But now, our men cook! They look up recipes, try out new spices, even (gasp) wear aprons. Their enlightened mothers taught them what a kitchen is for. They took mandatory home-ec at school. Men are now liberated from the prison of pot scrubbing and plate scraping. They get to experience the creative side of the spatula. They bask in praise from their dinner guests. They bond over woks. This is a splendid development. My brothers, I rejoice with you in your freedom from baked-on grease!

Oh bullshit. Women were subjugated by men for thousands of years. Couldn’t we have kept men scrubbing all the crusty pans for just a little while longer?

Today's dream travel destination: 1979.


Dumdad said...

I still get to scrub the pans in the Dumdad household; but god bless dishwashers for the rest of the stuff.

I do cook (moules marinières is one of my specialities) but Her Royal Frogness is so much better and she enjoys it.

I'm on my own for a week and am happily cooking for myself. But I also have to do the pans - not fair!

Diana said...

I love your dad. I cook as Charles has no interest in it and if it were left to him, we'd eat nothing but various forms of eggs and cheese done in a frying pan or chips. I also do the clean-up as it's faster and I also like a well loaded dishwasher, not the cracking chaos of my husband's doing.

And, yes, I know I'm being 'had'.

I'm also raising my kids to know the fun side of the spatula.

Jazz said...

I do most of the scrubbing because the boy? He cooks. All. The. Time. Thank god.

Big Brother said...

I must admit that I am from the old school. I never really learned to cook and to be honest I really don't like to cook. The only thing that I am good at are pancakes. Not your thick small pancakes, but the large thin crêpes made from scratch, that you can stuff with all kinds of things. So, like your dad, I have resigned myself to be the official cleaner-upper. ;o)

Ian Lidster said...

Your 1979 'destination' evoked a Homer Simpson shudder in me. Did we look like that?
As for us, either I cook, or Wendy does, depending on who's home first -- and she is a trained chef,so we eat well. I can cook like a hot damn. I once said that being the oldest kid with an alcoholic mother means you damn well better learn to cook if you want to eat. So, we ate well, even when Mom wasn't "feeling well."
By the way, I found that being a good cook, back when I was divorced, had certain seduction qualities about it.
And, unlike a lot of males, I do clean up after myself.
Great blog. But, yours always are.

CS said...

Both my boys cook for themselves if they are home during the day and I'm at work, but the younger one (10) shows a distinct interest and we've agreed that cooking lessons will start in earnest once we are in the new house.

CS said...

Oh, and the 1979 guy scared me a little, too.

Ruth L.~ said...

Mothers, train up thy sons in the way they should go . . .

Mine cook, clean and do their laundry. Lest I sound like I'm bragging, my husband is entirely a different story. And who knows what my boys will be like when they marry.

Alda said...

Where *did* you find that guy?! The one with the pecs, I mean. I think he's great!

EPI is the chef in our household - he's much better at it than me. I tend to have this slapdash attitude towards cooking, whereas he lingers over the preparation with loving attention to detail. I'm only too happy to let him get on with it!

Voyager said...

Well, I see not all women agree with me here, some are happy to let the men do all the cooking, even if it means scrubbing pots. Both B and I love to cook but hate cleaning up. We do clean up after each other's culinary adventures, probably because of that threat of no sex. Not that I have the energy after scrubbing all the crusty, greasy pots.

dumdad, You're right, it's not fair. Order in.

diana, I suspect you and my Dad could have a fascinating discussion (to the two of you anyway) on whether the glasses should go on the right or the left of the dishwasher.

jazz, You would rather scrub than cook? Oh. My. God.

big brother, You're what I need, an official cleaner-upper.

Ian, You cook like hot damn AND clean up after yourself? I'm swooning.

cs, My boy (now 20) is a decent cook, but I recall from some of your posts that your younger son has a real talent for it. Cool!

Ruth, can I hire your boys to clean up after my next dinner party?

Alda, 1970's guy is quite something isn't he? To think I once lusted after men who dressed like that. I bet he is wearing platform shoes.


jmb said...

No male cook in our house, just a male dishwasher. But trust me I trained my son differently.

Diana said...

(Ahem.) Tall glasses to the right, shorties in the middle, coffee mugs to the left.

Of course.

Rozanne said...

"Dishwasher anarchy!" LOL

Great post. I like that the guys are so into the African theme that they're wearing dashikis! That's pretty 1979, if you ask me.

Here's what I'd like to see evolve. The men prepare the meal and do the cleaning up. That's what women had to do until about 1975. It's payback time!

Rozanne said...

And, yeah, that 1979 guy is way scary. He looks like a Ken doll on steroids. The mustache alone would be enough to make me want to run in the other direction.

Voyager said...

jmb, I trained my son to cook too, and he does, but not with any great enthusiasm.

Diana, you would tear your hair out if I loaded your dishwasher.

Rozanne, I like your thinking. It should indeed be pay back time.


Jocelyn said...

OMG. That last photo.

I'm dyin' here.

In our house, my husband cooks AND does the washing up.

In my defense, I do the laundry and vacuum and stuff.

Voyager said...

jocelyn, I would vacuum everything, even the back yard, if I never had to scrub another pot. Your groom is a gem!

Angela said...

Look at those smiles! They're wonderful! But the last image you posted really takes the cake. Priceless!

(And yes to all you said, but since hub won't clean up and doesn't really cook either, the dishes at my house just stack up until one of us gets truly sick of them and gets them in the washer. So much for liberation!)

Eastcoastdweller said...

Hello, I'm new to Your blog but I like it.

If my understanding of history is correct, there was actually a time when Women did all the cooking AND the cleanup afterwards.

In my marriage, I'm the cook and we cleanup together, because I make too much of a mess for one human being to handle.

As for 1979 guy, I've had this thought about that decade: Sure, we look back now and snicker or perhaps even emit a belly laugh or two, and call it ugly, and maybe it was. BUT people had fun wearing the costumery of that era, like ten years of a Halloween party.

When this current decade, whatever the heck we call it, the aughts, I guess, comes to an end, what will be distinctive about it?