Food & My Femininity
Cake: Internal Oppression and The Thing I Love
It’s the weirdest thing. I think I’m a modern woman. I’m certainly a professional. I reject tradition for tradition’s sake. I’m busy (who isn’t?). And I love to cook and bake. Nobody is more surprised than me that I find my happy place in the kitchen.
Cooking: My Love Language
When I was a teen, you couldn’t get me to cook without a huge argument and fight. I thought it was the most sexist chore ever. As a matter of fact, anything domestic was against my personal creed. I just refused to be “the dutiful girl child”. Now, fast forward to today: cooking makes me feel more connected than anything else to the people I love, other women, and my family. Making food for someone in particular is probably my grandest display of love. It is my way of attempting to cater to what I think you like. It’s also my way of noticing what’s important to you: if your mama dies, and I bring you a cake, I care. If your mama dies, and I send you a card, you should probably write me off.
The Church Ladies:
In several of my social circles, especially those circles related to church, I am the youngest woman in the group (and probably the least sanctified). It doesn’t help the situation when they realize that I’m a bit eccentric and reject many of the things to which some of them have spent their entire lives subscribing. For example, when they hear that I don’t really like kids, have a few friends who are lesbian and gay, question parts of the Bible, and that I hike alone, they usually ask me questions that are tantamount to, “Why does that appeal to you?” while their body language clearly shows that they think I’ve lost my mind. Evenso, as soon as I say, “I brought a pound cake that I made. I’d like you to try it”, they reconsider whether I’m all that bad. In turn, as soon as they say, “Ooooh, this is good. I can taste the butter…”, I know I have a friend (I don’t know how this ritual would go if the cake was terrible). Cooking bridges the gap between the silver sisters and me: it gives us a starting point and makes me relatable.
Just like I’m a bit of an odd fit with the church ladies, my lifestyle has changed significantly since I moved away from home (and across the country). This is especially true of my diet. In general, however, I’ve changed so much that it doesn’t feel like I have a lot in common with my extended family anymore. Once again, food comes to the rescue and provides a conduit to maintaining these relationships. Although I’ve become foreign to them, food restores our kinship. When I go home, I make cake for them and roasted beets for me. While they refuse the latter with statements like, “Cuz, you know damn well we don’t eat stuff like that”, they are steadily cutting large hunks of cake.
Cooking is QUITE the Big Deal:
Paradoxically, I like cooking because it’s routine and significant all at once. I grew up with a front row seat to daily home cooked meals. If you lived with my grands, your first contributions to Sunday dinner were cornbread (NO JIFFY) and potato salad. By the time I hit puberty, I just knew how to make pie crust. Simply, I’m a southerner. It’s just what I am (grits, saturated fats, and all). By the same token, cooking makes me both uniquely and supremely female. Yes, I know men cook; but, there’s something about cooking that feels like it belongs to me, to women. If a man does it, he’s atypical and I can find tons of ways to ignore his cooking skills (lol). However, if a woman cooks – if I bake – and she’s EXCEPTIONALLY good at it, that’s a big friggin’ deal! It’s a big deal because she does what many women do (possibly what all women are expected to do), but she isn’t average. I feel like I need this trademark of womanhood because I’m so unlike them in every other aspect. When I said that cooking helps others to accept me, I should have also said that it helps me to accept me. It makes me feel secure within the sisterhood. The irony is not lost on me that the thing that I once rejected is now a testament to who and what I am.