I Hate It Because I Love It
I pick out my produce carefully: Fresh organic lettuce. Tomatoes ripened on the vine. A bag of sweetened dried cranberries. I go through my basket, checking, double-checking, that I have everything I need.
At home, I pull out the chopping board and empty the fridge. First, a potato washed of loose dirt, stabbed and microwaved soft. The lettuce I rip with my fingers. The cat comes mewing as soon as I reach for the salmon. “Patience, silly,” I tell him. Quickly, I squeeze a lemon onto the orange flesh, add salt and pepper and tuck the fish in the oven. The cat is not so good with patience if a dead animal is within smelling distance.
I know how to cook six things: salad, salmon, potatoes, toast, boiled eggs and microwave popcorn. That’s five things more than my father can, and fifty five million less than my mother.
My mother cooked everything. And she did it effortlessly, quietly: trays of hot rolls and steaming chocolate cakes appeared on the countertops, while the cooktop sprung pots and pans of chicken soup, oatmeal, meatballs and spaghetti. She served us hot breakfast, hot lunch, and hot dinner. And later, in the evening, when my father came home, she would serve him a separate dinner, always exactly the same: a piece of chicken and a cup of coke with ice. There must have been more to the dinners she served him, but I can’t remember. I just remember the nightly chicken and the coke, and the silverware set around his place before the kitchen doors were closed and the children were banned from the room so he could eat in peace.
Here I am, cooking dinner for my husband.
Just like my mother cooked for hers.
And I hate it because I love it.
I love the act of shopping for the foods that I know he likes. I love the rituals of preparing a meal. I love setting the table for him, I love it when I ask: “Is the fish good?” and he says, “It’s really good”. I get a domestic pleasure from the whole process and I hate that. I am a feminist! I am an educated woman! I have my own career! I feel like I am betraying myself, in some way, with this enjoyment. The journey to leave the imprint of my mother, to break free from her mold, was so painful, so arduous, so lengthy –and yet, in a moment, I can feel like I have snapped back into her place. That I am, at least to some degree, a doting, obedient wife.
The truth is, women like me, my peers in our community, and women from other backgrounds who are first-generation feminists, we all have to craft our own balance of past and present. We all have to develop our own level of comfort with the pieces we want to leave behind and those we want to take with us into our futures.
For me, I compromise by only cooking rarely. And I am reassured by the fact that every time I cook, my husband, no matter how tired and worn out he is, always volunteers to do the dishes.
I don’t think my father ever washed a dish in his life.Printable Version