Slate's Amanda Marcotte Slams 'Tyranny' of the 'Home-Cooked Meal'

Ultra-left-wing blogger Amanda Marcotte targeted an apparent societal "tyranny" in a Wednesday item for Slate: the "burden" that the "home-cooked meal" places on women in particular. Marcotte played up a recent study by a feminist professor and her two colleagues that underlined that "while home-cooked meals are typically healthier than restaurant food...the stress that cooking puts on people, particularly women, may not be worth the trade-off."

The writer played up how men are supposedly a large part of this "tyranny" on "middle-class working mothers:"

...[W]omen find that their very own families present a major obstacle to their desire to provide diverse, home-cooked meals. The women interviewed faced not just children but grown adults who are whiny, picky, and ungrateful for their efforts. "We rarely observed a meal in which at least one family member didn't complain about the food they were served," the researchers write. Mothers who could afford to do so often wanted to try new recipes and diverse ingredients, but they knew that it would cause their families to reject the meals....The saddest part is that picky husbands and boyfriends were just as much, if not more, of a problem than fussy children.

Marcotte led her article, "Let's Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner" (which carried the sub-title, "The Tyranny of the Home-Cooked Meal"), by asserting that "the home-cooked meal has long been romanticized, from '50s-era sitcoms to the work of star food writer Michael Pollan, who once wrote, 'far from oppressing them, the work of cooking approached in the proper spirit offered a kind of fulfillment and deserved an intelligent woman's attention.' She continued by noting that "in recent years, the home-cooked meal has increasingly been offered up as the solution to our country's burgeoning nutrition-related health problems of heart disease and diabetes."

The blogger spent most of her short piece on the results of the study by North Carolina State University sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton:

...The researchers interviewed 150 mothers from all walks of life and spent 250 hours observing 12 families in-depth, and they found "that time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others make it difficult for mothers to enact the idealized vision of home-cooked meals advocated by foodies and public health officials." The mothers they interviewed had largely internalized the social message that "home-cooked meals have become the hallmark of good mothering, stable families, and the ideal of the healthy, productive citizen," but found that as much as they wanted to achieve that ideal, they didn't have the time or money to get there...Low-income women often don't have the money for fresh produce and, in many cases, can't afford to pay for even a basic kitchen setup....Even when people have their own homes, lack of money means their kitchens are small, pests are hard to keep at bay, and they can't afford "basic kitchen tools like sharp knives, cutting boards, pots and pans."

...The researchers quote food writer Mark Bittman, who says that the goal should be "to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden." But while cooking "is at times joyful," they argue, the main reason that people see cooking mostly as a burden is because it is a burden. It's expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food anyway. If we want women—or gosh, men, too—to see cooking as fun, then these obstacles need to be fixed first. And whatever burden is left needs to be shared.

Interestingly, while Marcotte cited the left-wing researchers, who highlighted "the idealized vision of home-cooked meals advocated by foodies and public health officials," she didn't mention that the most prominent person advocating this ideal is First Lady Michelle Obama. A March 14, 2014 item by Darlene Superville of the Associated Press detailed Mrs. Obama's advocacy:


...Michelle Obama said Friday that a new focus of her anti-childhood obesity effort will be to help people cook more of their meals at home because they're healthier.

Addressing a health summit in Washington, the first lady said home-cooked meals have less fat, sodium, cholesterol and calories than meals prepared in restaurants — and save money, too.

She said too many people think they don't have the time or the skills to cook for themselves, but that plenty of meals can be pulled together in less than 30 minutes for cheaper than takeout....

In her remarks, the first lady talked about working with supermarkets to distribute recipes and offer cooking demonstrations, with schools to develop the "home economics class of the future" to give students basic cooking skills and with chefs to get them to offer affordable cooking classes in their restaurants.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center