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Thursday
Mar112010

Undomesticated Mama

 

By Paula Bernstein

      “My mom is the best cook,” my 4 ½ year-old daughter Ruby recently boasted to her buddies.

      Every mother likes to hear her child proclaim her the best of anything, but for me, Ruby’s comment was particularly satisfying. Until fairly recently, I didn’t know how to cook at all. I burned microwave popcorn and could barely decipher the directions on the Annie’s mac and cheese box. In short, I was a hazard in the kitchen and did my best to stay as far away from pots and pans as possible.

      My own mother had always served up a warm meat and potatoes meal promptly at six p.m. without complaint. But I knew from the time I was young that I didn’t want to be chained to the stove. To me, the kitchen was a trap. If I learned to cook, I feared I would have no choice but to cook. It was safer, I figured, to just never learn. Luckily, I married a domestic superman who happily shops, cleans, and cooks.

      My friends envied the fact that my husband is so helpful around the house, but I felt guilty.  Plus, my kids were beginninng to say stuff like “Dad does everything around the house.” I was beginning to get a complex about my lack of household skills. Why didn’t I let my mom teach me a thing or two about cooking? As the kids began to grow and my husband’s work schedule got busier, I soon tired of preparing the same mac and cheese every night and ordering pizza.

      I came to realize how short-sighted I was in thinking that housework was somehow anti-feminist. If I want to be a truly independent woman – and a role model for my two daughters – I need to be able to take care of myself and my family. It’s not just a gender issue – shouldn’t everybody be able to cook?

      I started small – making pancakes from a mix and then hamburger patties – and slowly built up confidence in the kitchen. Even more surprising, I began to discover that cooking could actually be fun. As a fringe benefit, I found that by cooking at home, we were saving money and eating better. My girls don’t always like what I cook, but I remind myself that I am creating a positive role model and also, hopefully, teaching them a bit about nutrition.

      These days, I cook dinner nearly every night. Sure, occasionally I heat up some mac and cheese or order pizza. But I can also make lasagna, beef burgundy, and homemade “chicken nuggets” (really cutlets, but I tell the kids they’re nuggets).

      Studies show that kids who help prepare food are more likely to try new foods, so my new goal is to get them to help out more when I cook dinner. Not surprisingly, they never mind helping when it’s time to bake brownies! 

 

Paula Bernstein blogs at Undomesticated Me and also writes for ivillage.com, babble.com and other publications. She is the co-author  of “Identical  Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited,” (Random House, 2007). Bernstein teaches memoir writing for mediabistro.com. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Brooklyn.



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Reader Comments (3)

You are so right on, Paula! I am a clinical/therapist and home trained chef and I help people overcome their practical and psychological obstacles to cooking so please know you are not alone! Keep up the good work and visit my blog to get even more comfy in the kitchen. www.takebackthekitchen.com

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlma Schneider

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