Friday, December 10, 2010

Confessions of a Chef/Crafter/House Frau Wannabe

I feel a little shame faced about this post, for some reason. There is nothing lecherous or sinister about it, but I feel like I'm simultaneously betraying feminism for admitting these desires and female instinct for not naturally being an expert at this stuff. I'm a decent cook, fair housekeeper, and moderate craft/creative project maker, but I want to be better. There, I said it. I want to improve my domestic skills, and I don't care who knows it! Take that, Gloria Steinem* and Irma Rombauer. I don't need your approval.
It's not that this is an all-consuming desire. I don't lie awake in the night, quietly weeping because I've still not mastered the art of timing my meals so that every component finishes at the same time. I'm not in therapy talking about how I've never managed to knit anything more complicated than a simple scarf in a truly tragic shade of sickly pink.
Yet I see this inner yen manifest itself in small ways in my daily life. I admire my uber-cook roommate's culinary skillz. I read Real Simple in the hope that the practical how-tos or decorating ideas will seep into my subconscious so thoroughly that I will know what to do the next time a domestic emergency or impromptu party comes up. I find myself browsing to get recipes and look at the pretty pictures that I could never take. Or to look at other pretty pictures that I could never take. I look at the beautifully decorated homes of my friends or in magazines and try to memorize the arrangement of the candles and the bric-a-brac. I procure beautiful and helpful cookbooks, which, honestly,  end up serving as talismen. I feel like their presence on the kitchen cookbook shelf will somehow magically make me Julia Child overnight. I clean- well, sometimes. I won't lie about that, because my roommates could tell you how often I do an actual house cleaning. But I do tidy- my room is almost always perfectly tidy (though as I say that, I just remembered the state I left it in this morning...).
When I've summoned up all of my energy, I experiment with new recipes. I bought this Southern cookbook because, God love her, my mom is from St. Petersburg, Florida, which means she's a yankee with a tan. Despite the other cooking lessons she passed down (and that woman put a hot meal on the table every night after a full day of work), I never learned to make many of the country delights that I grew up enjoying at other people's houses. I've been trying to make a new recipe with a different central ingredient every week, and the results have been good, thus far. But it just doesn't feel like enough. Shockingly, even watching Julie and Julia on repeat doesn't seem to miraculously make me the innately skilled housekeeping, crafting wunderkind that I long to be.
I think most people are surprised to realize how strong my inner domestic diva urges are. Probably because I was surprised by them, myself. I was carefully groomed from an early age to be a Professional Success, to be a Go-Getter. I remember thinking pityingly of the other members of my sex who longed to be housewives. I would indulge their games with dollies and housekeeping, but left to my own devices, I played teacher or business woman or writer. I knew better. (In case you haven't been reading this blog very long or are just a bit dense, I was borderline insufferable from ages 5 to 11. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.)
However, to my sheepish surprise, as I went to university and had to actually make plans for what I was going to be when I grew up, I began to make a startling discovery. I didn't really want to be this business woman that I was so prepared to become. The more I reflected and looked ahead, I realized that I wanted to be a writer, working from home. And though it was too late at that point to change my degree, nor did I feel a real calling to do so, I was chagrined to admit that what I truly desired in my heart of hearts was to be a writer, stay-at-home mom, and general house frau. Oh boy.
These days, I'm definitely not working from home. I am working in a small, windowless room with 6 men for 12 hours a day, every day. I drag myself home, shove something fast down for dinner, and fall into bed. I'm not married and have no children, and my writing does not yet pay my bills so that I can quit my job or anything. And even when I'm at home, writing to my heart's content whilst wrangling a couple of children and waiting for the hubs to get off of work, I know that I won't miraculously have all this time to indulge these kinds of urges. I think it will just be more of a priority than when it's doing all of these kinds of things for more than just myself. It's a lot nicer to cook,etc. for people you love than only for little old you.
Regardless of when this time with others comes, I want to make more space in my life to enjoy these activities for myself. I want to be a little domestic goddess, even if it's just for me. So I will keep reading my Real Simple's and lucky cookbooks, and hopefully someday soon, I will make space in my life for my own enjoyment of cooking and crafting and general homemaking.
In the mean time, to all my far handier friends in these fields, your tips and wisdom are appreciated! Skill me in your ways!

*As an aside, how does one make "American feminist" one's title? When spell checking her name on Wikipedia, this is how she is described. Can my profession be "American person-with-an-opinion?" Please add this to my Wikipedia page, devoted fans. 

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