Cooking forward to socialism – Mary Beaken (Women’s Voice)

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Cooking for most women is a chore. And no wonder. When you’ve got to produce two or three meals a day, cooking is reduced to a necessary. When you’ve got to produce two or three meals a day, every day for the rest of your life, cooking is reduced to a necessary routine. As my son sits down to his fifth helping of fish fingers and beans this week, I ponder the alternative.

I enjoy cooking, I can sit happily reading recipe books, mulling over the ingredients, picturing and nearly tasting the end product. Cooking can be very therapeutic, a good way of relaxing, chopping and mixing, smelling and tasting, a touch of this, a sprinkle of that.

So why don’t I indulge in this arousing of the senses more often? I cook like this once a month – if that. Cooking, like a lot of things in this society, has been channelled to suit the system, not us.

For one thing, cooking is considered a woman’s job. OK, we all know how once in a blue moon men put on their habitat pinnies, and with a great fuss and commotion produce, usually a curry or some other ‘one off’ dish, their speciality, leaving the kitchen covered in a layer of onion skins and carrot peel. We all know how apparently the best cooks in the world are male chefs, but of course this is like any other sphere of life, men are allowed to pursue careers much more determinedly than women.

If you’re in a rush morning, noon and night, of course you’re going to cook convenience foods. If you’ve only got 10 minutes in your dinner break to do the shopping, or you’ve got a couple of kids in tow, then it’s a quick whizz round the nearest supermarket to get the food. No strolling round the market, or special trips to different shops.

There’s no way you can spend an hour or two cooking a meal. And however much you enjoy cooking, no one would want to devote that amount of time, two or three times a day, just to feed the family.

The fact is that everybody would probably enjoy cooking if we lived in a different society. If it wasn’t considered women’s daily work. If we only cooked when we wanted to.

But we do have to eat fairly regularly to live. Routine cooking could be done on a big scale. Just like we have canteens at school and at work, we could have them on street corners, like pubs or fish and chip shops now. They could become social centres where you could go for a meal after school or work or the old people’s club.

Then cooking for its own sake could come into its own. People who wanted to cook a special meal for their friends or relatives could actually choose to do it, could plan and enjoy it.

Cooking at street canteens could provide lots more variety than we at home can, and doesn’t have to be as cheap as possible – the education authorities are always looking for ways to cut the quality here, the quantity there. I’m talking about staff who will be encouraged to produce food they’re proud to serve to their neighbours, who will get their job satisfaction from working out varied and nutritious meals.

But we’re talking about a whole different world. Not the world of today where giant food companies make millions from selling us junk food. Where women are second class citizens who are ‘naturally better’ at washing up, cooking and cleaning. Where 8% of the population own 90% of the wealth.

If we controlled the wealth we produce, obviously we’d spend it on things which would benefit us: a good health service, better education, proper public transport, nurseries, leisure centres. How easily street canteens would fit into that sort of society.

Only when the drudgery is removed can we as women develop ourselves, realise what our lives could hold. Socialism is treated by the press as a dirty word. They would have us believe that it’s a grey world where everybody is the same. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. At the moment we are all the same. The magazines tell us what we’ll be wearing this year.  We’re tired by boring, repetitive jobs, and shortage of money with little opportunity to develop ourselves as individuals.

The fight for womens liberation and socialism is on! What thoughts do you have as you fry the beefburgers?

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