Fear of a black stove: Are women still putting in work in the kitchen?

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Let me just start out by saying this: personally, I’m one of those women who loves to cook. I am one of those Food Network junkies, and have gotten caught many a time at the company printer picking up chicken casserole recipes instead of weekly reports. Even though I love burning the pot, I also completely understand how time consuming and tiring it can be. We’ve all come home beat from work, only to stare at the short ribs defrosted in the sink like they’re the bogey man.

Now please understand, as the working mother of a very active and curious toddler, I have found myself waving the white flag on cooking many nights when a long day has drained me of all my energy, opting to just scoop up some Boston Market (at least they sell vegetables), or order a pizza. But, I do my very best to make this an infrequent occurrence.

By contrast, I have come across women who are simply clueless in the kitchen. I know a few couples in which the woman doesn’t cook and when they moved in with their equally kitchen-clueless men, both people in the couple immediately packed on twenty pounds from continually eating Chinese take-out.

Back in the day, growing up down south my mother and grandmother always made sure I had a fully balanced meal for dinner every night; it seems that’s simply not the case today in the homes of young, professional women.  As I’ve gotten older many of my friends have started cohabiting with their significant others, and the question that always seems to come up between them is… who’s cooking dinner? As I eavesdrop on my husband when he talks to his friends about their spouses, it seems that a lot of women just aren’t cooking anymore.

If you were to ask most 50-year-old women if can they cook, my bet is that they will mostly say yes. Even if they don’t like to, they can. But ask 25-to-35-year-olds? I think several of them will change the subject. Somehow our great culture of cooking is getting lost in the current generations.

Cooking used to be a way for women to pass down traditions, culture and family history to their daughters, and a way to ensure that their daughters would grow into women who were self-sufficient. Ancestral stories were passed around the kitchen while peeling potatoes and shelling butter beans. Hushed tales of tragedy, and the vibrant laughter of remembering days gone by were fused into the rising steam of the pots and the wafting aroma of the oven’s treats. Recipes dating back centuries were taught and cherished within families, and the results of the final meals became classic memories. It is not only the health benefits that we risk losing with the disappearance of this pastime, but also the cultural significance that accompanied it.

Some even think that not cooking may be the reason why so many black women are unable to find and marry a good man.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking. Black women remaining unmarried at high rates is certainly caused by several other factors (and the feminist in me wants to raise her fist in protest). And, I am not some southern belle brainwashed by the “barefoot-and-pregnant” syndrome. Yet, I still think every woman should be able to make a good meal. Men should also be able to handle their share of the kitchen responsibilities.

More tellingly, the rational, traditional wife in me would be a liar if I didn’t consider carefully the pure satisfaction I see on my husband’s face after he is stuffed with of one of my home-cooked meals. I think back to when we first started dating and I wowed my Brooklyn boy with my southern breakfasts of salmon croquettes and grits, and scrumptious dinners of hearty pot roast and veggies. I can only wonder if somewhere deep down inside, perhaps even subconsciously, those delicious days weighed in my favor when he decided to get down on one knee.  And, in all honestly, behind closed doors every woman who knows how to get it poppin’ in the kitchen and keep her man happily fed will admit that they feel they have a little something over women who burn boiling water.

First of all, the dual threats of MSG overdose and having to stuff a muffin top into a bikini should make anyone want to learn how to make steamed broccoli and chicken cutlets. And, talk about the big bite eating out takes from your budget. Spending $10-$20 daily for dinner is way more costly than intelligently purchasing groceries.

Even worse, I know a few women (more than I care to admit) who have children, yet still don’t find the time to try their hand in the kitchen to give their children nutritious meals. It seems that the new trend for non-cooking mothers is to stop by Mama’s or Nana’s house on the way home from work, picking up a dinner cooked for their children and even their spouse!

Call me crazy, but isn’t that just a little selfish? What’s the point of growing up ladies?

Even worse — some non-cooking moms are gravitating to fast food joints to feed their little ones, a decision that has more tragic long-term effects on growing children.

I am fairly certain that the recent rise in the number of professional women, as well as the bump in fast food availability, have contributed to the decline of cooking sistas. However we should not let these factors deter us. Even if you can live on a lifetime of Panera, we shouldn’t punish our children by our fear of the stove.  Children need balanced meals — and also need to learn how to make these meals — so that when they are older they will be able to lead healthy lives.

First lady Michelle Obama even pointed out this national problem with her campaign “Let’s Move,” dedicated towards putting the kibosh on childhood obesity brought on by poor diet and lack of exercise. Cooking at home helps moms control what children eat, and how much.

Cooking today is easier than it ever has been. There are several pre-seasoned, pre-made, microwavable dinner options that are both affordable and easy to make for beginning cooks. So ladies, let’s start getting back in the kitchen to resurrect the institution and tradition of preparing meals, and help put a stop to this ridiculous and unhealthy cycle of eating out or at other’s expense.

Whether you find yourself as a career woman who lives alone, or married with five kids, you should always know how to feed yourself and your family; it’s just part of the natural order of human behavior.

God-is Rivera is a social media and SEO content strategist, public relations specialist, and freelance writer. She owns and operates her own PR/Branding firm, 319 Public Relations (www.319pr.com), and has written for websites such as MadameNoire.com, and print magazines such as Don Diva.  Follow her on Twitter at @GodisRivera.