I’m a Girl and Sure, I’ll Make You A Sandwich

Or how about some Tuscan chicken with fennel, tomatoes, and fresh rosemary?

Before you get all excited, allow me to explain.

The other day I forwarded an amazing sea urchin uni pasta recipe from Bay Area food blog “Focus, Snap, Eat” to my fellow foodie friend. She responded, “YUM! So when are you making this?” I immediately retreated, “Oh um, I don’t know…” Of course she asked me why. I thought about it and the reason came to me quickly, and I also recognized how messed up that rationale is just as fast.

Some background information first: I LOVE FOOD. I love eating it. I love cooking it. I love talking about it, learning about it, looking at it, smelling it…

Just to really prove it to you, my first college boyfriend asked me once, “Do you love me more, or do you love food more?” I think you know what my answer was. I can’t blame him that much though. Food induces so much joy in me, way past the level of sustenance for survival.

I also really enjoy making food. But when I’m just cooking for myself, I tend to gravitate towards the easiest and fastest dishes that are usually vegetarian, since handling meat requires a lot more preparation and care. I also love baking sweets- it’s such a therapeutic process mixing everything together, but really, everyone can live fine without brownies and cookies.

When I’m making food to feed someone else though, cooking becomes something that is not associated with necessity.  The goal becomes to make these people whom I like happy with my culinary creations.

If I’m cooking for someone other than myself, I am more willing to put in a lot of efforts: purchase expensive ingredients, hunt down rare items, choose recipes that require more work and care, AND try to make the food’s appearance as pretty as possible. It is an immense source of happiness for myself, too, and I get such an ego boost when others take delight in my dishes.

Oh and wait until I start seeing someone. Oh god. I’ll just be baking for no apparent reason. The housemates and friends really appreciate this, because I always bake enough for everyone. Any special occasions like his birthday come up, and I will cook up a storm in the kitchen. Then I will look at my 4+ course meal spread on the table, frown, and say in true grandma fashion, “Oh no. I don’t think I made enough.”

What’s really messed up about all of this is that even though I really like eating and making elaborate food, I don’t care enough to do it for myself. The meals I make for myself are pretty tasty, but they could be so much better and less repetitve. I always love going out to restaurants but it’s almost as if I’m saying to myself “I’m sorry, but you’re just not worth putting in this much work.” This is startling especially because I really pride myself on being independent, and a part of that includes doing things that makes me happy for myself.

In one of my media studies classes, we learned that in advertising, women are mostly portrayed as cooking and feeding others, rarely seen putting food in their own mouths. When they finally can eat something in ads, it’s usually one of the four following situations:

  1. The woman eats with guilt
  2. The woman eats in hiding or secretly
  3. The woman eats a very tiny portion or something light like a salad
  4. The woman eats openly and without shame, so she is portrayed as having an uncontrollable appetite with a hint to her equally insatiable sexual appetite

I am not making this up. Next time, pay close attention to print ads or commercials involving females and food. I am a foodie feminist so of course this upsets me a lot. At the same time, I can’t help but want to provide for those whose company I enjoy by making them food. It’s even worse when I cook for a guy because it can be read as such an act of servant-like domesticity.

I think I’m going to try to put in more effort into making food for myself, but I am also not going to beat myself up for getting so much satisfaction out of feeding others.

So, what kind of sandwich do you want?

Chin