As someone who really loves to cook, it always makes me laugh when people say how lucky my partner must be. Sure, he gets to eat all of the delicious things I make, but in truth, I don’t really do it for him. Home cooking is often framed as an act of love and nurturing, and while it is those things for me, it’s also one of the most selfish things I do. Let me explain why — and why it’s actually a good thing.
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Can cooking be selfish? Maybe it should be
There’s nothing more satisfying than eating the exact thing you’ve been craving, prepared exactly the way you want it.
When I go to make a meal, my wants are my top priority: I’ll often ask my partner what he’s craving, but that’ll typically take a back seat to whatever I’m in the mood for. For me, nurturing my mind, body and soul in this way is of the truest acts of self-care I do. I’ll spend a whole morning daydreaming about how I’ll make a recipe – from which pot I’ll use, to the exact thickness I’ll cut the vegetables into, to the grain I’ll cut the meat at, even to the plate I’ll serve it on. My mind works back and forth over the recipe steps like a knot that needs untying until the string is finally smooth.
Reclaiming the art of home cooking doesn’t feel retrograde to me – if anything, it feels a little radical.
While some satisfaction certainly does come from my partner taking his first bite and letting out a satisfied “mmm,” it’s not even close to the satisfaction I feel when I get that first taste. And let’s face it: I know my partner doesn’t really care about how the vegetables are cut, or if the little herb bundle I tossed in was tied together with a delicate bow. Those are details that are just for me. He probably won’t even care if I give myself what I deem as “the better plate” (which I often do) because to him, they both look delicious.
As someone who craves order and control, especially when other aspects of life feel completely out of my control, cooking is a healthy way for me to express that need.
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Reclaiming the art of home cooking
I like to see this little form of selfishness as a subtly feminist act. While restaurant kitchens are typically dominated by men (think of your favourite celebrity chef – who comes to mind first?), home kitchens have historically been relegated to women in charge of cooking and cleaning up after their families. Reclaiming the art of home cooking doesn’t feel retrograde to me – if anything, it feels a little radical. Embracing a historically subservient and feminine act, but turning it on its head by catering to my own wants and needs? Don’t mind if I do.
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‘I’ll have what she’s having’
Recently, I was rewatching the timeless romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally for the umpteenth time. There’s an iconic scene where Sally places a very specific order at a diner: “I’d like the chef’s salad please with the oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie a la mode. But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.”
I feel no shame in eating exactly what I want, how I want, when I want.
When I watched this movie in the past, I would laugh and scoff at this scene, thinking “how could she be so demanding and specific?” But this time around, her order made more sense to me than ever, and truthfully, it reminded me of my own specific cravings and demands when it comes to food. I feel no shame in eating exactly what I want, how I want, when I want. If anything, it empowers me, especially when I think about the many ways women are often forced to shrink themselves and their demands, both physically and literally.
So, the next time you’re cooking, and you’re debating whether or not you should save the better plate for yourself, I encourage you to be a little selfish. I promise, the meal will taste better for it.