Moving on from the world of ramen beef, Jennifer Jeffrey raises questions about the local-and-sustainable etc. movement that are hard to ignore:
One day during the Pennywise Eat Local Challenge, as I was dashing between meetings and wondering how on earth I was going to create an evening meal composed of local ingredients within budget with almost no time to shop, this thought flashed through my head: this whole eat local concept is so not friendly for women who work.
I’m a woman who works, but I have an edge in that I work at home (most of the time), and can therefore dash out to my local farmer’s market on a Thursday morning without having to get permission from the Boss. I can put beans on the stove to simmer in the mid-afternoon. I can flip through my cookbook collection when I need a break from the keyboard. I have the luxury of choosing between my corner mega-grocer and other, healthier options.
If eating local is still a challenge for me, what about women who, voluntarily or not, log 8 to 10 hours a day, five or six days a week, in an office or hospital or courtroom? What about women who, in addition to working long hours and commuting back and forth, also have children at home who need love and affection and help with homework? What about women who, in addition to work and kids and a significant other, also think it might be nice to hit the gym two or three times a week? Or have a social life? Or read a book or take a judo class or become a better photographer?
How does the laundry get washed and folded? How do books get read and dental appointments made? How on earth do these same women have time to plan balanced meals, let alone meals composed of organic, in-season ingredients… grown locally?
The whole post, and the followup, are worth reading. It is an entry in the burgeoning genre of Melodramas of Beset Bourgeois Motherhood,** aka Flanagography, but the connection between easier-to-prepare meals and the two-career household is hard to dismiss. What does bother me about the post is that it seems to inhabit a Cleaver-era notion of what a marriage is, with the exception of this brief caveat
I realize that there are many partners/husbands/co-parents out there who take an active part in meal planning, grocery shopping and dinner-making, but in most households, the question of What’s for Dinner? still falls squarely on the female half of the equation.
the post operates under the assumption that the half of the sky that Mommy holds up includes the kitchen. In the relationships that I have observed, as long as you operate with the assumption that one responsibility falls squarely on one or the other of the partners, that makes it so. In any partnership, your own work is more visible to you, because you are the one doing it. Thus, it is easy to overestimate your own contributions in any partnership, and easy to diminish those of your partner, so generally waiting for a partner to take over a task that burdens you just because he or she recognizes you have too much to do is a don't-hold-your-breath proposition. I have lots of friends who are parents who make it work in many different ways, many of which do not involve the assumption that cooking is Mommy's job, unless it is a special occasion when Daddy makes his special this or that.
More generally, this post points at one of the things about the organic/local/sustainable movement that frustrates me. Frequently, the central issue seems to be how you feel about what you eat or feed to others. The frustration Ms. Jeffrey voices comes out of a sense that the impetus to eat and cook right makes her feel like a failure when she cannot live up to that standard. For WF, making the customer feel good about his or her consumption is explicitly part of the plan. It would be foolish if we chose to consume things that make us feel bad about consuming them, but if social good is a major plank in the org/loc/sus platform, isn't doing good more important than feeling good?
*Apologies to Graham Parker. (If anyone has the mp3 of "Don't bother with the local girls" handy, send it along, and I'll put it up.
**Apologies to Nina Baym.