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The Oy of Cooking

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Over at Slate, Tracie McMillan writes about the trouble with having a prevailing food ethic that both glamorizes cooking and promotes it as an everyday practice:

When the stories we tell about cooking say that it is only ever fun and rewarding—instead of copping to the fact that it can also be annoying, time consuming, and risky—we alienate the people who don’t have the luxury of choice, and we unwittingly reinforce the impression that cooking is a specialty hobby instead of a basic life skill.

McMillan, who published an excellent book last year called The American Way of Eating (and who is a friendly acquaintance of mine), is very good at thinking through the strangely charged interplay between cooking, social class, and the way we worry about obesity. Given the mainstreaming of various foodie tropes and food movement norms, I think this is an increasingly important conversation to have.

Here's just one data point from McMillan's new piece: "We tend to think that low-income Americans are flooding McDonald's, while more affluent citizens dutifully eat better meals prepared at home. In reality, it is the middle class that patronizes the Golden Arches and its competitors. (That’s because fast food may be cheap, but it’s still more expensive than cooking at home.) Indeed, beneficiaries of the Agriculture Department’s food-stamp program (officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) typically spend far more time than other Americans preparing their meals."