I am sure that this Post will sound boring by its title.
I find it fascinating, what it takes to make something properly from scratch at home – not even just so much the making of the thing itself, but what it takes to actually produce that thing, in a world which is in the main, not geared towards much in the home any more, except housing of electronic equipment. Ie, many homes seem simply to be there housing the latest in whatever can be purchased by people busily working sometimes hours away from the location of that home.
Personally I do love technology, as far as where it can add ease and pleasure to everyday life. That is adding quality of life. I love that.
Something that I feel empty about, is where walls of houses seem to have become very high in some cases. A walk around my neighbourhood in metropolitan Beachside South Australia on any evening, offers many opportunities for sights of bluish flickering lights from big-screen televisions, from high-up windows staring out of cement-looking walls, which front on to sterile-looking gardens.
I am happy to think of other people being happy. I think that television-watching can be a valid, enjoyable and also grounding activity. I also feel sad at times, thinking of the soul-lessness and heart-lessness, in only having a life where a home is there to just watch telly and make maybe a toasted sandwich in the fancy yet empty-looking kitchen, and lock up securely during all of the hours when you are not there.
Home-cooking and home-made anything is labour-intensive and financially pretty much non-sensicle.
Here though I refer to the story of the man and the Starfish, where a gentleman illustrates to another man, “Made a difference to that one”, when he threw back one Starfish into the sea in order to save it, on a stretch of beach at which he had been told, he couldn’t save all of the Starfish.
I just think that a thorough effort made to produce something beautifully and properly, can make a difference to the quality of one’s own life and maybe also that of another, or others. There is also joy in the doing.
I would not want to be a full-time chef and I probably would not want to ever cook professionally. But as a hobby, I think that cooking can be greatly joyous and can spread joy to many. I don’t entertain much at my home but I often share out batches of things that I’ve cooked (examples are Christmas Pudding, Black Forest Cake, Cold Rolls), to others in Recyclable takeaway containers. Many of them give things to me such as friendship, money, good service in some way, that help to add to my quality of life (and therefore the quality of life of those around me), and I naturally want to reciprocate, and/or maybe those people are reciprocating to something from me.
“Just like Grandma used to make”, is often used by places like McDonald’s as a marketing slogan.
In order to make things just like Grandma used to make, the person – most often a woman – would need to be able to be home for enough hours to be able to prepare to make the item and also to actually make it. A Pudding recipe that I have, requires soaking of the dried fruit overnight in Brandy, as a pre-step to making the pudding. Then on the actual day of making the pudding, one needs to keep an eye on a pot of boiling water, while the pudding cooks.
I’ll also say this: the pudding recipe that I use, came from the Internet. I just found the most authentic-looking recipe that I could find. I used to have one cut-out from the Australian Women’s Weekly – their recipes are normally tried and tested and so tend towards the reliable – but in my moves since leaving my marital home, that batch of recipes is lost or thrown away somewhere now, so I had to find another one. I can’t realistically afford to buy a whole cooking book just for one recipe, so I just look them up normally now, when I need one.
Perhaps that is contributing to a lost art of books? Maybe some love books. I do have a big collection of a pretty wide range of book, but I’ve had little kitchens for a few years now and limited room for cookbooks in them, and limited interest in having them. I do have a hardback Cordon Bleu cookbook, which I do use often when checking recipes for certain things like a sauce, and I use it when making meringues. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but when one is cooking food and liquids tend to get sprayed around at times. I myself tend to haul around a recipe with me, as I go to different spots in the kitchen and still have to follow the recipe. I’d feel sorry for a book with its spine being ripped apart as I grab it from one spot to another, while in the throes of thrashing out a recipe. A piece of paper, my TiraMisu handwritten recipe is all stained and torn now, but I can still read it, and it can be easily recycled and replaced – maybe copied onto a fresh sheet of paper before it is too far gone.
I grew up in the Adelaide Hills (South Australia) and I probably got used to just being functional. This is where maybe a kitchen does not need to be fancy with soft-closing drawers or anything like that, in order to be a place of happy activity, and beautiful food being prepared.
I was born in Melbourne which is a cosmopolitan capital city in Australia – so I am not simply a small-town girl.
What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think that it’s necessarily small-town or small-minded, to be thinking, let’s have a look at home-cooking and maybe also other home-based arts.
Nigella Lawson helped to create recognition of the Domestic Goddess. I’d have to say that I’m very much the warrior-type as well as loving some of my home arts – so I don’t think that I fit into any label of Domestic Goddess. There is also beauty perhaps, in a level of accessibility – Nigella Lawson, most of us will never meet. She’s been a good ambassador I think, for those kinds of arts – culinary arts and popularising them and raising their benefits, appeal and profile.
In a way, also, it’s maybe been made a joke of. And seriously, what it takes as I’ve started touching on already, is for the person making those things, to be home for enough hours to make them.
Making Christmas Puddings, or any somewhat involved item, takes several steps. There are ingredients that one needs, that one might not just always have in stock. Who checks the list (and he’s checking it twice – sorry, that’s Santa)? Who makes the list for the shopping? Who does the shopping? That involves hauling the bags around etc and transporting it and getting it home in good condition.
If no shopping is done, are the ingredients fresh? Even if shopping is done on-line, sometimes mistakes happen and one sooner or later has to take delivery of the items and store them properly, etc.
This isn’t just to make heavier weather than needed over something, it’s to celebrate perhaps, the steps needed to even prepare to make a certain specific item of cooking at home.
In order for a person to be able to do even the above steps and do them well, they need: a home; some kind of transport; enough creative energy to think up what to cook and how they’re going to go about it; time has already been mentioned; a certain level of organization eg to be able to have enough free, clean bench space and utensils in order to prepare and cook the item. This is all being said of an adult who might have many other things happening in their life, eg being obliged to somehow have enough money to pay the home bills, the transport bills and to pay for the shopping, and they might have family duties to fulfil such as children to help care for or older relatives partly or fully in their care.
Many women, are not supported even to a level of basic rights or conditions, let alone being supported to a level of being able to make really beautiful food from home.
I realize that men cook from home also.
I guess I feel that many more women would cook, if they had the right conditions in which they could do that.
Another factor is that any woman (or man) who chooses to stay at home, will face a degree of social challenge because not many people do it any more.
There are gender-based issues here – it is different living as a woman than as a man.
I come back to the basic elements of Yin and Yang here – Yin is cold, slow, moist, dark and related to the moon; Yang is hot, fast, dry, light and related to the sun. I realize that we each have a bit of Yin and Yang in each of us. However men are primarily Yang and women are primarily Yin. Women in general I believe, thrive on a certain amount of time in a home where they can flourish in whatever aspects are natural for them to flourish in (whether it’s art, entertaining, networking on-line, being mothers, wives, cooks etc.). More and more men are choosing to explore and express their home-side, being at home hands-on with kids etc.
I’d say that women are much more vulnerable to negative effects of being forced out of their homes in order to just keep a roof over their head, than would be men. Men are perhaps more vulnerable to losing themselves in a rat race and in succumbing to temptations of a flattering outside world, and so neglecting those at home.
This might all sound very old-fashioned, and I think that much of what I have said, is old-fashioned. I also think that much of what I’ve said, contains some enduring basics which can contribute to humanity-wide unhappiness and suffering, if they are ignored.
Much of Western society, is based on Christian principles, or a least a man-made interpretation of that. Some of what I have said here, I grew up with as ideal models of how adults should behave and how it should all work. The trouble with doing something as a ‘should’, even if it is close to what is actually authentic and natural, is that it doesn’t tend to cope too well when something in fact isn’t as it should be.
Domestic violence is an example. It ‘should’ be that the man protects and provides, and is also able to experience and express his soft, feminine side. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. I recently saw a series of three videos with my mother, which was a Church discussion of domestic violence. The thing that most stood out to me in the videos was, the principle of Headship in Christian teachings, that the man needs to be respected as head of the partnership and household. However as one of the authorities said in the videos, in any Church sermon about Headship, there needs to also be a discussion about abuse.
There are elements in our world at present about fundamentalist this and extremist that. In a way, those elements have a point: we’ve lost the plot and someone has to help it come back to fundamentals again.
However I’d look at a fundamental as something like, male and female – Yin and Yang is a more stripped-back version of that still – it gets away from simply, women and men. What are we expressing, what are we living as?
In a capitalist-based society, it is not of interest to people standing to make money from consumption, to have silly little women happily in their homes, free to think and create delights for those around them. That woman is too empowered – she should be made to want this and want that, that will never fulfil her but she will happily die trying, flying here and flying there, trying to find that thing that was there all along, but she was assaulted into being distracted from just having it.
This might all sound hilarious, except try going against what most people in say a capitalist, patriarchal society think is a good idea, and see what happens.
My Grandmother was actually not that great at cooking. She did do about nine recipes very well, and that did add much joy to my life and others’ lives, from what I could see. She had a plaque on her kitchen wall for many years. It said:
“No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best.”
My Grandma did offer much care and hospitality via her home, however she was also very well-travelled. She lived abroad from her home country of Australia for about ten years. Her kitchen was typically basic yet organized, and the rest of her house contained a mixture of fine, and also some very basic, furniture and items of china etc., and artefacts from places such as India and Asia.
My Grandma was born in 1910, which means that she lived before most of us were born, and she lived through eras where technology was very limited. It would have been quite a phenomenon to her, to have a fully equipped kitchen even. I think that we have lost the plot in terms of that kind of stuff, ie what can be done simply with basics. Yes, we all might understand this yet who is actually doing it?
I’ve been on a budget and have been living in an un-renovated place. It’s freshly-painted and has built-in wardrobes and all the usual facilities of a Western home, yet un-renovated. I thought about my kitchen and thought, it needs a renovation.
I was out walking with a good male friend, local to my home, and we ended-up taking in a hardwood overhead kitchen cabinet which had been placed on the sidewalk. I had been wanting some overhead cupboards for my kitchen and thought that I’d need to get a full-blown kitchen renovation in order to have that. And yet, without even owning the place in which I live, I’ve now managed to install (with my Landlord’s permission and with assistance from my male friend and some others), a freshly-painted (by me) overhead kitchen cabinet. That all cost pretty much nothing – it just needed a bit of magic, a bit of effort, some time, and the application of some relevant skills such as sanding, painting etc.
A very old female friend lived in her birth country of Germany for some years and I understand there, that one puts in a kitchen etc when one rents a place but in Australia, a rented place comes with a kitchen intact. That’s the context in which I’ve been speaking.
I’m just saying, it doesn’t have to be, new this, new that, in order to be fantastic.
This might seem unrelated but recently in South Australia, a young man killed himself and his and his wife’s two young sons, by driving off a pier into the sea. I am very sorry for the family. I also feel very sad that what is seen as looking perfect, if it’s not actually working perfectly, what options are there for doing anything about that?
Media reports have all said, ‘if you or anyone you know needs help with a mental problem, call these numbers’ – one is Lifeline for example.
I’ve been through serious mental crises and I can tell you, it is not as simple as calling that number. I and at least one other person I know, have had negative experiences such as either not being answered, and/or experiencing disapproving-sounding feedback from the person at the other end of the line. Those services, tend to be under-funded and the people on the other end of the lines, are just human beings also.
I think it childish and simplistic, to act as though a person should just acknowledge that they need help and get help.
In my experience, a person experiencing a mental crisis, might have already looked around for signs of hope of help, and not found them. Of anyone who is saying, oh if only that person had gotten help, why has that person not gotten help themselves, with finding out how they can be someone who can be of help?
I don’t know all of the answers here, but for anyone pretending that these matters are simple, maybe they are, and yet maybe not quite in the way that some might want it to be?
Anything that is man-made and gets away from fundamental building blocks, maybe that is where we need to be a little aware and conscious?
Much seems to have been made of how normal looked the life of the young gentleman who, it appears murder-suicided. What is normal? If he wasn’t coping with normal, what would have been the remedies on offer around him?
From my own experience, some results of him having sought help would likely have been: he would have been prescribed medications; if any were anti-depressants they would likely have dampened his libido and joi de vivre; he would have found himself subject to attending various clinics etc; he would have experienced stigma related to being labelled mentally unwell; he might have ‘lost’ his wife and also been denied access to his two children. If he had stayed with his wife, there might have been ongoing misery due to effects of medications, if that was accepted as a solution.
What could have been solutions in that situation? I don’t know for sure. I think that it is not made very safe for people struggling with an everyday reality that for whatever reason is not working for them, to make changes. Maybe that is a part of the exhilaration and thrill of daring to be different, for example to forge even at a hobby level, any domestic art.
Maybe that is a part of the legacy of someone who has taken the route of doing what it appears the young gentleman did in South Australia recently – that they can remind the rest of us, how precious is the time that we have, and how will each of us use it? What risks will we take? Maybe he served as he was meant to but couldn’t do it any more. Again, I am very sorry that that happened and my thoughts are with the family.
I guess more than being about cooking, this post is about, some of the elements of life, and what it can take, to just live a life, in a world which at times to me at least, seems to have gone a little insane – or maybe just a bit out-of-touch!