What's for Dinner?

Fifty years ago, young girls were compelled to study Home Economics (Home Ec. for short). As a girl, I felt particularly alienated from this class. The teacher was old (probably 45) and weird and the 13 year-old me could not imagine what class could be more of a waste of time.

The food that we concocted usually involved some sort of white sauce (powdered milk and flour)
and did not resemble any food that we ate in our home. The treadle sewing machines were impossible for a clumsy teen-ager to use.

I dreamt of walking down the Champs Elysées, writing a great work of Canadian fiction (mini Margaret Atwood  complete with the curls) not of feeding a brood of children with wallpaper paste.

Years passed. I learned to prepare the fish, chicken and vegetables that I like to eat. My only child (she's 40+ and lives on her own) now prepares her own meals. My husband, forced into Woodworking and Power Mechanics, does not prepare meals. Like many men of his age, Monsieur grew up in a household where the breadwinner and housewife functions were clearly differentiated.

Cooking can be an enjoyable hobby where one combines ingredients to prepare a new or a favourite dish. Or it can be drudgery...It can be meditative or creative or it can be a chore.

Since I have returned to work, I find meal planning and preparation a nuisance. I am capable of cooking a simple, healthy meal...but do I want to? Monsieur is home with Tilde every day yet how often I hear the question"What's for dinner?"

tasty but not worth $11

This week, I tried a food service and after two meals, I'm ready to call it an unsatisfactory, expensive failure. The ingredients for three meals (that I selected) arrived in an insulated box. The recipes were included. The cost (although I got a discount for the first week) is approximately $11.00 a person and the packaging is not environmentally friendly.

Our first meal was spaghetti with meat sauce. Monsieur remarked that my sauce was better. I use ground turkey rather than ground beef. Truthfully, sometimes I use the vegetarian substitute. The sauce was "too meaty" for Monsieur.

Our second meal was couscous with slices of sautéed chicken breasts with mushroom sauce. I had to slice the mushrooms and the chicken breasts so there was no time saving. Monsieur remarked "too much chicken" but I added some of the leftover chicken to my next day's salad.

Besides being expensive, the meals were larger than our typical servings. I was hoping that perhaps mon mari might feel inspired to cook but it's not likely. Monsieur is not very interested in food and favours 1950's British homestyle cooking (canned peas, corn or beans, potatoes/rice and meat).

When I am away from home, I live on "woman food". Fruit and yogurt for breakfast (very cheap in Mexico), occasional omelettes or scrambled eggs and salad with chicken or seafood. A quesadilla, some Oaxacan cheese melted in a tortilla is Mexican comfort food. Add quantities of wine (less than in earlier days) and that's my regime. Markets abound with fresh avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. Picking up groceries or popping into a inexpensive local restaurant is easy.

As I get older, I question how society has divided the tasks in a family. For the past 40 years, many women have held responsible jobs outside of the home. In my adult life, I have lived mostly in townhomes or apartments where "yard work" or exterior maintenance by the homeowner has been unnecessary. Meals, laundry and cleaning chores, however, are still with us on a regular basis.
Because of my conditioning, I feel responsible for these tasks although Monsieur would clean (some)
or do the laundry. Could I give up control?

Are there still "pink" and "blue" jobs in your family? Do you feel responsible for home keeping and meals? What role does upbringing play in changing or maintaining traditional roles?


  1. We have a "pink" and "blue" relationship, mostly because I like to cook. But my husband does dishes regularly, and vacuums occasionally. I'm just pleased that he takes care of my car and does all the odd jobs around the house that I have no interest in learning how to do. I've learned that he doesn't really mind if meals are simple or elaborate, and on weekends, it's very much a foraging existence.

    I'm also pleased that my daughters have spouses who not only help, but take responsibility for the cooking and cleaning, and that my son does the same in his family.

    I think upbringing plays a huge role in how people manage their homes. Modeling is such a strong teaching mode.

    1. I agree that early upbringing is an important influence in home management. My father would never have washed his clothes or made a meal. My husband's father was
      the CEO of a company and died in the 1970's. My younger brother, who no longer works, has embraced homemaking as his wife is still employed. I think that younger men have had more exposure to working mothers and to different foods.

  2. I was very lucky to have had a father who pitched in with any household job that needed doing. He cooked professionally, then came home and helped with getting the kids bathed and ready for bed, would vacuum, change diapers, whatever needed doing. My husband's parents were much more traditional, but he was a fast learner and the timing was right for change in the mid-70s. I did more housework and childcare for years, but he always at least helped. Now he does most of the grocery-shopping, and at least 70% of the cooking and associated clean-up. (like you, I wouldn't bother as much with the elaborate meals if I were on my own -- he enjoys the cooking AND the eating ;-) Our son and sons-in-law are the same, with some of the sons-in-law doing even more of the childcare than my husband used to do.

    1. Your father must have been a great help in your large family. As Lorrie remarked, upbringing is an important element in how people manage their homes. My first husband, to the amazement (and a bit of derision on the part of older members of my family) changed diapers, cared for my daughter while I attended evening classes at university, and made meals. It was the 1970's and domestic roles were changing. His mother did not enjoy homemaking nor did she feel that it reflected her worth in any way so she "encouraged" her sons to help at home. In my teaching career, I have met a few women whose husbands have stayed home with the children and managed the home.

  3. I understand that you must feel that you are being pulled in so many directions after returning to work...there are only so many hours in a day. Meals require advance planning and the shopping then there is the preparation...its a big job.

    We have a very defined pink and blue relationship....I do most of the cooking but do not BBQ...my husband will do that job. Food prep is not too problematic as I am retired and have the time but it was often tedious and exhausting when I was working. Just thinking of what to cook could send me into a tailspin so I had a regular rotation of dishes that would work for us all....I used to make double batches of things and freeze them for days when I was not very motivated or tired. We would go out for a meal every Friday too which was a nice treat at the end of the week.

    My husband is not interested in dusting, vacuuming or doing the laundry...he was brought up by a mother who did all these things as she was a stay at home wife and mom. Thankfully he tends to many jobs that I do not...mowing the lawn, fixing things, renovating projects, working on the boat....it works for us.

    Hope you have a lovely week!
    Its sunny here right now and for that I am so grateful after the past 4 days of torrential rains!

    1. Making larger portions and freezing is a good idea. I just bought the ingredients for chilli and I'm making hamburger soup for work. We don't eat large portions now so the excess could be frozen. I think that men of a "certain age" (70) are not going to change now. The weeks go so quickly! Hope it's sunny today so I can spend outdoors time. Enjoy Quarterdeck Cottage!

  4. Oh how I wish I had a personal chef as , unfortunately, I have been designated this role by a deeply rooted role designation in our 42 year relationship.
    I am a reluctant and uninspired cook, despite having a lovely brand new kitchen in which to work.

    1. A personal chef would be ideal as Monsieur and I don't always want the same food. A lovely piece of fish for me, a steak for Monsieur. I have a galley kitchen perhaps a lovely view would inspire me.

  5. Pink and blue here too although much of that may be my fault because I like things done my way. Not that I'm a perfectionist but the blue of the household has either carefully cultivated a fumbling method for house tasks or it just comes naturally. Not sure which!

    However, at 75 he still works part time in the family business and keeps 2 1/2 acres mowed and gardening done and vehicles maintained, none of which I actually like to do myself, much preferring to be his cheerleader in those.

    I do love seeing that our sons are of the modern hands on type of husbands and fathers and most of their friends are too.

    For decades I worked from home and that made my job easier but I stand in awe of women who work outside the home and then come home and work again. How do they do it?

    1. After so many years, if it works, you don't need to fix it. Your husband sounds as if he has enough to do with the 2 1/2 acres. My parents always had traditional roles as well.
      I think that housing costs, commutes and women's roles inside and outside the home have made workload an issue here.


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