Just Because I Like to Cook Doesn't Make Me "Wife Material"
Growing up, some of my fondest memories involve looking over my mom's shoulder in the kitchen. I was astounded that she managed to always get everything on the table seamlessly and at the same time (something I still struggle with). She had a sense of intuition in the kitchen, experimenting with herbs, spices and aromatics that filled up the house and got everyone's attention. I wanted to be just like her. I wanted everyone to be lingering and snacking while I fluttered around, whipping together something we could all enjoy and share. Ultimately, this led me to become a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition working as a nutrition editor at one of the magazines that shaped my love for food. And I could not be more proud.
That is, until I realized how society was looking at the way I've shaped my life around being in the kitchen. I frequently post photos and videos of my dinners on social media, to show others that it's possible to cook as a young professional and also because I am proud of what I create. But then the comments started coming. They ranged from subtle things in jest from friends like "wife material" or comments approaching passive aggressiveness like "I wish my job gave me time to cook." As a single, mid-20s woman who recently finished grad school, getting "wifed up" from pursuing my passion at a high level was not front of mind, to say the least.
It got me thinking about whether men who loved to cook got the same feedback from friends, peers or even strangers. My instinct says probably not. Nigella Lawson provides an excellent perspective: When people think of a chef, they think of a man with an income, but when they think of a home cook, they think of a woman, typically one with a family. But cooking is a nuanced, complex, badass hobby that does not need to be linked to a familial or gender role. When I am charring ribs over an open flame on my charcoal grill, I am doing it because it's delicious, skillful and rewarding, not because I am trying to impress the men around.
I cook for me. I cook because I love to do it. And I love to cook for those I love. But I did not become devoted to cooking in the hopes that it would make a potential suitor notice me. I am perfectly happy putting on some music, pouring a glass of wine and making a five-star meal for myself (ladies, try out one of our delicious recipes for one for a solo date-night tonight). I love to share those moments with others too, but that is not why I do it. Some day, I hope to feed and nourish my family because I love to do that for those I love. But that was not, and never has been, my motivation to have categorized folders of magazine recipes, spend hours reading cookbooks or retry recipes until I have them perfected. I do that because I love it and it makes me feel empowered, creative and relaxed.
All this is to say, stop pigeonholing women with culinary aspirations by calling them "wife material." We aren't doing it for you—we're doing it for ourselves.