Sunday, May 31, 2009

Michelle Obama Does Not Have to Cook

Last week, before I'd read anything about Mrs. Obama's feelings for meal preparation I was washing cauliflower (again) and wondering if she missed the kitchen. Seriously. I was like, "Does Michelle Obama wish she had time to cook?" I decided she didn't. Which is to say that I wasn't surprised by her admission that she's fine with other people doing the cooking. In fact, if she didn't like other people doing the cooking, I might shoot myself. I mean, there she is, out in the world every day being an icon, a paragon, an exemplar of a real live working mother. How would she have the time to cook, never mind the energy to enjoy it?

In today's paper, however, Amanda Hesser writes that Mrs. Obama, the country's most prominent proponent of local ingredients and healthier meals, missed a great opportunity to improve the nation's eating habits when she admitted she doesn't mind other people doing the cooking. "Because terrific local ingredients aren’t much use if people are cooking less and less; cooking is to gardening what parenting is to childbirth."

This is true. It's true, as Hesser writes, that it's cheaper to cook for yourself and better for the environment in all kinds of ways. (Just think of all those plastic take out containers!) But it's also true that cooking can be a chore, and it's not just the food companies trying to sell me easy-make food that makes me say that. I cook a lot, sometimes I love it, and sometimes, meh. But is that so unusual? After all, anything you have to do every day can be a chore. That's the definition of chore -- a task that must get done not when you feel inspired to do it, but when it has to happen. Take my word for it, I tried to get pregnant for three and a half years and I can tell you that sometimes even the best way to pass the time can come closer to chore-like than you ever imagined. And on the flip side, sometimes chores have hidden pleasures you'd never uncover without all that, you know, practice.

All this to say denying the chore-like aspect of cooking doesn't help anyone get closer to the stove. And if Michelle Obama doesn't want to cook, she shouldn't have to. Her plate is plenty full as it is.

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