Food History Political Commentary Reflection

Rethinking “Grandma’s Food”

Replied to The Fallacy of Eating The Way Your Great-Grandmother Ate by Virginia Sole-Smith (Burnt Toast by Virginia Sole-Smith)

We cannot idolize their nutrition while ignoring the classism, racism, and misogyny on their tables.

A return to home-grown bounty and scratch cooking requires an investment of time and labor from someone. And because we live in a society that cannot reckon with how much this has cost, and continues to cost us, it takes a phenomenal level of privilege to either be that someone or hire that someone.”

I am really appreciating how Virginia Sole-Smith makes me rethink my attitudes about food. I’ve internalized a lot of cultural expectations that made me feel like I need to cook dinner every day from whole food ingredients or I’m letting down myself and my family and the caregiver mentality for women that I’m “supposed” to provide nutritious meals for me and my husband. I know I’m a food snob, but I’m trying to get better. Giving thought to the underlying classism and other gross -isms behind our food judgments helps me throw out the garbage ideas.

I do also believe in supporting a local food economy, and have the discretionary income to do so, so I do like to buy from local farmers. But also remembering that I work and have important hobbies and value spending time with friends — and recognizing whole food cooking requires a ton of work that people (women) used to either have to spend a ton of time preparing, or (under-)paid servants to do for them — so using shortcut ingredients or making simple meals or ordering takeout is totally legit. If cooking food comes out as a lower priority than my other activities I enjoy more, that’s a fair choice. Especially when a lot of our food judgments are tied in with fatphobia. Society wouldn’t think less of my husband for not cooking us fresh meals every day, so I don’t need to take that expectation on myself. I like baking, I don’t especially like cooking, why make myself do something I can afford not to?

I’m going to try thinking of my restaurant costs, DoorDash fees and driver tips as a feminism fee and redistributing my money to people who have to do gig work.

We’re also getting rid of our garden beds, because we haven’t enjoyed growing food like we thought we would, and if my husband doesn’t want to put in the work, why should I make myself? Gardening doesn’t give me the stress relief it purportedly gives other people, and I’d rather spend my time doing other things. I like the idea of self sufficiency, I like looking at pretty seeds, I support the idea of seed saving and heirloom foods, but that doesn’t add up to having the patience to actually garden. Especially when buying food from other people is honestly cheaper.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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