Tom Purcell, 9/22/2014 [Archive]

Home Cooking as a Burden Hard to Swallow

By Tom Purcell

Get this: Home-cooked family meals are tyrannical.

So suggests Slate blogger Amanda Marcotte.

Marcotte says that a study by North Carolina State University sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott and Joslyn Brenton finds that 'the stress that cooking puts on people, particularly women, may not be worth the trade-off.'

Why isn't it worth the trade-off? Well, the study says that mothers interviewed for it were pressured by the social message that 'home-cooked meals have become the hallmark of good mothering, stable families, and the ideal of the healthy, productive citizen.' But they lacked the capacity to live up to those ideals.

Money was one reason, says the study. Food can be expensive and low-income mothers can't afford fresh produce or even basic kitchen tools, such as knives and pots and pans.

Then there are the picky eaters the mothers have to contend with: ingrate kids who complain about the grub. And 'picky husbands and boyfriends' who are 'just as much, if not more, of a problem than fussy children,' according to Marcotte.

Sheesh! It's no wonder, finds the study, that home cooking is not only not joyful for mothers most of the time, it's a burden. So we're just going to have to get used to increasingly tubby kids who get the majority of their calories from fast-food restaurants?

Personally, I love to cook and have found there are lots of ways to make delicious, nutritious meals without breaking the bank — and the food is way tastier than anything you'd find at a restaurant.

How about chicken thighs cooked in a smoker? They're easy to make, extremely inexpensive and cause the people I cook for, even devout, churchgoing elderly aunts and uncles, to shout out curse words of delight.

The feminist gist of Marcotte's blog focuses more on women being taken advantage of than it does on cooking. But who says moms need to be burdened by making dinner every night?

When I was a kid, my father and mother often shared equal duties feeding our family of eight — when my dad wasn't working every hour of overtime he could get. While he was grilling up chicken, my mother was making a salad. We had many a fine, healthy meal on our back porch throughout my childhood — and those meals weren't terribly hard to make.

Home cooking is not just about food, either. It's about family members sitting down for 40 minutes or so to break bread together. It's about good discussion and a good laugh, as family members recount their day. It keeps the family on the same page — it promotes family unity and harmony.

And don't you agree that too few families today are embracing the daily ritual of dining together? How can they, with kids and adults alike running off to a million adult-managed events and activities?

On Mother's Day and Father's Day each year, I marvel at how my nieces and nephews are unable to visit because they are in a baseball or dance tournament in another state. Can't we slow things down a little bit, adults, and sit down with our extended families for a meal?

To suggest, then, that the home-cooked family meal is tyrannical — that mothers are being forced to cook by overbearing tyrannical bosses (hint: their husbands) — is plain nutty.

Cooking well can be easy, fun and affordable, as I will demonstrate on Saturday morning, when I will go to Pittsburgh's Strip District to pick up some beef and fresh vegetables.

I will make a pot of chili so tasty that even feminist bloggers who decry sexism in home-cooked meals will shout out curse words of delight.

 © 2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at

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