Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Something is cracking, I don't know where

One of the books (previously a Guardian column that I was just a tiny bit young for) that changed my life was Jill Tweedie's 'Letters from a Fainthearted Feminist'. I read it in the late 1980s, around the same time as I read The Female Eunuch and The Women's Room, and for a time I could quote substantial chunks of each of them. And regularly did.

God knows I must have been hard work to be around, but I did genuinely believe Germaine when she said that until you had tasted your own menstrual blood you could not consider yourself a liberated woman*, and Marilyn French when she said that there was more to life than shit and string beans**. I also read Betty Friedan, Kate Millett and Andrea Dworkin, and then (just in time) along came Jill Tweedie: just as radical, but British, understated, and very, very funny. She saved me from becoming a really bad lesbian (not that lesbians are bad, just that I would have made a rubbish one) by making me laugh.

Those days, as these days, are library book days, so I don't have the Letters to re-read, but one I remember really well was about food. It doesn't take much, she said, to work as a chef in a top restaurant and make something edible out of a leg of venison and two pints of double cream. Where the skill comes in is pulling together dinner for four in half an hour out of some manky veg and the end of a tube of tomato puree. So why do chefs get all the glory?

That argument has often run through my head as I have opened the fridge. Ex-housemate S turns up on Tuesday lunchtimes for her only decent meal of the week (or so she says). I need to provide a breastfeeding woman with 35 vegetable portions in a single sitting! At least I know ten ways to serve up cabbage, is all I can say.

But the argument also applies to gardening. April is the venison month. Everything burgeons everywhere - there's nothing to it. You have to really try to have a shit April garden. The skill is having a good August garden, a good November garden, a good February garden. I may be able to do things with brassicas, but I've a lot to learn about foliage.


* Probably not true, but didn't do me any harm.
** A euphemism for staying at home with small children. I think this is now generally accepted, if far from resolved.

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Anonymous jonathan said...

What a good point about attitudes to cooking... I must admit in our house we do fall a little bit into those gender-stereotyped roles- I will make a big deal out of getting all the ingredients and staging some occasional spectacular like a coq au vin (following all the instructions in the recipe book to the letter, cos the truth is I have little intuitive understanding of what exactly I'm fucking doing...) while it is Charlotte who takes care of the less glamorous day-to-day business of actually keeping the family nourished on a tight budget.

Although in my own mitigation I will say that unlike my dad I don't own a chef's hat, and if I did I would have to be very drunk indeed before considering wearing it to make a bacon sandwich.

12:50 am  

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