Last night there was absolutely nothing worth watching on TV. Seriously, it was a mix of football games and the W network decided to run two of the worst movies ever, The Break-Up and He’s Just Not That Into You. As such I decided that I would return to an old favourite of mine, Bridget Jones’s Diary. I can’t say that I completely identify with the character of Bridget Jones as I don’t actually feel like a complete fuck-up and I generally know how to hold a conversation even with someone that I find intimidating. I did connect with the feeling that I may never find someone and could die alone but I like to think that at this point I am still a little more optimistic than that.
However, the one aspect of the movie that really got to me was the scene when Bridget decides to cook dinner for herself and her friends. It is, of course, a total disaster that includes blue soup and a scene with the top of her food processor flying off and projecting food all over the place. Luckily, her man crush Mark Darcy shows up and saves the day by making scrambled eggs or something.
It’s not enough that Bridget is always saying the wrong thing or is often dressed inappropriately, no, she simply isn’t that good at anything, including cooking. I started to realize that this is quite a trend in TV and movies. For some reason it is often assumed that if a woman is single, she can’t cook. She is simply no good at it so she may as well consult her library of take-out menus rather than try to turn on her stove. It’s not just Bridget Jones. I realized that this trope also shows up in Gilmore Girls, with Lorelai being able to do little more than make a cup of coffee and most notoriously, in Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. In fact, in the first Sex and the City movie Carrie even jokes about her lack of cooking knowledge and claims that she stores sweaters in her stove.
I can’t put my finger exactly on what it is that bugs me so much about this idea that single women can’t cook but I think there are a few aspects to it. The first is the idea that perhaps if women could at least master the art of cooking then they could land a man. After all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach (suuure) and if a woman can’t cook then she is doomed to be alone forever, right?
But what bothers me even more is the idea of a woman living on her own, especially in a big city, and constantly spending money on restaurants or take-out. Financially it doesn’t make sense! Rent in a big city is expensive and so is food. For a character like Carrie Bradshaw who often complains about being completely broke, it seems awfully silly to still see her going out to brunch all the time (never mind that extravagant shoe collection).
I truly believe that if you are going to move out of your parents’ home and live on your own, you need to learn to cook. This goes for women and men. It just doesn’t make sense to think that you should spend money on food when you can probably cook something perfectly good at home. More importantly, I refuse to believe people who say they can’t cook. It’s not that they can’t cook, it’s that they just aren’t totally sure how to. At least not yet. Cooking is a life skill that everyone needs. Trust me, when you truly can’t cook anything because you have never been taught or refused to learn, it is not fun. No one wants to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of their lives just because they believed that they are incapable of cooking.
I believe that everyone can learn to cook. It’s one of those things that you simply figure out how to do over time. You can choose to stay at the most basic level or you can continue to build your skills. Personally I think there are four levels of cooking. The first level is the most basic and involves only a little bit of effort and knowledge. This is when you know how to do things like make toast or a pot of Kraft macaroni and cheese. You feel accomplished when you make a dinner of instant potatoes, microwave steamed vegetables and a pre-cooked chicken breast that just needs to be warmed up in the oven. The second level is when you learn to make food from recipes. As long as you have a basic recipe to follow you’re okay. You are not a gourmet chef but you are learning to cook tasty food that doesn’t come from a box. The third level is when you can easily throw a meal together. You don’t necessarily need a recipe, you can look in your fridge and pantry and figure out what to make from what you’ve got on hand. Instead of relying on pre-packaged foods you actually make things from scratch. The fourth level would involve having a great deal of expertise. This is when you can cook just about anything, even really complicated recipes. Right now I am between the second and third levels. I tend to cook very well when I have a recipe but I am not yet adept at knowing how to create a meal with whatever I have on hand. I tend to just look up recipes and shop for those specific ingredients but I’m learning to keep staples in my pantry and fridge so that I am not always running to the store.
I guess the lesson in all this is that first off, anyone can cook. It won’t always be easy. You may have a pot that boils over, you might completely burn your main course but as with any learned skill, you will get better over time. More importantly I (and several other single women) am proof that being single doesn’t mean you can’t cook. I can cook and I’m going to continue cooking so that I can save myself money and have control over what I eat.
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