It is perfectly traditional to not cook or not cook daily.

It totally is.  The idea that cooking daily is some kind of harkening back to a properly traditional time is itself fairly modern and part of the ongoing conflict between male and female spheres of power.  It’s also a sign of how far removed modern conservatives (and everyone else who promotes daily and often fancy/gourmet cooking) are from the normal life of living in a smallish community where specialization and division of labor were taken seriously *and that included cooking*.

The sandwich lady is still around, and she was around in the early 20th century too.  Also the 19th.  Or the food truck guy.  Whichever, you can go all the way back to fairy tales and folk tales (and, like, historical documentation) and find out that *gasp* the idea that women cook at home and men cook professionally is not consistent with historical reality.  Neither is the idea that individual women cooked all the meals for their individual families.

Cooking has historically been a specialty task, with elements of group work.  And it wasn’t sex-segregated as far as whether it was professional or home cooking.  Women were sometimes professionals and men sometimes did the home cooking.  The divisions were more fluid than is socially acceptable now.  And for all the judging among far too many conservatives of women who don’t cook purely from (fake) “scratch”, it’s also been the norm in history to streamline and utilize convenience and quick foods when possible.  The equivalent of McDonald’s has a long and storied history dating back to the Roman era that I can immediately think of offhand.

This doesn’t mean sitting down to eat delicious food with your family is untraditional, it just means there’s a difference between the various ways that people traditionally dealt with the big job of cooking historically and an imaginary “traditional” family where Mom makes three or four meals a day every single day by herself from completely fresh ingredients and also mysteriously manages the other tasks of the home, plus set up and clean up of each meal.  In reality, this type of cooking precludes even trying to do much else around the house.  Which is why it sure ain’t traditional or a great idea to advocate as some kind of norm (which I am sad to say I have seen among conservative SAHMs).

And not wanting to cook and finding someone else to prepare your meals is TOTALLY TRADITIONAL AND NORMAL, even among historical SAHMs (although they did tend to assist working mothers more often for obvious reasons).


5 thoughts on “It is perfectly traditional to not cook or not cook daily.

  1. Well said. If you look at British novels from WWII, you can see a social crisis unfolding – all the cooks and other ‘domestics’ were leaving their posts as servants in droves and joining up or going to work in munitions factories. This left middle class wives having to cook and clean for the first time in British history and they had no idea how to do it.

    Middle and UMC women who work full-time and who use nannies and/or cleaners are criticised for having life fulfilment at the expense of poor women. Whether or not that’s true, it’s certainly true that the rise of the modern domestic services industry is, in fact, a reversion to the historical norm.


    • The rise in America is not a reversion, unfortunately. It’s a horrible collectivized mess with none of the good sides, but all of the downsides (like lack of caregiver consistency and higher illness transmission). For very complicated reasons beyond the scope of a blog comment, there is no political will to make hiring household help easier or less exploitative to the collective workers at maid services and daycares.


      • there is no political will to make hiring household help easier or less exploitative to the collective workers at maid services and daycares
        Why should you get away with hiring some woman while a real world employer would have to pay for her fringe benefits and payroll taxes? When said woman becomes 65 and needs to retire, we get to subsidize your desire to not pay her payroll taxes and livable wages with SSI and Medicaid on top of her Medicare…


        • The employers at maid services and daycares quite notoriously don’t do the things you are talking about, while private employers of household staff do tend to provide for their servants, paying all taxes and typically offering a range of fringe benefits.

          But the reality is that the work is seasonal and supplemental, though still quite essential. Better treatment of people doing paid household labor can take many forms than trying to pretend the work is identical to a makework desk job for 30-40 years.


  2. Pingback: Cooking as a middle class SAHM task is recent | The Practical Conservative

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