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SECRET’S CORNER – Cooking food for thought

Sanka Price

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NOT SO LONG ago, young women were told that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. That is, being able to cook well and satisfy the appetite of the man you desire, goes a long way in winning his affections.It is debatable how applicable that is to today’s generation of “fast food” users, who are more inclined to purchase a snack box than to prepare and fry, bake or boil a piece of chicken.In fact, one knows of professional women in their thirties who declare that they can’t cook and have no intention of learning. For them, the easy access to ready-made food means they can spend more time pursuing their passions than being in the kitchen “slaving over a hot stove”.The woman who inspired this week’s question contacted us after meeting her prospective daughter-in-law. She said she was pleased with the young professional as she is articulate, well educated, well groomed and dresses well. However, “the girl can’t cook to save her life . . . and is not even shame to say so”.The mother said that the young woman told her that her mum did the cooking and pushed her to excel in her studies. So she concentrated on that. And as she is a “picky” eater, she never bothered to learned to do other than the basics, like fry an egg.But what really ticked off the mother was when the young woman refused her offer to teach her how to cook, saying she really had no interest in that at her stage in life.This prompted her to get us to ask this week’s question: Your son’s girlfriend does not like cooking and prefers to eat from relatives or buy fast food. She is adamant about this. She thinks buying food is more economical and not as time-consuming as cooking. Would you advise your son to proceed with this relationship?This question provided much food for thought. One could say that in some ways this situation is a manifestation of the changing trends and emphasizes our increasingly sophisticated, mobile society, which is heavily influenced by the North American fast food culture.Put another way, women consider a tertiary education more important to their advancement and independence than their ability to cook.What’s more, the type of man that they will be looking to attract, and eventually settle down with, must be equally or better qualified than they are, and his emphasis on a mate would certainly not be on her prowess in the kitchen. Rather, he would more than likely want a wife who is compatible with him intellectually and earns as much as he does so that together they would be able to achieve the highest standard of living possible.Though we could examine other social and economic trends and how they have influenced increasing numbers of young women to see their inability to cook as insignificant, we prefer to focus on the emotional aspects attached to cooking.That is, the effort involved in preparing a meal for your spouse and sitting with him and sharing it is a terrific way to express how much one cares for the individual.While going out to lunch and dinner is expected and a way to celebrate one’s upward mobility, few situations could be more romantic than two people enjoying a good meal prepared by one of them – better still, both of them together.Another aspect that we feel compelled to mention is the perceived role of women as the ones who nurture the family. Traditionally they provided the strong, caring and nourishing environment that helped to inculcate the accepted values and morals in children, as well as define roles for each sex. And the role of girls was to be able to cook and take care of a home and their family.Though we accept the progress of women and view it as positive, we feel that this advancement should not negate females’ capacity to still be able to carry out their nurturing role, which involves cooking.But even if women dismiss this point, they should recognise that the ability to cook ensures some measure of independence and self-reliance.  The following are the edited versions of responses:• “My son’s girlfriend preferring to buy food is my son’s business, not mine. In the final analysis, he is the one who would have to live with her, if he so decides. What is good is that she has indicated to him, from early, what he will be having, should he decide to marry her.” • “No woman would like cooking if they can’t cook. I would not have to advise my son because no Bajan man would want a woman that can’t cook, especially if he has to leave home and go by his mother each Saturday to get their cou cou and flying fish.”• “No one wants to eat food that doesn’t taste good; so if a woman cooks and it doesn’t turn out right, she will not eat it nor share it. I’m 25 years old and from 16 I could stir a mean cou cou. Now I have a man that likes food, and I enjoy cooking for him because I can cook.”• “I say adamantly, dump her. Is she going to buy breakfast for the family each morning too or have you do it?”