WOMEN’S “LIB” IS THE TASTY “RIB” / Serina Sugiyama

Ready to cook. I got my carrot, onion, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, a couple of sausages and my favorite pasta, Conchiglie. It has been chilly outside this week, and I am prepared to make my favorite soup: Minestrone. First, I cut the veggies and fry them lightly with olive oil. While doing so, I boil water for the pasta and leave them ready to soak into the alluring red tomato heaven. After stir-frying the veggies, I put the golden soup (consommé) and the passionate red sauce (tomato) inside the pot and let the veggies soak happily. I’ll wait for about 20 minutes for it to cook, and then my meal is ready.

The satisfaction after preparing your own meal is truly extraordinary. Finishing all the processes from buying the groceries to choosing the plate is heavy work, and it requires concentration. Cooking is living, caring and a great place to express our creative senses. Surprising as it is, when you think your mother has been doing it almost every day. It is an act of respect, and respect should be shown to all the mothers and the women around the world.

Cooking is something for everyone. It is for men, women, young and old. Certainly, it should be for everyone because we need it to survive. When it comes to cooking, I believe that neither of our races or political preferences matter. We can connect and make people smile by preparing a nice meal. The reason I emphasize the equality of cooking is because when it comes to the discussion of feminism, the charm of cooking is somehow forgotten.

The relation of cooking and feminism has been debated enthusiastically. While many comments fly from left to right on the Internet, I settled my opinion with the help of a great book: “Wise Ladies are Good Cooks.” Yoko Kirishima, a famous essayist wrote this book to show how cooking is the key for the true “Woman’s Liberation.” I was drawn by the title and the fact that this book was published in the 1960s, when gender equality wasn’t even a thing in Japan. Kirishima has a gorgeous sense of humor and each of her sentences deliver her intelligence, accompanied with a pinch of wit. I was amused and satisfied at the same time with her 3 main points written in her book.

First of all, Kirishima believes that cooking is a succession of “brave decisions and actions.” When cooking, we need to promptly decide what our recipes should be and stick with that idea in order not to get lost when we step into the grocery store. This decision-making is the key to have a balanced schedule for the day, which will let housewives use time to nurture their knowledge for their social lives. She thinks that examples of lazy housewives who spend the whole day thinking about the recipe are the worst.

Secondly, Kirishima emphasizes “Intelligence” as one of the most important elements for cooking. You must think how you will use the groceries for the rest of the week without making useless leftovers in the fridge. No need to mention that this skill is important in workplaces as well. When Kirishima buys a “daikon” she instantly thinks about the recipe of that day until the weekend, using every inch of the vegetable. She thinks we have to be “that” smart, or we are just wasting our brain.

The last and favorite one is “physical strength.” Obviously, we do a certain level of exercise while cooking. We should be quick and capable to do multiple tasks in order to make a good meal while not making the people wait for you for so long. Here we use all the skills mentioned before and it’s the place where we show our capability.

As I went through all her brilliant ideas, I discovered the main message she was trying to tell. The more we become “feminine” the worst we become at cooking. There are many ways to interpret the word “feminine”, however, her “feminine” means to be modest and not taking leadership in the house. When you look at all the ideas above like braveness, intelligence, and strength, you realize these words are usually recognized as factors of men. Women have been cooking meals for ages since human civilization. Cooking is something we are often better at than men and is a strong power we have. That means that we are good to be brave, intelligent and strong, just like men are thought to be. However, what Kirishima implies here, is that the media and social images push the image of “feminine” and that this is destroying the special skills we used to have.

In Japan, there use to be an idea of “manhood” as something women should have in order to show their greatness. For example, “Taiyu” which is the geisha in the highest rank of the hierarchy, is said to be the most intelligent, brave and protective. These elements are the same ones required for samurai, which represent “manhood” in Japan. Recently, there are words like “Joshiryoku” as “Girl-ness,” and the situation is changing drastically. What I feel nowadays is that women now think so much about being pretty, fragile and being the “ideal girl” for Japanese men, which is ridiculous. We, women have much more specialties and hope than just being modest or being at home all day. We are capable of working full time and preparing good meals at home. That is why women are powerful, and that should be emphasized among the discussion of what feminism truly is. I believe raising our cooking skills can be the first step to realize Women Liberation. Why don’t we start to practice preparing a delicious “rib stew” for the “liberation” to come true?

Minestrone is ready. I use my favorite wood spoon whenever I eat tasty soups. Good spoons matter. I scooped once and put the delicious soup in my mouth. I felt the warm vegetables dance around my tongue leaving pure joy in my mouth. I once again felt proud of the effort I did for myself, embracing the satisfaction.

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