It is said that when a woman cooks, she transmits her magic through her fingertips and into her dishes to nourish her loved ones.
It’s Women’s History Month and at Bazaar Spices, we’re honoring the women who have been custodians, the firekeepers, of the tradition of home cooking, an everyday practice in health and creativity.
When folks ask how I got into cooking, I tell a familiar story. The love affair started when I was young. From the time I was six or seven, I followed my mom and other women in my family around the kitchen. I learned their secrets through whispers and winks and hands-on practice.
Most celebrity chefs, typically men, will recall a similar experience. It started with their mothers and grandmothers who nurtured their culinary skills and creativity. And the practice took on a professional edge as they left their home kitchens and journeyed into ‘the industry’. It became an art form.
And how fascinating. How we place value on work, particularly work in the kitchen, based on gender and sphere. That is to say, domestic and professional spheres.
When a man takes on a culinary practice, his work is art – an extension of his creative power and bravado even.
When a woman cooks, it is typically part of the conscripted, unpaid care economy. And often a thankless task.
It is no wonder that so many women I meet in my nutrition work have a conflicted, estranged relationship with the art of home cooking.
Many of us grow up watching our mothers toiling away in the kitchen, even if they just came home from a full day’s work, to have their work at home taken for granted. Many of us had promised ourselves at a young age that we, and our work, will not be taken for granted.
And for that reason perhaps, so many women grow up resenting or not knowing how to cook.
So by the time many of us are trying to ‘get healthy’ and make the ‘right’ food choices, we’re missing perhaps the most valuable tool in order to do that.
Cooking is such a critical component of self-care and health. As Shereen Malak, one of my mentors in Cairo says, when we take responsibility for sourcing and preparing our food, we begin to take responsibility for all sorts of things in our lives.
Home cooking is a healing medium of care, for oneself, and yes, those lucky enough to be around us. It’s an everyday practice in creativity, nourishment, and magic.
So what if this month, we as women resolve to celebrate the culinary traditions of home, honoring them as the ultimate practice of self-care. What if we resolve to make ourselves healthy, nourishing, exciting meals, even if it’s just us, and no one else is watching?
And let’s be honest, for many of the single women of District, it usually is ‘just’ us.
Perhaps we can use our culinary magic to nourish ourselves first and foremost… and roll our eyes at the traditional male gaze… and appetites.
And here’s the thing ladies. It’s not hard to consistently prepare healthy, exciting meals – for yourself, for your loved ones. There’s a formula. It just requires a little rhythm. A little planning. Not too much planning though. That’s no fun.
Here’s a hint… A robust spice collection is a fantastic way keep simple healthy cooking exciting and fun.
And wouldn’t you know, we just happen to be offering Live Deliciously 101, my crash course in healthy eating with Mediterranean sensibilities and formulas, this month at the new Bazaar Spices location at the Atlantic Plumbing building. Check it