Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Undomestic Goddess

I have never in my life claimed to be a “domestic goddess”, unlike the many people who write cookbooks or give tips and tricks to the hopeful on how to fold fitted bed sheets properly. Growing up, domesticity wasn’t really a big thing for me (okay, I can hear my mother laughing hysterically at that gross understatement). Don’t get me wrong, my mother tried and, I think, for the most part she succeeded admirably with my sisters, both of whom cook and pull off domesticity very well. Me, well, not so much.

When I first moved to Toronto, my younger sister and I lived here for a while in the city. I remember she came over to my place once and for some reason she was looking through my cupboards, probably to help me cook something. She turned to me in amazement and said, “You have no canned goods, no staples! How can you cook with no canned goods?” I think my answer was, “Um, cook???”

She used to go through cabbage roll phases – I’d go over to her place, which would be permeated with the smell of cabbage, and she’d have multiple pans filled with cabbage rolls, cooked and ready to go into the freezer or for lunches or dinner. An organized domestic goddess even in her early 20s.

My older sister married young and had three kids out on an acreage. She would plant these huge vegetable gardens, bake bread every day it seemed. Make loads of pies and freeze them. Those kids ate well. She’d put on these huge holiday feasts for a zillion relatives and friends. Another organized domestic goddess early on.

And me, well … I watched Oprah many years ago when Martha Stewart appeared on her show. Martha showed Oprah how to fold a fitted bed sheet. And, I swear, I tried to fold a fitted bed sheet into a nice, even, neat square. On the tenth try, I balled up the sheet into a messy roll and shoved it into the linen closet.

Baking is fairly straightforward but I seldom get the urge to bake. Cooking seems to be a lost art for me. I don’t think I got the domestic gene that apparently my sisters got. But I can’t blame genetics. My interest in the domestic side of life is sadly lacking – I just don’t care enough to be domestic. I wish I had more domestic interests. I’m one of the few women I know who hates decorating. Every woman I know seems to be a decorating maniac, changing the decor with the seasons. I moved into an apartment once and someone asked me if I was going to paint the walls to something other than white. I said, “No, I like white.” I don’t notice these things, never have.

I’d rather be doing almost anything other than domestic stuff – writing, reading, watching tv, going out, anything but. In a perfect world, I’d have a maid and a chef, but as I haven’t won the lottery, it is up to me to at least try to be somewhat competent domestically.

And the really strange thing? I love cookbooks. I love cooking stores. I love cooking implements. I just don’t love cooking. Or baking. Or decorating. I manage to keep my place clean for the most part. It’s not that I’m incapable. I can follow recipes in cookbooks and get the correct result. Mostly. I’m just not interested. Which is why I’m eternally grateful to have a double side grill press – I can grill everything year around. And it takes me five minutes to make dinner – perfect for someone who can’t be bothered.

If I have people over for dinner, I can actually cook fairly well. At least no one has died yet and I’ve had no complaints. I think it’s easier to get motivated to be domestic if other people count on one being domestic. Like a parent. Or a spouse – but the cooking should be shared – or have one person cook and the other person clean, just to equitably distribute the tedium.

Maybe the issue is that my head has always been elsewhere than at home. I work at home but I’m not AT home. I’m thinking of plots, sub-plots, characters, politics, world events, science, psychology and human behavior, quantum mechanics (although not so much anymore), the state of the world and society, and information technology. And romance fiction. It’s a real hodge-podge of interests and none of them include anything in the domestic sphere. You’d think that I’d at least appreciate baking more because that is based on chemistry.

I think I tried for so long during my disastrous marriage to be a domestic person that now I feel like running screaming from the kitchen if I’m required to make anything that takes more than six minutes. Ten minutes at the outside. Square-peg-in-a-round-hole syndrome.

I still don’t keep canned goods. I still can’t fold a fitted bed sheet. I still don’t like cooking. I’ll never be Julia Child or Nigella Lawson or Martha Stewart (but that last one is probably a good thing – no pun intended - as she is a veritable menace to women everywhere by insisting that one should only use kosher salt, fresh eggs from your own chicken coop and being a perfectionist without mentioning that she has a huge staff to do all this stuff for her 24 hours a day). Women have enough to feel inadequate about without someone telling us we need to keep an immaculate home, cook and bake everything from scratch and do everything to perfection. Why doesn’t anyone tell men to do this? But I digress. Sorry. ☺

I guess the point is, I get on well enough by keeping my kitchen and domestic adventures to a minimum. It works for me. I start cooking and the smoke alarm goes off. The universe is telling me, unequivocally, to be an undomestic, unconventional goddess.

And I can live with that.

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