Ever since Lean In came out, we’ve been rehashing the debate about women’s roles in the house and home. While many women are re-energized to stand up for themselves at work and push ahead with their careers, others of us find we long for the opposite. I’m not the first to have this issue on my mind; take a look at these pieces in The Atlantic and New York Magazine. Now in my thirties, I’m far less driven than I was 10 years ago to be a go-getter with my career, partly because I’m just freaking tired and partly because I’ve found the value and joy of staying home and cooking a meal from scratch. Especially as someone who has done her level best to shop from the farmer’s market and give up processed food, I find that more and more I am in the kitchen. Sometimes modernization is really throwing things back to a time when we did things better.
Please understand that like any respectable, modern, and educated woman, I believe women should have equal pay and opportunity in the work force. I refer more to getting away from our country’s dependence on highly processed foods. What do these two things have in common, you ask? Well, the reality is that cooking from scratch is far healthier then eating things from a box, and when mothers were home cooking every day (and I do mean cooking, not throwing pasta in boiling water), kids were thinner, and the rates of obesity and heart disease were lower. We know for a fact that our poor eating habits are responsible for the poor health of the nation, maybe not exclusively, but certainly in large part. Eating badly is the number one thing we do as a nation to kill ourselves.
Now, I’m not suggesting that women be the ones to take of the role of head chef of the home, not at all. I am equal opportunity here. But the reality is that if you want your kids to be healthy, a parent is going to need to strap on an apron. The problem? Well, if you are working full-time, crazy jobs and picking your kids up from extended daycare at 6 p.m., how on earth is that gonna happen? Yeah. I have no easy solution per se because most parents don’t have the luxury of only working part time. But here is one idea: bulk cooking and canning.
When I think of canning, I have this image of a World War II bunker stocked with old peaches. Not the case anymore. Foodies are getting creative, and they are finding bulk canning is a way to cook freshly from home and preserve the food so that they can pull it out when needed. Spend one afternoon cooking and canning, and you have food you can use months down the road.
I tried my first attempt at canning this past weekend. After reading that poorly canned goods can cause botulism and that I would need a high-pressure canning machine for some food, I immediately starting looking for the least risky product I could make without a machine. I decided on pickles as the high acidity makes them safe and prevents me melting my friends’ faces off.
I started on Sunday morning, and it took almost the whole day. First I had to brine and compress the pickles and then cook them.
Then of course the process of canning began. I had to sterilize the glass, and I chose to do this via the oven. Once the glass is sterile, the pickles are placed in the jars and them immersed in boiling water to seal.
So. Now I have 15 jars of pickles. What the hell am I gonna do with 15 jars of pickles? No person, or family for that matter, wants to eat that many freakin’ pickles. Well, this is where your community comes in. D.C., as well as many cities throughout the U.S., has started food swaps set up for just this purpose. I go to my first on Sunday. Here I’ll be able to barter and trade my pickles for other homemade foods and goods.
I’m not sure how desirable my pickles will be, so I’m also trying some quiches, and hopefully one of the two will be trade-worthy. I am so excited about the prospect of getting together with other folks who believe in healthy home cooking and want to support each other’s efforts. I love that no money is allowed. I love that we can find ways to support healthy eating within our communities. I love the weird throwback to an old way of doing things, and I’m excited for all the goodies I’ll be taking home. Can’t wait to share my experience in the next blog.