Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Dinner Party: Or have I turned into Mrs Dalloway?

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? I am.
I got up yesterday in a frenzy. It was the day of the dinner, and I hadn’t even got the chicken. And the blender was broken, so I needed to pick one up from Argos.

I knew that the cashews were there, but I wasn’t sure there were enough mushrooms. We had the right number of serving bowls, but I was one frying pan short so I had to make the mushrooms first, and only then get on with the chicken. Sid had scrubbed the bathtub, and had bought the wine and the spinach so that was done. But should I get flowers for the house as well? 

It was at the flowers that the frightening realisation struck me – I had turned into Mrs Dalloway!

Now, Virginia Woolf’s unfortunate Mrs Dalloway is no one’s my literary heroine exactly. The weak, silly, snivelling woman had given up the chance of a life with real love, adventure and the struggles that accompany them for a cushy life organising parties and wondering about flowers in London. 

Ok, so my party was small and informal with only Esther-the-Lawyer and Leo-with-an-Afro (and recently turned free market supporter) coming over. But I was married, jobless in London, and worrying about flowers, mushrooms and the colour of the table mats. Did that mean that I, too, was a weak, silly, snivelling woman? Had I given up on real love, adventure and the accompanying struggles?

The thing is, I grew-up with rather fuzzy ideas about feminism. There was never much discussion about it at home or school, but I picked up enough from popular culture to know that housework – the unholy trinity of cooking, cleaning and washing – was deeply uncool and needed to be avoided at all cost. Of course, there were other elements too – being financially independent, intellectual pursuits, being an equal decision-maker in the relationship. But I determinedly decided that those could only be achieved at the cost of housework. Any man who expected me to cook, clean or wash was not worth my time.

To give credit to my parents – lovely people – they did argue that it was a conveniently lazy form of feminism that I had adopted, but at the end they just shrugged in resignation and let me go ahead with my funny experiments with life.

Sid did not expect me to cook, clean and wash. But once it wasn't expected it of me, I discovered was that I actually enjoyed cooking and cleaning (maybe, not so much washing). I love good food and  a clean house, and the easiest way to get them is to cook and clean yourself. It doesn’t have much to do with either feminism or working, because even during the months that I was working – May, June and July – I would return home looking forward to the next hour in the kitchen. I find chopping therapeutic, I love the whoosh vegetables make when I slide them into the hot oil, and the changing aromas of food as it moves through the different stages of cooking mesmerise me. Most of all, I love eating what I cook. And if I can eat it on a well-laid out table, with nice wine to accompany it, and some flowers in the house – so much the better. 

Yes, I must get a job and be financially independent. (I know I am shortchanging myself there.) But that is mutually independent of cooking and cleaning. I can be a feminist and still love cooking, cleaning, throwing parties and arranging flowers.

And I always leave the dishes for Sid to do at the end. I wonder if Mr Dalloway was as obliging.

8 comments:

anonandon said...

allow me to bring to your notice http://www.quickindiancooking.com. some great recipes and all written with london residents in mind since the blogger is london-based. Enjoy!

Leo said...

Libel! Slander! I demand a retraction. I wasn't say I'm a free-marketeer. I was merely pointing out the contradictions of British attitudes towards free market policies. Sheesh.

globalbabble said...

Hi Anonandon - will check out the competition, sniff sniff.. others doing Indian cooking in London. bah! who does she think she is, Mrs Dalloway?

Leo - see, I knew that would get you to finally comment on my blog. However, we must discuss your disturbing views on free markets and the UK, and why people have a problem with it now. I demand a beer session!

Girish Shahane said...

Why did he scrub the bathtub?

globalbabble said...

Because - Mrs Dalloway or not - I absolutely refuse to have anything to do with toilet cleaning. (I know, Mahatma Gandhi would so dislike me.)

Besides, I do the cooking.

jaimit said...

point 1 - why did anyone still have to scrub it at all. Bath tubs need srcubbing? forgive my ignorance but for that kind of hardwork, i see no point of having the tub. a shower is pretty cool.
point 2 - my wife has this radical notion - she says that she wil try not to teach our daughter to cook. this way she will have no option but to look for work outside of the kitchen.
i see merit in her thought

globalbabble said...

Jaimit:

Point 1: I totally agree. I don't see any sense in having bathtubs either. But the English have the silly habit of placing the shower in the bloody tub, and it requires a lot of scrubbing. Emimently stupid but we are stuck with it.

Point 2: If you are not going to teach her to cook, make sure she doesn't develop a taste for good food. I didn't learn cooking and when I moved out, I landed up starving because I couldn't eat awful pre-cooked food. Eventually, I swallowed my pride, went to Mummy, and said: please, please teach me some cooking.

Point 3: I see no harm in working in the kitchen provided you work outside of it as well.

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