Let’s take a look back. Not too far back, but to our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. There’s no doubt that life was different for them. We often say it was harder or more difficult.

She was often a version of a woman similar to Mad Men‘s Betty Draper: A baby bouncing on her hip as she eagerly puts a roast in the oven before her husband, the bread winner, comes home from work. She couldn’t just order in a pizza or pick something up on her way home from her own office. Her role was to nurture and care for her family, while her man went out and earned the money.

For whatever reason, and we’ve heard many of them, women may have been told rather that than being a homemaker, a housewife, a stay-at-home mom and cook, or a strong, independent working woman, we should be flexible and proficient enough to be both. Despite new critiques that may suggest some form of weakness in a home-maker role, being strong and in control in the kitchen can make us feel like modern, empowered women.

In its attempt to advance the rights and position of women, feminism has, in its wake and desire to be equal to men, created a pressure for women to abandon interests and passions that were once linked to past subordinate roles. If we take a moment to look at some of the greatest minds in the culinary world like Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, Wolfgang Puck and Tom Colicchio, we see it is often men  who are revered and respected by both their peers and fans in the cooking industry. For some reason, a woman enjoying cooking in her own home is sometimes considered to be in violation with what it means for a woman to be a strong feminist.

 For some reason, a woman enjoying cooking in her own home is sometimes considered to be in violation with what it means for a woman to be a strong feminist.

It was when looking back at the women in my past that I realized that being confident in my kitchen actually  made me feel more empowered. We as women should feel compelled to pursue whatever passions make us feel whole.

Food and cooking is integral to our survival, not to mention the essential role it plays in comforting and nurturing our friends and family. The power that feminism offers is that we have the right to choose, and we should feel empowered in those choices. It’s when cooking becomes forced on us as our duty as a woman that our desire to be empowered is taken from us.

For me, being in the kitchen goes beyond putting ingredients together in the hope that there will be a tasty outcome. Instead, it can become a much needed moment of zen. It’s like when a conductor steps in front of the orchestra and suddenly pulls together different pieces to create a masterpiece. We may not always be creating dishes reminiscent of Nigella Lawson, but what’s important is how we feel while doing it—when we take control over the things we love doing and dive head first into them.

The power that feminism offers is that we have the right to choose, and we should feel empowered in those choices.

We should feel thrilled by the smiles on our loved ones faces as they take their first bites of their meals. We should also marvel in how it feels to bring raw ingredients together through science, skill and passion to make a meal.

When we pursue our passions and explore the things that make us feel good, we can find great strength and happiness.

How do you find empowerment? Does cooking, baking or some other hobby bring you joy?

Image via Hart & Honey


  1. Good piece on the value of our kitchens. Is not home the foundation of human life? Betty Friedan called kitchen soulless and urged us to have careers. And that was a necessary phase for us. But now it seems women are at least confident enough in ourselves and our gifts to recognize the traditional role as so important. The kitchen as in reality full of soul plus those great coffee and tea talks.

    My understanding is that there’s been a fear if we celebrate traditional roles we will find ourselves trapped in them again. One reason I read Darling is it is showing a new exciting wave in women discovering strengths implicit in being female. Love this!

  2. Cooking pretty much consumes a vast amount of space in my mind and day to day life; when I’m not actively cooking, I’m thinking about what I can cook next. I definitely feel that it can be such an empowering thing, especially since I grew up with a severe medical condition and never had a healthy appetite, nor did i enjoy eating at all. It was only after an operation that I discovered a whole new world. Food is fabulous, it is a vital part of life and as a result, I would never wish to associate the kitchen and domesticity with something negative. It was lovely coming across this article (and discovering such a fantastic magazine in the process!)

    xx Carina

  3. Cooking is all I ever do! It’s my job, but I enjoy it most at home because the things that I prepare at work are different from what I eat at home. I like to learn new vegan recipes. It makes me feel good to know that I’m making meal choices that are healthy and go along with my views on animal welfare and care for the environment.

    It’s interesting that feminism was noted with cooking because I’ve noticed that there aren’t a lot of girls. For awhile, I was the only girl in the kitchen where I worked. Now we have one another girl, so there are two of us. I’ve always wondered about it though. Is it like the female chef in Pixar’s Ratatouille where it’s just harder for women to achieve success in the culinary field? Do women not want to do it because cooking is seen as a cliche “women’s work” kind of thing? Is it just the job itself is unappealing? I mean, it’s a messy job that doesn’t guarantee good pay, but requires long hours and can be rather thankless. It can be a stressful job because everything has to be made fast, but perfect and sometimes during sets people at each other. So I’ve wondered if women just look at the job and figure it’s not for them? Probably that’s beyond the scope of the article. I’ve just wondered since I started, “Where are the ladies?”

  4. Great article! Challenging subject but you got to the point – like that its short and sweet.
    There is a happiness that comes from preparing healthy food for people we love. That is a vital skill in itself.
    Thank you for sharing these words!

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