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Why women do all the domestic cooking

Notes/opinions/learnings from: Catching Fire: How cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. (Part 4/5)

Wrangham questions why women are always cooking for men, in almost every other culture and not the other way around. Though, there are some exceptions to this: Samoans, Marquesans, Trukese in the South Pacific. All of these culture make breadfruit which demands a lot of hours, a lot of men to prepare. Men did not need women to feed them here and most times women were not allowed to these breadfruit feasts and was a mens club. However, cooking for the family was always done by women and community cooking was done by men.

This is reflected in language too, in English, lady is derived from bread kneader, lord comes from bread keeper. Some say that the reasons for why domestic cooking is a woman centric domain is Mutual Convenience: This is superficial because it doest translate to why we need households in the first place. Humans are the only specifies where the sex relation is also an economic relation (Charlotte Perkins Gilman). Molly and Eugene Christian complain that cooking has made woman a slave. Hunter and gathers could forage for themselves like every other animal. What caused this division of labour?

Nonhuman primates mostly picked food and ate it at once. Hunter and gatherers bring food to a camp for processing and cooking. This suggests a form of social economy forming. Archaeologist, Catherine Parles suggested that “culinary act is from the start of a project. Cookings ends with self sufficiency.” When cooking started, we assembled around the fire and shared the labour because food cooperation was required and therefore social.

According to Perles, Joob Goudsblom, Fernandez- Armstedo, Micheal Symoms, this caused:

  1. that there would be someone to look after the fire

  2. cooking created meal times and organised people into a community

  3. cooking distributes food and therefore is starting place of trades.

  4. Men probably ate first because they were near the first cooking meat.

  5. However, Wrangham disagrees and presents real life situations from

Alexander Selkirk, who cooked for himself for four years after being stranded in an island. He says that self-sufficiency can be achieved when cooking. He asks why is cooking seen as something social when it does not have to be?

  1. Cooking takes time long cooks cannot easily guard their foods from thieves. Homo Erectus women were smaller and physically weaker. Each female therefore obtained protection by from physiqued males, and this created a bond that still affects us today.

  2. Having a husband ensures that a woman’s gathered food will not be taken by others and having a wife ensures a meal. According to this idea, the marriage system was created. Jane Collier and Michelle Rosaldo, (social anthropologists) surveyed small scale societies world-wide and said that in all cases, a women is obliged to provide food for her family. That is why a married man can count on a evening meal and have no reason to take food from other women. Married women in the hunter and gatherer societies led a life of high status and autonomy because cooking for men empowered them. It was an economic skill that was also was used as good treatment and justice since she was heavily dependent on for cooked meals and therefore in control. A woman’s need to have her food supply protective is probably the most sensible explanation of sexual division of labour.

There is a proposal that food guarding done by males was competitive to get households. It is an unconventional thought because it puts economic before sexual needs. Anthropologists see marriages as an exchange in which women get resources and men get a guarantee paternity. This means that food drives a man to marriage rather than the need of a sexual partner.

Cooking possibly perhaps led to marriage. For women and their adoption to cooking,  it also trapped them into a male- dominated culture and created a system of male cultural superiority.

#catchingfirehowcookingmadeushuman #FoodStudies #Richardwrangham

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Notes/opinions/learnings from: Catching Fire: How cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. (Part 5/5) Finally got to end of this book-  by far one of the most informed I’ve felt about my craft and I