12/31/06

Soul Food

What is it about cooking that makes it such a bonding experience? I have noticed this many times in my life, but particularly strongly over the weekend as I was helping my mom, aunt, and grandmommy prepare a large family meal. It seems to me that the bonding aspect is largely feminine - while my dad loves to cook, he prefers to do it alone, rather than explaining exactly what he needs done to someone else. (To be fair, my uncle did teach me how to cook asparagus this weekend.) Whenever I cook with my female relatives, on the other hand, it's a leisurely process, with lots of conversation and nibbling. Boring, repetitive tasks like washing vegetables, which I would ordinarily complain about, become social activities. I suppose this could all be biological - prehistoric origins as hunter-gatherers, tight-knit female subculture, etc. But while I've seen it the most with other females, it happens in mixed company too (obviously I can't speak for all-male groups...maybe if it involves grills and gratuitious amounts of lighter fluid?). My senior class's school auction project was to create a college-student-worthy cookbook, and we all got together to cook our recipes. Some of them were quite tasty, and it was great fun to cram everyone into a moderately-sized kitchen and cook up a storm. Usually if you had put all of us in such a small space for an extended period of time there would have been more than a few unkind words exchanged, given the clashing personalities of some of our class members, but there was remarkable equanimity, even camaraderie, since we were all working on a common project. Does the fact that that common project was cooking have anything to do with it? Who knows...But also consider that cooking together is considered to be a very romantic date. Why? My guess is that cooking is usually something one does in an intimate setting (i.e. at home), so when you cook with other people you are sharing that intimacy with them. Other explanations? Please share!