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January 19th, 2010

Undomesticated Brooklyn: Struggling to Cook, Clean & Entertain

Undomesticated Brooklyn is OTBKB’s new weekly column devoted to cooking, cleaning, and entertaining in Brooklyn. It is written by Paula Bernstein, editor-in-chief of the blog Undomesticated Me and co-author (with Elyse Schein) of “Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.” Featured on NPR, CBS “Sunday Morning” and “Good Morning America,” “Identical Strangers” won a 2007 Books for a Better Life Award.  She lives with her husband and two daughters in Brooklyn.

by Paula Bernstein

Although I’m relatively competent in other areas of my life, I always feel stressed and out of control when it comes to domestic matters.

Until recently, I boasted about the fact that I didn’t know how to cook or clean. I half-joked that I “mop” my kitchen floor with baby wipes, dust my TV with my bare hands and beg my children to take showers simply because I can’t bear to scrub the tub. Instead of making dinner, I order take-out or heat up chicken nuggets and boxed mac-and-cheese.

As a child growing up in the “Free to Be You and Me” 70s, I considered myself too liberated for housework. I wasn’t going to chain myself to the stove like my mom. If I didn’t learn how to cook, clean or sew – I naively reasoned that there was no way I would end up as a housewife.

Now, nearly two decades later, times have changed. Martha Stewart-type domestic skills are revered and even professional women boast about whipping up gourmet meals and knitting their own sweaters. Upscale magazines are dedicated to the subject of home décor and adults of both genders are expected to know the difference between arugula and escarole.

I’ve begun to realize how shortsighted I was in dismissing cooking and cleaning as tools of female oppression. After all, how independent am I really if I can’t even cook and clean for myself? I’m starting to wish I had let my mom teach me a few things about housework.  If being domestic will grant me self-sufficiency, then I’m all for it. It’s time to change my undomesticated ways.

I’m hoping you’ll join me as I throw my first-ever dinner party, learn how to knit, and attempt to cook delicious, healthy meals for my family. I plan to solicit help from Brooklyn-based chefs, hosts, and generally crafty types to help me in my quest for domesticity.

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