The African woman who can’t? or won’t cook…

I feel like I need to set the record straight. This comes after receiving some snide comments about my cooking (rather non-cooking) in this week. They were said in jest and it was just banter, but it had me thinking. I know I CAN COOK, I just prefer not to sometimes. I am one of those women who refuse to define themselves according to whether they can cook or not. I have no desire to spend time in the kitchen, I am not a foodie and there is really nothing I enjoy about cooking. So, why is it such a big deal?

Culturally, women’s place has traditionally been relegated to the kitchen. Throughout history, we see women being involved with food: gathering food; growing food; processing food; cooking food; presenting food and feeding their families. With the advent of feminism and urbanisation, women have left this gender prescribed role to pursue other ambitions and most, still continue to do it simultaneously with their new roles. They are superwomen really!! I applaud you QUEENS.

Image result for household superwoman

As a single woman, I find it so tiring to constantly be judged based on what I will be able to do for a future, non-existent husband. Right now, I live alone and I cook meals for myself when I feel like it. You will never catch me bragging about being a good cook, volunteering to bring cooked food and I don’t host lunches and dinners at my place. The simple reason is that I have other interests and cooking is not one of them.

Will I be able to cook for my husband and provide for my children? Of course, I am sure I will step up to it when the time comes.  But, why is cooking tied to my worth as a woman and why for a man? Are we asking our men the same questions? If not, why not? Do I need to prove my cooking prowess as some sort of rite of passage to womanhood? I say HELL NO!! Even when I am dating, I cook once in a blue moon and only for that special man. I especially will not be doing that if it comes as a demand or expectation. I had this discussion with my close friends recently and one of them asked me “how will you know you can cook for your future husband and children if you are not practicing it now?” Fair question, we do get better at most things with practice. But, I just don’t have the passion for cooking, to be honest, and I am not about to do something just because I might need to use it to please some guy in the near future.

When I am at home, I am not forced to be the one in the kitchen just because I am a female. My brother is a whiz in the kitchen and when he is around, he prefers to cook most times. I grew up in that kind of house where whoever feels like cooking will do it. My mother trained us all to know the basics, but it was never drilled into me that I must define myself based on my cooking. So, when people judge and pass snide comments, they ignore the fact that people are raised differently. Even when I do get married, chances are I will marry into a completely different family that may have those expectations. I will cross that bridge when I get to it though.  Am I losing sleep worrying about it? NO!

This might be controversial, but this is my truth. Some people may feel it is unAfrican for a woman not to take pride in cooking. I beg to differ. I am African and I do cook, I just won’t do it!!

Image result for a woman's place is in the kitchen

Now that’s more like it. Feels like I am shaking this patriarchy table. Let me know your thoughts on the subject.

See this previous post Why I am a feminist… for more.

14 thoughts on “The African woman who can’t? or won’t cook…

  1. why should person have a place they are not a tree that are planted in one spot and there they stay until the kitchen fires grow old,
    I happen to be whiz in the kitchen when the spirit moves me I might even cook better than my sister we never put it to the test. …… actually my mum makes asides about how I am not married cause I am too good a cook I wont find a reason to marry, as if cooking abilities are crucial in said union ….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that, we are not trees so we shift as life situations shift. Nice to hear you are a good cook, I am all for men who unashamedly take their place in the kitchen. If you like it, why not?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember reading something about how girls are raised to be wives and boys are just raised to be who they will and thats how everything gets all mixed up….My mum raised us up to be responsible self-functioning adults


  2. Very Interesting.
    I can’t cook. I never learned. I’m 4th and the older brothers cooked until I left home for tertiary education. When I was about to leave home, my mother refused because, as she explained to my school headmaster, ‘I was not ready for the world. I was too young at 17. I had weak health (painful heavy menstrual periods she meant). I couldn’t even cook”. With the help of the headmaster, a director who studied away from home and a doctor we managed to convince her be OK. It never bothered me because I always mentioned it on the first few dates, ‘hey, I can’t cook, so what are we going to eat?’ They all could cook and I was well fed.

    It only bothered me when I started thinking about being a parent. I’m learning to cook in case I become a parent (even though their father can cook, I just want to be able to make them pancakes and soup if he is away for example).

    I’ve been lucky in that no friends or strangers have demeaned me because I don’t cook. It doesn’t affect their lives I guess.

    By the way, in your culture (Are you Shona/Ndebele?)…after a woman is married, is she expected to stay with the husband’s parents after the wedding to cook and clean? I understand this has the benefit of teaching the new daughter in law how to cook in the same way the son enjoys.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your comment. It is nice to know that your non-cooking did not make any difference in how you were perceived in relationships. I have also been lucky to meet men who do not mind cooking for me, I hope the one I marry is the same.

    I am Shona and yes traditionally after marriage, the bride would be expected to live with the family of the groom and perform those duties, but this has changed with the increased emancipation of women and other post-modernization consequences. For instance, with many young people living outside the country, having left in search of greener pastures, this culture has reduced if not stopped completely for some families. Few families expect this now and if it does happen it is only for a few days and the couple returns to their home together. And if I am employed I surely cannot be expected to leave my job to perform these cultural duties after getting married, no employer will allow you to take leave for a month to do that. So there have been a lot of changes. This would actually make an interesting study, thanks for bringing it up.


  4. Hi. I just came across this, and this is me. I don’t like cooking. I feel that as African women, our entire existence has been tied to the amount of pleasure we can give to men. It’s ridiculous, and it takes years of undoing to form an identity for yourself independent of those expectations. Great read!


    1. I agree really that it is ridiculous, I refuse to live to such expectations. It is good to know there are more women like me out there who will not conform to ridiculous standards for the pleasure of men. Thanks for reading.


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