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Where’s the Quiche?

Jul
21
2005

Over the weekend the husband had some guy friends over to help him lay a brick patio. Being completely tool-sense-deficient, I figured I could at least feed the workers, so I laid on a spread with hearty sandwiches and chips and pizza, because I was thinking, “Arrgh, matey, men working on construction-type tasks outside, must eat much food and meat and potatoes and yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”
This gender-traditional division of labor must have fried my brain, because no one’s eaten like that, at least in public, since 1963 (well, perhaps in some restaurants in Tennessee and Texas and places like that where measurements show that it is technically still 1963, but certainly not in the self- and health-obsessed town I live in). How did these men, who had been hauling bricks and bags of sand and swinging hammers and doing other John Henry-esque manly stuff, satisfy their appetites? They dug in, taking off the top half of the bread before they ate their sandwiches and spooning up the fruit salad and chugging down the Diet Coke.
No more stereotyping of men’s diets for me. I’ll now assume every construction worker is carrying grilled salmon and arugula salad in his lunch bucket.
Part of my confusion probably comes from the fact that my weekdays are spent like someone on a Titanic lifeboat—surrounded by women and children only. The only place I hang out that has large numbers of men is Trader Joe’s, which has a decent proportion of surfer dudes as check-out clerks, sliding the groceries through while they discuss wave breaks.
That’s the other problem. I should have just shopped at Trader Joe’s for lunch, instead of a regular supermarket, but I’ve got this love-hate thing going with Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s, in case it hasn’t hit your neighborhood yet (so far it’s mainly in blue states and related enclaves), has smaller stores that are a sort of cross between gourmet foods shop and health food store, with non-mainstream brands and many of its own-labeled products.
The grocery does have some yummy food and good prices, but Trader Joe is like Betty Crocker for the Ikea set. A gift of Trader Joe’s chocolates, for example, passes muster where Whitman’s Samplers wouldn’t; while a TJ frozen fajita kit is OK in kitchens that would put Hamburger Helper straight in the trash.
You don’t really cook after shopping at Trader Joe’s; it’s more like food you assemble. Microwave something here, open a sauce there, slap it on a plate. Which is fine–“cooking” doesn’t have to be about actually cooking; but I can just see my kids’ generation smirking at the cliché of these Trader Joe’s composed recipes and snacks just as much as I do about a Campbell’s soup casserole my mother used to make, for example. Which actually has its appeal, as do the Trader Joe’s combinations, but baked-brie-in-a-stainless-steel-and-granite-kitchen is sure to be the jello-salad-in-an-avocado-kitchen of the future. If you see what I mean. Trends come and trends go in a consumer society, and what different groups use to define themselves or use as an in-code has little relation to intrinsic worth.
But hey, maybe my kids will remember my “cooking” fondly. After all, I don’t know where they’d learn to stereotype.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:10 AM | Permalink

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