Aprons and wife jokes
And then, as people who went to college to understand business and economics and justice and kya kya, they will put their heart in the right place and their money where their mouth is.
I love to cook. Hence, I frequently receive aprons as gifts from people who know this. I'm not a fussy cook, or a fussy dresser at home for that matter. So, they all lie at the bottom of a bottom drawer, along with other gifts I call domestic nostalgia—such as oven gloves and tea cosies, a gift which is useless to me because I am allergic to tea. In colder climates, tea cosies are useful for making dahi apparently (no, you don't put milk in the tea cosy to make dahi; you put the tea cosy around the dahi ka bartan so the warmth activates the bacteria, so please, lockdown mein don't go and do anything foolish).
However, when you become a person who cooks every day as well as cleans the house and washes the clothes you cook in, you suddenly understand the usefulness of an apron, and that's how I opened that bottom drawer. Thereupon, a new problem presented itself.
There was one apron so frilly, so vintage, so pretty I felt I should wear it to a French picnic so, as a good Indian who does not faltu mein use nice things, I put it back. The others all had something 'funny' written on them.
One apron featured Lucy, from Peanuts looking put upon, saying, "I spent three years in college for this". I was given this apron since I was actually in those three years of college, but now I realised how condescending it was to housework and how it also encouraged women to be sexist to other women, undervaluing domestic work. I discarded it.
Another had been given to me by an investment banker friend—all the men in his firm received one at some event. He found it funny, but was too puritanical to use it. It says, "Will Cook For Sex". Implications: men don't cook except for some ulterior motive, which is only and always sexual. Women never want sex, they have to be coaxed with transactions, and they couldn't be making the transaction themselves. Here we are. Apparently, the apron is the wife joke of garments.
Luckily, when worn by anyone except a straight man, this apron's message is immediately subverted, so I chose it and have made pumpkin, egg drop soup, dal, karela and fried chicken in it with success (culinary only, alas).
Look for aprons online. Aprons for men are mostly black with 'funny' slogans like "You are the best chef, husband", "Mr. Good Looking is Cooking" as if a man cooking is worthy of comment (Though I know men who cook routinely). Aprons for women were sexy, sweet, practical, dots, checks, stripes, pockets, buttons, halter necks—many.
Cooking has been a middle class preoccupation during the lockdown, in which men have sometimes had to cook or chosen to help with cooking. When the un-lockdown comes.
I hope they, as well as women who have other women to cook for them because you know, they didn't spend three years in college for 'this' will remember how important this cooking business was, and realise how much they undervalue and underpay it. And then, as people who went to college to understand business and economics and justice and kya kya, they will put their heart in the right place and their money where their mouth is.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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