I was talking to a historical economist at Cambridge University the other day. Yeah sure as you do. And she told me that supermarkets have set women free. That if we’re to talk about feminism and women’s rights then the invention of the supermarket is as important as suffrage. I was taken aback, really Tesco? That place? Could mass consumerism really have had a positive impact on women’s rights? She simply told me that it set us free from the constraints of the kitchen. Going to a butchers, bakers and markets separately is as time consuming as the preparation of meals for a whole family. There was no way a woman could go out to work when she had all this work to do at home.
This idea blew my mind, it wasn’t something I ever thought about before. I’m living in a generation where I’ve never had any responsibility to cook for a partner or family. I cook for pleasure and generally just heat something up when I don’t have time. Me and the BF share the responsibility to get food and we often don’t spend much time cooking unless we’re doing it for friends and then it’s always a treat. Now I’m not saying all the food in the supermarket is perfect, of course it isn’t healthy to eat ready meals every night, but there is healthy fresh food too. The microwave and modern ovens twinned with supermarkets mean our lives have transformed.
You only have to turn on the television and you’ll find a plethora of cookery programmes there waiting to be consumed for entertainment. We love food. There are just so many options at our finger tips and those who love it can make careers making it and writing about it, taking pictures of it. And those who don’t, get to eat it. It is literally at our finger tips. Obviously parents still have the responsibility to feed their children and there is time spent there but not to the same extent. Supermarkets offers us choices that were just unheard of before.
So next time I’m having a Sunday baking session, I’ll think of the women before me who spent hours cooking for their families. It’s something I was aware of but never really thought about with any clarity. We demonise the ready meal as a lazy option, but as a career woman I thank it for the choice.