Labour of love? Or perfectionism in disguise?
“...When I see cooking shows and recipe books encouraging crazy amounts of work, fuss and perfectionism in the average home cook, I shake my head. THIS IS NOT FOR ME!...I had to resist the urge to add in complications! I realised that equating personal labour with the love and care I wanted to express was STUPID. You can give yourself permission to choose cooking that is easy, but still exalts the food and eaters of the food!”
- Yumi Stynes, The Zero F*cks Cookbook
When I first came across this quote, I was suddenly aware of being a perfectionist with my cooking, especially when we are expecting guests. Equating personal labour with love and care is a view passed down through the generations of my Indian heritage.
The more you feed your guests, the more hospitable and loving you are perceived as being. The more your guests eat, the more they show their appreciation. As the preparation of food has usually been the responsibility of females in our culture, there seems to be an unspoken aspiration that once a woman reaches a certain age, she becomes somewhat of a ‘Big Mumma’ who feeds everyone.
Why do our dinner party recipes have to be complex and take up most of our day to prepare? Why can’t we serve up something healthy but easy?
You know that feeling of gratitude and anticipation when you eat something delicious at someone’s place and you say, “Oh my goodness, that is delicious!”? And they respond with, “Oh thanks! It’s so easy to make and has so few ingredients. I’ll send you the recipe!”
Now, that’s what sharing the love looks like. Don’t you fill up with excitement knowing that you can recreate this divine recipe at home whenever you feel like it?
I’d much rather take that approach than slave away in the kitchen all day in the hope that it translates as love to my guests. Of course, if there is a challenging recipe I would like to tackle for the pure joy of it, I will. Or if someone I love is craving a meal that is more difficult than others, I'll choose then to make it as a labour of love.
But I am no longer going to make life harder for myself in the kitchen simply to come across as more hospitable or to impress my guests for the heck of it. That’s more about how I want to shape others’ perceptions of me, as opposed to just loving them, plain and simple.