owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Women's Fiction - Women's Work?

I just finished the attached article, written by one of my favorite writers and teacher, Barb Samuel. As I often do after reading one of Barb's articles, I leaned back in my chair to give some thought to it, and today, I thought about my love of cooking, where it came from, how it started, and why food (good food) is so important to me today.

I didn't always cook. In fact, when I was young I found it to be an awful chore and a bore besides that. No, I was perfectly content to leave that task my mother, only interested in consuming the meal, not interested in being an active participant in its creation. Washing the dishes afterward with my sister was enough women's work for me.

If I had any shadows when I began cooking (as Barb describes her ex-husband), it would have to be my mother and her mother, both strong farmhouse cooks. Three big meals a day for the men working in the field, complete with fresh yeast rolls, chunky preserves, and a pie from scratch for desert. They used pound after pound of lard, gallons of fresh cream, and raw milk, all the ingredients we're warned not to use today. There were strawberries from my grandparents' never-ending garden, corn, tomatoes, green beans, fresh peas. Their eggs came from their own chickens. My love for the farmer's market must have been planted years ago, at my grandparents' farm in Wisconsin.

At our home, my mother gave us a dinner of roast on Sunday, nearly every Sunday, after the handshaking and post-sermon chit-chat was finished at church. The table was spread with her nicest tablecloth, and covered with steaming dishes of roast acorn squash, baked potatoes, sugared carrots. Thinking about this, I plan to incorporate more food memories into my writing in the future. Barb describes it as "Easy. Invisible. Holding up the pillars of the world." How true.

And so, women's fiction, like women's work, is important. When people ask me what I write and I respond with, "I write women's fiction," the reaction sometimes is, "Oh ho! Women's fiction! I bet you give a lot of thought to THAT!"

No, it's not particulary literary, or historical, or heavy in nature. Like women's work, it seems invisible. Invisible it is not. It's earthy, it is sensual, it can be healing, often it provides a bonding agent, like food. If my writing can give a harried, or sad, or tired woman a brief respite from the rhythym of her day, then I have done what I came to do.

Yes, if that is the case, I have done what I came to do.

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