Why Struggle Plates Are Unacceptable
Eat. Slay. Love. What cooking means to me.
Social media often debates on a woman's ability to cook. This topic is an old one. Social media has sprung food blogs, IG posts and deemed some of y'all's dishes as "struggle plates." As a woman, there will eventually be a time when you're questioned on your cooking abilities. As a black woman, providing a five-star meal is expected of me. Black women are known to be the very best cooks. The average woman has grown up watching her female family members spend a majority of their time near the stove or in the grocery store. Our mothers are known for their signature dishes. My mother cooks with more than seasonings; she cooks with her heart and soul. Cooking is part of our culture, which is why I feel that I have to learn how to cook as good as my momma.
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My family gatherings are centered around food. Get togethers, holidays and birthdays are only as good as the food prepped for the events. We show love with our provisions. When a family member is ill, the women in my family go to that person's home to make sure that our loved one is provided meals that give back their strength. If I go over to my peoples' home, I know my mom, aunt or cousin is gonna cook up a delicious plate. My family believes taking care of each other includes substance. I remember the women in my church serving the food they cooked for everyone before and after service. An impressive meal takes time, skill and love.
Though my family is typically surprised that I can cook, I'm not a bad cook. I also don't believe that a woman's worth comes from the kitchen. However, in my family (and probably yours too) there is a certain status a woman receives when she knows how to throw down. Everybody looks forward to going to the home of the lady who can cook. Being a good cook means even her leftovers are desired. The best cooks in my family are certainly seasoned. Whether we are in spring, summer, autumn, winter—she offers what you would need on any given day. I'm the one that brings paper plates, and I have never been ashamed of my role. Though as someone that loves her family and good food, I have plenty to learn.
When I cook for myself, I listen to music, music reviews or podcasts. Sometimes I'll sip on something as I cook. I love sharpening my skills as much as I love to eat. Some of my motivation in learning how to cook comes from outside of my family. My workplace usually has potlucks. Currently, I am the woman that gives five dollars instead of cooking. Partly from laziness, partly from fear of criticism of my skills. As a server, I worked for various types of restaurants, and know chefs are a proud bunch.To them, and to me, nothing is worse than somebody telling you that they don't like your cooking.
I remember my friend, who is of mixed race, telling my cousin she didn't like my grandma's food. I was shocked because that was the first and only complaint I heard about my grandma's cooking ever. My cousin, who was eating with us, almost hopped across the table. My cousin roasted her and left my friend feeling salty. My grandmother, and the chefs I've met, have earned their stripes and respect.
I am working hard to create the food from my culture, and to explore other dishes. The man I marry and children I'll carry will have quality home cooked meals like I had. I also desire to cook more for my friends. I made mac and cheese last Sunday and felt like the BADDEST! For me, a sign of love is baking a dessert. I desire the skills to cook up a tasty cheesecake, a scrumptious pineapple upside cake, a banging sweet potato pie—you name it!
Sidebar: R.I.P. to Auntie Fee who reached fame from her YouTube food tutorials and saucy attitude. My condolences to her family. May she rest in peace.