‘Cooking Lesson’ by Rosario Castellanos

Cooking Lesson by Rosario Castellanos, 1971

The magic trick:

Casting the woman’s traditional role in middle-class marriage as painful, demoralizing isolation

This should be mandatory reading/palette cleanser after every John Updike story you read. Anytime you read something that from the male point of view where marital infidelity is treated as some combination of heroic rite of passage and martyrdom.

“Cooking Lesson” flips the script, putting the reader in the shoes of the woman who is stuck at home waiting for her husband to come home. Where is she? Stuck in the kitchen, of course. Cooking. Dwelling on how the meat in the skillet shrivels and shrinks as time passes – just like her love.

And that’s quite a trick on Castellanos’s part.

The selection:

I wandered astray through classrooms, streets, offices, cafes, wasting my time on skills that now I must forget in order to acquire others. For example, choosing the menu. How could one carry out such an arduous task without the cooperation of society – of all history? On a special shelf, just right for my height, my guardian spirits are lined up, those acclaimed jugglers that reconcile the most irreducible contradictions among the pages of their recipe books: slimness and gluttony, pleasing appearance and economy, speed and succulence.

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