The Day I Walked Out of The Kitchen

My choice is to leave all planning, preparation and worrying about food to my husband. That feels like a radical feminist act.

The Day I Walked Out of The Kitchen
Illustration by Maria Skliarova.

I moved in with the man who was to become my husband on my 23rd birthday, four and a half years after we had met. During hours of conversation about what it would be like to live together—what sort of sofa we would buy, who we would invite to parties—we had never actually discussed the division of household labor. Naively, I assumed the everyday minutiae of keeping a small apartment would just fall into place. As it turned out, washing and cleaning were no problem for me, but I quickly realized cooking is a task I hate.

Growing up, food had never been a particular priority: My mother cooked, we ate. Often weekday dinners were a variation of the same meal on consecutive days as she, in charge of a tight budget and three kids, stretched out leftovers.

My husband, however, is a foodie. In his family, every meal is a celebration: When they are together, cooking takes up large chunks of the day, beginning with everyone crowded into the kitchen and finishing hours later around the table. Before the meal, there are nibbles. After the main, there is dessert. Often, there’s a cheese course. There’s always good wine.

Our relationship was built over food: wonderful meals in neighborhood restaurants when our student loans came in; cobbled-together sandwiches in the park when they ran out. The first meal John cooked for me was tomato and anchovy pasta, and over the years, he kept on nourishing me. In our 20s, roast chickens chased away hangovers; in our 30s, green smoothies and organic vegetables reduced his sense of helplessness as we waded through the grief of infertility and IVF. 

In the home, women cook so much more than men that the phenomenon has been given a name: the cooking gender gap.

During those early days of cohabitation, though, I made a point of always taking my turn to cook dinner. Sure, my cooking wasn’t as good, but I wanted him to feel cared for; I wanted to speak to him in his love language. But my husband is a culinary perfectionist, and one evening, as he hovered behind me, once again giving pointers on which way to cut the onion, I thought, “fuck this,” and I walked out of the kitchen.