Cooking in Like Water for Chocolate, in anime, and in real life

A semi-famous blogger named Dalrock is still getting a lot of comments on his post about how refusing to cook makes you ugly:

Feminists are ugly because they are miserly with love.

One of the effects of feminism is that men of my generation have had a much wider opportunity to cook. I can’t think of any men my age or younger who don’t know how to cook. Moreover, I can’t think of any men of my generation or younger who don’t enjoy cooking. This is in stark contrast to the women of the same generations, who (typically) view cooking as an indignity. The reason for the difference in attitude boils down to what cooking is all about. Cooking is an act of love, an act of service to others. It is an opportunity to care for others in a very fundamental way, to literally nourish them through the work of your own hands. This is precisely what troubles the modern woman so much about cooking (or cleaning, or changing diapers). Serving others in the mind of a feminist is an indignity, so cooking, cleaning, or any other act of service and love is the object of revulsion. … It has gone so far that large numbers of women are quite proud of the fact that they have never learned to cook or otherwise care for others. Their miserliness is a badge of honor.


Well, cooking can be pretty darn menial. If you’re a woman, and your social status allows you to eat the food cooked by women of lower social status, it is rational to take pride in the fact that you don’t have to cook, because you’re really taking pride in your social dominance.

If you can find a copy, you can watch Like Water For Chocolate to see a fictionalized example of how emotions motivate actions. I don’t know that it teaches the right lessons about how to live your life, but it certainly broadened my horizons.

By contrast, consider the following from Non Non Biyori:


Even a little baby can understand that it can put food in someone else’s mouth. It’s not a “caring” or “nurturing” thing – it’s just part of being human.

A more explicit case of cooking-to-demonstrate-affection comes from the soft yuri relationship of the older girls:

I won’t spoil the humor of that scene; you can watch the whole show and see if the lunchbox scene in the final episode strikes you as a plausible representation of the difficulties of expressing love with food.

A much cruder show, Noukome, presents a female character who has lost her memory most of the time. Most of the time, she is absolutely sensual, affectionate, and irresponsible. She wants to be a pet – receiving no respect, and a lot of affection. In “pet” mode, Chocolat cannot cook, but is smart enough to eat any desirable food that has been set aside.


Now, there are a lot of people, male and female, who want to be pampered but also treated with great respect. There are fewer people who are willing to sacrifice respect for attention.

However, during one episode, Chocolat briefly regains her memory and becomes very maternal or wife-like, and tries to care for the hero. She is back to normal soon. I wonder whether the writer was doing a semi-autobiographical treatment of one time when his “parasite single” girlfriend tried to be a good housewife, found it was difficult, and washed her hands of it.

I suspect that modern women feel a little bit like Chocolat; most of the time, they are absolutely unsuited to 19th-century expectations of women’s work such as cooking. Every now and again, they manage to do something that is nurturing, but after they hit a snag, they do the rational thing and resort to the conveniences of modern life – microwave cooking, take-out food, etc.

In my experience, modern women hate it when their husbands/boyfriends/mates act like children who must be taken care of. It remains to be seen how modern societies (e.g. Japan, South Korea, China, etc.) will balance out the various expectations of male and female roles.

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