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Cupboard what?

“Cupboard Surprise” is a description that can be applied to any number of unique dishes that result when you look into a near empty fridge or store cupboard and somehow still manage to create a hearty meal out of whatever lies therein. Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten have been Cupboard Surprise.  (so have some of the worst actually, but hey-ho).

Freedom is looking into a cupboard two days before pay day and instead of saying “Let’s phone for pizza”, saying “Yummy, cupboard surprise.”

Home Ec – in case you’re too young to remember – is short for “Home Economics” – it was once the collective name given in (mainly all girls’) schools to lessons where they taught “housewifey” skills like cooking, sewing, ironing and the like. Although still taught in schools under the guise of the rather prosaic sounding “Food Technology” or “Textiles”, the idea of “Home Economics” seemed to drop off the radar during the late eighties, and the nineties – perhaps because it was associated with housewifery, it was somehow associated with repression and drudgery, and other such pre-feminist ideals.

Even if the terminology is archaic, the skills themselves seem to be creeping back into fashion. I believe this is because people are finally realising that actually, home economics represents the opposite of repression and drudgery. There can surely be nothing more liberating and life-affirming than being able to tend to your basic needs yourself, rather than have to rely on others (who you pay) to do it for you. If you make your own food, sew your own clothes, grow your own vegetables and do your own cleaning, you are in control of your own life. You are a powerful and self-reliant person.

The idea of economics of the home is in direct opposition to the idea of global economics. In the latter, you are a tiny cog, in a huge machine. you are a bit part player. your feelings and personal impulses are at best irrelevant, at worst potential agitators that must be crushed and controlled. To play your part in a global economy you must be a good little worker and a good little consumer. You should respond to advertising, you must continue to want what you are told to want, you must always want more, and you must work damn hard to earn the money to buy it. Devote more attenion to home economics, and you get to opt out of this machine, just a little bit, just enough to create yourself a little space of self. If you grow your own veg, cook your own food, and use up all your leftovers in a pie, you don’t need as much money because you aren’t spending as much – you work with what is available rather than what you are told you can have if you hand over your credit card. If you make your own clothes or furniture, you can happily ignore the advertising of New Look and Ikea – they are irrelevant to you. You create your own. You wear what you want to wear. You have the furniture you need, and when it wears out, you fashion it into a bird table. For free.

The more you can do for yourself, the less you have to pay others to do for you. The less you have to pay others, the less you need to earn, and the less you need either banks or big business in general. The more self-sufficient you are, the freer you feel to stick two-fingers up at modern society and really create your own life. In my experience, people who cook, garden, and make stuff are usually happier, more chilled out people than those that exist on ready meals, convenience stores and the assistance of the service industries. (Or as I could put it, if you’re too busy to cook – you’re too busy.)

In all honesty, home economics is probably not going to overthrow the Western Capitalist system overnight. It is not going to save the world. But it will make you feel more in control of your own destiny, and in that sense –  it might just save your life.

One Comment leave one →
  1. vicky permalink
    February 28, 2010 14:21

    I love this

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