I had a boyfriend once (yes, this was before I found my true calling in the lap of, well, her name wasn’t Luxury, but I thought she was pretty damn close at the time) who liked to use the phrase “dishwasher white” in reference to the bleached aprons his mother and sisters wore while cooking—the aprons, it was insinuated, that I would also one day don in anticipation of a day spent before a stove, anxiously awaiting my husband’s return from work and his subsequent nourishment from the fruits of my feminine labor.
In the midst of the standard confusion I experienced in my pre-Sapphic days, the phrase “dishwasher white” struck a chord, probably because this guy tended to use it in a derogatory way. Women wore aprons in the appealing shade of “dishwasher white” because they were women, irrevocably bound to the kitchen and to the duties of good wife and good mom.
As a kid, I wore aprons to help my mom cook (when the rare occasion arose) and wore the same ones to finger-paint in the driveway, bake rubber Creeper Crawlers with my brother, and for every other ambiguously gendered messy kid activity you can think of. The colors of the aprons varied (they usually ended up covered in paint anyway), but I did have one that was white. It was full length, and covered in lace, a relic from my family’s history—a great-grandmother’s, maybe.
I wore my great-grandmother’s apron again last time I was at my parents’ house, while baking gluten-free cookies for a friend’s birthday. The extra effort and careful checking of ingredients necessitated by this friend’s Celiac disease were acts of love in and of themselves, produced via kitchen. Did I love the way producing something good and real and appreciated with my own two hands made me feel? Yes. Did I love the maternal feelings rising in me with the heat of the oven? Yes. Did I also love the way the apron’s lace brushed my ankles when I moved? You can bet your spatula I did.
Over the years, I’ve grown to love cooking for others (roommates, friends, ex-girlfriends, lovers) while simultaneously resenting the implications of that action: am I a homemaker? A future housewife? An independent, free-thinking feminist lesbian?
The answer to each of those questions is yes, and I’ve come to learn that not all of the above-mentioned labels are a necessarily a bad thing. The subversive act of queer cooking tackles the homegrown sensibility that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I tend to stay in that particular room until late at night chopping vegetables, listening to olive oil pop and sizzle in the pan, and taking deep breaths with my eyes closed until my feet start to ache. However, I also spend time in the office, at the park, enveloped in throngs of people at a protest, and queerly subverting another act in bed (more about that later). And yes, I have been known to wear an apron or two.
This is my coming out story as a lesbian who loves to cook.