If we didn't have to work, what would we do? For many of us—as the pandemic has revealed—it's cookingby Jonathan Nunn / May 7, 2020 / Leave a comment
Cooking has taken two different paths since the pandemic began, depending on how much free time each of us has. The first group favour speed and efficiency: those working at home but with a hungry child to look after, those who don’t have access to certain ingredients, those who are caring for others in the community. The second group only have time, seemingly endless time; their attention has turned to those long-term projects put on the backburner because there weren’t enough hours in the day.
So let’s talk about the type of man—and it is, almost exclusively, men—who have decided to make sourdough. He’s always thought this bread lark is easier than everyone thinks it is, and now is finally the time to consult that thick Tartine tome and start brushing up on hydration and gluten formation. He’s sourced a starter that can trace its lineage back to 19th-century Naples. He has started to call it “Diane.” He calls his finished loaf his “son.” He’s baked five loaves so far and each one has been completely inedible.
The “sourdough bro” has been much maligned, but let me be clear. All of this—the novices making sourdough, preserving their own fruits, fermenting vegetables, shaping gnocchi, annoying their partners while they make a mess and muck up and start from scratch—is an unqualified good. The “sourdough bro” is answering something that each one of us who is now stuck at home has to look deep within ourselves to answer. If we didn’t have to work, if we had the leisure time unafforded to us by the daily machinations of capitalism, what would we do? For many of us, that is cooking.
Over a century ago, Marx already had some pertinent words on the subject. He compartmentalised time into two categories: the realm of necessity (labour) and the realm of freedom (leisure, self-care, self-betterment), and theorised how the two feed into each other; how by having more leisure time our work would also be transformed. Never has the “realm of necessity” contracted so dramatically for so many—for a vast swath of the population it is now feeding themselves and avoiding the virus. The “realm of freedom,” meanwhile, is very much constricted to what it is possible to do at home, and for many of us, more specifically, to…