Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Home Maker

Over the last few weeks, I have had a similar kind of conversation with several different people. It's about what can I do with my life; how can I take my new chemical sensitivities and make something positive from them? I tell you, it's a pretty difficult topic. There is a reoccurring theme and it has come up over, and over, and over again. It is Domesticity.

I'm not talking about your 19th Century ideal of an angel in the house, nor even the 50's ideal of a stay at home mom who spends every hour of the day preparing the house for when her husband comes home from work. I'm talking about reclaiming the word homemaking so that it becomes a non-gender-specific term to describe the process of simple every day living.

Look. If you have a roof over your head, by my standards, you have a home. Quite often, the people you love most share this place with you. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, single or married, a single parent taking care of a child, or a single child trying to take care of your parents. How you care for them, how you care for yourself and how you care for your home, speak volumes about your life. Your choice of food, how you cook it, how you clean up afterwards, &c.. All these things and more are a statement of who you are. It's about taking pride in where you live. It's about empowering the individual with the knowledge of how to live well. This is homemaking.

About a year ago I read an article in the local paper. It said that in our city, the average four person household requires over 60 hours of labour at just under double minimum wage (so that would be 100 hours at minimum wage) to provide the basic necessities of life. These necessities are things like rent, clothing, and food, but didn't include such luxuries as TV or bus-fare. That's a lot of work for such a small return. I thought certainly they must have got their numbers wrong, so I read on. Apparently, most of the money went into food, then rent, then clothing, cleaning supplies, and so on down the line. But, what really astounded me was how much these people (as it was an actual survey of people living just above the poverty line) were spending on all these items. They were spending more than three times the amount of money it actually costs to eat and up to ten times the actual cost of cleaning supplies. Were they exaggerating what they spent? I don't think so. What they were doing was wasting money by buying the wrong things. They were doing things such as buying ready made meals at, say, $6 a plate instead of cooking a nice oven roast at $2 a plate. For four people, that's a waste of $16 for just one meal. Multiply that by three meals (one day) and you get a waste of almost $50 a day. Not only that, but by buying prefabricated food, they are hurting both their health and the environment.

I wondered, do people do this because they are working too hard to prepare a proper meal? Maybe they just don't have enough time? Then again it takes as much effort to make an oven roast or a slow cooker meal as it does to make a prefab meal. Even less effort with the slow cooker as it is ready to eat as soon as you get home from work. So why then would the average working class Jo or Joanne waste that much money on something so damaging to their health?

Then, someone mentioned to me, maybe people don't know how to make food. Maybe their mothers (or fathers, or uncles, or aunts, or grandparents, neighbours, &c.) never taught them how to roughly chop some vegetables to make a soup in a slow cooker or how make leftovers yummy instead of depressing. Maybe they never learnt to buy vegetables when they were in season so as to get the best value and the highest nutrient content. Maybe they don't know what the best cut of meat is or how to cook it.

Just think what a family of four could do with 50 extra dollars a day. They could buy some of those little luxuries like bus-fare. Or perhaps, even better, they could work less. And that's just food. Imagine what could be accomplished by saving money on all other aspects of homemaking.

Perhaps, a person would say, that it takes too much time to live this way. It doesn't. If you can afford the time to eat at a restaurant or to open a packet of food and stick in the oven, then you have enough time to keep a good home. Not to mention, with the money you save by proper homemaking, you can work less and thus have more time for yourself.

Perhaps you think that helping the environment and saving money just don't go together. That's just not true. You can save money, help your health and help the environment. This is the trifecto. These three things go hand in hand. And they can be customized for vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, meat eaters, raw fooders, anything. Homemaking is just learning how to live the way you want to, only to do it smart.

Homemaking is old fashioned. No! And yes, people have been homemaking since the first shelter was built. This is not something that goes out of fashion. It is not something that is restricted to the middle-class stay-at-home-soccer-mom. Homemaking is empowering. It is taking back your life from the clutches of big businesses. It is "sticking it to da man". It is a powerful way to do your part for the environment and for yourself, and in my book, that never goes out of style.

So, why the big long rant? Well, if you are still with me after such a long blog post, maybe it was interesting.

The idea is that I would love to write a book about this. A book that would take what I have learned from 19th Century domestic manuals and make it applicable for people who live in the world today. I want to write something that would empower individuals to take back their lives by learning about good homemaking. I want to abolish the stereotype that a homemaker is chained to the stove, barefoot and pregnant.

When I think about the books that have changed my life more than anything else, I think of Frugal Indulgence and The Fabulous Girls Guide to Decorum. I want to write something like these, and when it comes to what I know best, it's homemaking.

Now, do I pitch this to a publisher first, or do I just start writing it? I've already made an outline.


kracicot said...

Pitch it to a publisher just to see what they say. Regardless write it. You can always go self published (Blurb is great and cheap).

Josiane said...

That was a very interesting post, and this is a great book idea. Go ahead with it!
I'm not sure what the publishing world is like in the rest of Canada, but here in Quebec publishers usually take completed manuscripts for evaluation. If you have any idea which publisher would be best for your book, give them a call and ask the receptionist what is the way to go. I've been working in a publisher's house for a few years, and we much prefered getting a call and then receiving precisely what we needed than receiving something that was not appropriate for us, whether in shape or in contents.

Holly said...

For any of the publishers to take you seriously - you are going to need a properly worded query letter.

And to know which publishers - go see what reference materials are in your library and check out the submissions guidelines for which ever publishers interest you.

Most main publishers do not talk to individuals - they only accept works through agents.

Some nice catalogs out there.

At minimum you are going to need a completed specific outline and perhaps the first couple of chapters to accompany that letter...

Nat said...

I would totally buy this book. :)

Another place for self-publishing is Lulu ( It would eliminate the hassle of finding a publisher, mean you don't have to give up a good deal of the profits you make, and give you more control over advertising/publishing/sales decisions.

I've been cooking since I got home from Christmas break :), and it's really great. It's cheaper, more fun, and kinda gives you a sense of accomplishment. I was puzzled today though: I'd wanted to try cooking a whole chicken rather than buying pre-cut, easier to deal with pieces. The chickens cost $8, but the store also sold freshly cooked, whole roasted chickens for $6. There didn't seem to be a weight/size difference, so it didn't make any sense to me that it was cheaper not to do it I missing something?