Wait, Why Is Canning Your Own Jam Suddenly ‘Cool’?

I have a review of Emily Matchar’s new book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity up at Christianity Today.

If you’ve ever wondered how and why knitting, canning, and quilting are ‘cool’ again, even–especially?–among urban twentysomethings, you’ll want to check it out.

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My mother doesn’t knit or sew (much) and her mother didn’t either. My grandmother Charlotte was an editorial assistant in New York City in the 1960s and a self-described feminist; she owned a first-edition copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Boiling frozen Green Giant vegetables and broiling steaks were about the extent of her domestic work, and she reveled in fashionable clothes and in knowing at least a little something about the books “everyone” was talking about. When I was in second grade, we guffawed together over an illustration of a grandmother in a picture book I’d taken home from school. The grandmother was white-haired (my grandmother dyed hers until she died) and sitting in a recliner with a cat in her lap (my grandmother was violently allergic) while knitting something from garish colors of yarn (my grandmother never picked up a needle in her life unless she’d been forced to). “You’re not that kind of grandma, are you, Grandma?” I’d asked. “No, dearie. I’m not.”

If you think it strange that the granddaughter of a 60s urban feminist and anti-domestic relishes home cooking and sewing quilts and knitting sweaters for new babies, and, yes, gardening and preserving my own foods, think again. Americans are increasingly turning toward what writer Emily Matchar, in her new book Homeward Bound, calls the “New Domesticity.” It’s marked by an almost militant commitment to all things DIY (do-it-yourself); by a resurgence in interest in handcrafts like knitting, sewing, and embroidery; concern about food safety and environmental sustainability that expresses itself in a mania for home-grown, home-preserved, from-scratch cooking; a distrust of government and corporations that leads to things like homebirth, vaccine refusal, and homeschooling; and a disillusionment and dissatisfaction with contemporary work culture that leads people to “opt out,” filling their days instead with the kinds of homesteading work I’ve described along with a demanding style of parenting known as “attachment” parenting.

{Continue reading…}

5 thoughts on “Wait, Why Is Canning Your Own Jam Suddenly ‘Cool’?

  1. I can’t answer this; I’m still trying to figure out how the hated black plastic G.I. issue eyeglass frames of my youth are now “hipster” and cost a couple of hundred bucks…

  2. PS: You realize of course that your grandmother would have loved your domesticity, precisely because it is the subject of books and is now “cool.”

  3. I don’t know why it’s considered “cool” but I can understand why so many women are less focused on their careers these days. I spent my 20s going to grad school, pursuing a career, stressed out, unbalanced, with hardly any energy left for church life/friendships/hobbies. I put my husband through seminary and PhD work, became a Mom, and then finally ended up as a SAHM in a college town with a house and a garden. And I could finally really breathe, and feel balanced, and pursue new hobbies, and have people over, and cook and garden. It felt right, like I was finally doing what I was really wired to do. Mothering fulfilled me in a way that my career didn’t, and although I often longed for more time to myself, I never missed the workplace. To me, it simply makes sense to “sequence” and to focus on different things at different stages of life. I can understand that some women just really want/need to work, and I hope they can also respect that for some women, being at home is a great fit for their energies and inclinations.

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