Are We All Just New Victorians?

The cover article in the New York Observer tells the tale of “The New Victorians,” young couples who nest early, obsess over house renovation, buy into CSA farm shares, and throw dinner parties. “[R]ecent years have seen a breed of ambitious, twentysomething nesters settling in the city,” the article explains, “embracing the comforts of hearth and home with all the fervor of characters in Middlemarch.” Apparently, a fascination with food is a symptom of this behavior. “The current obsession with food preparation—I absolutely must have that Le Creuset casserole!—is totally New Victorian.”

The article may or may not be a bit of a stretch, and really only tangentially about cooking, but I’m probably not the first to think it’s ironic that I’m happily making jam while my grandmother was most likely thrilled to retire her canning pot and just buy the stuff at the store. People everywhere are turning the clock back, making their own bread, butter, and vinegar, rather than purchasing the (oftentimes very high quality) premade versions widely available.

Jennifer Jeffrey has had some interesting posts recently talking about the freedom that prepared foods have given us not to be chained in the kitchen, a slave to the canner, bread bowl, or butter churner. She’s right, and yet there are those of us who are choosing to spend what little free time we do have making bagels, canning, rendering our own lard. Call it New Victorianism or something else, but there’s an undeniable move by a younger generation toward home cooking, handicrafts, and gardening. It’s an engagement in domestic functions at a level that is simply not necessary in this day and age. Where does it all come from and what does it all mean?

I’d love to discuss this at length but I really must go. I have to pick some herbs from the garden, you see, to add to the bread I’m baking for my knitting group meeting this evening. But don’t worry, I churned the butter yesterday.