Balancing profession, household

Domestic: Some women are rediscovering the pleasures of domestic work, while still maintaining their independent lifestyles.

April 01, 2001|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Sun Staff

In the early evening hours of a regular weekday, Monyka Berrocosa-Marbach usually takes to the kitchen to prepare a meal of French onion soup from scratch and perhaps a Mediterranean-marinated filet mignon with truffled mashed potatoes.

When she has more time, the 30-year-old enjoys throwing dinner parties for which she spends hours toiling over roasted tomato tarts, cream of butternut squash and carrot soup, Cornish hen stuffed with rice pilaf and shiitake mushrooms, and a finale like chocolate creme brulee. Her other hobbies include cultivating arrangements of begonias, geraniums and white lobelia in terra-cotta pots on her balcony, and painstakingly refinishing wooden furniture for her Cockeysville apartment. Oh, and let's not forget her avid interest in wine that compels her to pair the perfect bottle with each course of her elaborate dinner parties.

All these activities take place when Berrocosa-Marbach isn't running her event-planning business -- Grape Events -- with as much drive as she applies to tackling the most challenging confections in her kitchen.

Berrocosa-Marbach epitomizes the nouveau modern woman today who wants to be not only Wonder Woman at work but also Martha Stewart at home.

Hers is the generation of post-feminist feminists. Many of these women in their 20s and early 30s don't just strive for a balance between career and family in the proverbial struggle to have it all. Now that they don't have to cook, quilt, garden and throw their souls into home decor the way generations of women before them did, it's suddenly become hip to be domestic -- but strictly as a leisurely pursuit, of course. And definitely as a sideline to devoting themselves foremost to their fabulous jobs.

"Before our generation, there was this whole movement of independence, where nobody wanted to cook and nobody wanted to clean, so even if their mothers were around to teach these things, nobody wanted to pick it up," said Berrocosa-Marbach, who also volunteers at the Baltimore Museum of Art and recently established Slow Food Baltimore, a social group for gourmands.

"Now what's happening is that people like to nest and come home to a clean house that looks good and smells good, and everyone likes a good meal but not everybody can afford to eat out all the time," she added. "This has caused this renaissance in this sort of thing -- there's a definite craving for this knowledge."

The signs of this craving Berrocosa-Marbach talks about aren't hard to find. Lifestyle and home decor magazines targeted at women like Berrocosa-Marbach are doing phenomenally well. Real Simple, a lifestyle magazine for busy women that Time Inc. launched in February 2000, has struck such a chord among time-

crunched Martha-wannabes that its circulation leaped in its first year from 400,000 to 700,000.

And those not satisfied with just reading about the Martha life are tuning into Food Network in droves. The cable channel launched in 1993 with 6 million viewers tuning into its six series. By last year, 50.5 million were fans of the network's 25 original cooking shows, and these viewers increasingly have included people in their 20s and 30s.

"These people's moms were the first generation of women to go out en masse and work, so the way they ate at home was a little erratic," said Morris Vatz, owner of A Cook's Table, a Baltimore gourmet store that offers cooking classes. "They may not have gotten as much training from their mothers as their mothers got from their mothers, but they have some affluence and they feel like they want to do the domestic thing."

Larry Samuel, author of "The Future Ain't What it Used to Be: The 40 Cultural Trends Transforming Your Job, Your Life, Your World," takes Vatz's theory one step further. Samuel said the domestication trend is part of a "backlash against modernism" that has manifested itself in the recent wave of women who prefer the title "Mrs." instead of "Ms." after marriage.

"Every generation rejects their parents' values and starts fresh again," said Samuel, a New York-based trend analyst. "If it's traditional now, it's going to be untraditional in the next generation."

Berrocosa-Marbach can empathize with the theories on striking out in a different direction from her mother's generation.

"My mother couldn't cook, and everything she made turned into spaghetti sauce -- I'm not kidding," said Berrocosa-Marbach, who is an avid reader of Real Simple. "So what happened was, I started to read when I was very young, and the first thing I started to read was cookbooks. I enjoyed playing in the kitchen, and since my Mom couldn't cook, I kind of had to learn it on my own."

Thierry Marbach said he appreciates his wife's hobbies.

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