The Joy of Cooking

Recipe and Photo by Pure Ella

In a very interesting post about the growing influence of food blogs especially in academia, Judith Newton makes some critically important, more general, claims about the changing status of cooking as a creative activity.

A recent development in women’s studies, for example, has been an effort to reclaim the kitchen and, in the process, to modify the tendency of some feminists to frame cooking and other forms of domesticity as inherently oppressive to women and as always enforcing a conservative status quo. Some academic feminists are now rethinking cooking as a vital form of emotional labor that nurtures and humanizes all of us, prepares us for civil society, and lays the groundwork for political community and social movements…

Many women of color, of course, have long seen cooking as a form of creativity and power and as a means of creating community solidarity in the face of ongoing struggles against racism, colonialism, and other forms of domination. (See Gloria Wade-Gayles’s 1997 Laying On Hands Through Cooking. Now, white feminists (academic and not) are also writing about home cooking as a retreat from, but also an implicit criticism of, the uncaring values of the world of work.

Indeed, a “mindful cooking,” one that takes into account the values of sustainability, economic justice, community, and caring labor is being theorized as a crucial feminist activity. Even labor intensive and time-consuming projects like fancy baking are newly valued as a means of expressing or redefining the self, of bringing intensity and joy to living, and as a form of resistance to the relentless pace of life in our work-obsessed culture.

These are important points that have ramifications far beyond debates within feminism. They explain why we have undergone a food revolution in this country.  Whatever other virtues it may have (I’m trying hard to think of one), the increasingly corporate, bureaucratic, pressurized world of work is not a place for self-expression, authenticity, creativity or care.

The world of food and wine is our contemporary retreat from all of that—a place where the intrinsic value of the joys of life can be celebrated daily. It’s the kind of modest revolution that may not make the history books but immeasurably improves peoples’ lives.

One comment

  1. First, I love the idea that cooking is becoming more of a creative expression…but, there’s still the practical aspect to it, the kids have to eat, what am I gonna make for dinner, didn’t we just have roast chicken last week…not that I’m complaining. Creative cooking is a luxury. But, perhaps, practical cooking is a more important ingredient in building culture and community. Second, the world of food and wine as a place to celebrate daily joys, absolutely! Yes! (even if it is roast chicken…again.) Thanks for the thought provoking post.

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