Friday, May 25, 2007

Female Food Writing

(Unrelated Did You Know?: right now, I'm watching a special on a chocolatier in Taiwan that makes chocolate shaped to look like Hermes purses. Just thought that was interesting.)

"From the nameless fifteen-year-old bride given book-length instructions on how to run her husband's home, to M.F.K. Fisher [one of the first modern food writers] who dared to write about men the way Brillat-Savarin [a 18th century male writer who related female sexuality to food] wrote about women, the history of food writing became the story of the long, slow struggle toward women's emancipation."
- Mark Kurlansky in Choice Cuts

Currently on chapter seven (of thirty), I've managed to go through chapters in Choice Cuts entitled "Not Eating" and "Food And Sex." (For your information, the latter's contents are much, much more discreet than say, Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back video featuring fruit. As I learned on a VH1 retrospective.)

The above excerpt (I believe it was in that same chapter) caught my interest,as it somewhat related to my History Day essay (quick thesis: While advertising for appliances and pre-prepared food in the 1920s and 1930s championed emancipation from housework for women, it simultaneously and intentionally pressured them into the image of the "perfect housewife" that shied away from suffrage).

The paragraph also seemed to mesh perfectly with the confident voices of female food writers I have read. Aside from the anthologies I have been reading, I read Mimi Sheraton's memoir Eating My Words as well as Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires. It was difficult to not compare the books to one another - while Sheraton and Reichl were both restaurant critics at the New York Times, their tenures were about two decades apart, but even with that, as very "strong" women, their personalities were similar (great, since critics are supposed to have opinions on food).

They also both dealt with comparisons to male reviewers, which I thought was interesting - those incidents played on the idea that there is "male food," and then there is "female food" (invariably more delicate), and that for example, a woman couldn't adequately review steaks.

Fortunately, these women rose above these misguided ideas, and fortunately for my reading, each book's main theme was different. Sheraton focused on how her food career spanned her entire life, while Reichl examined her career at the NYT (dividing each section of her book as a different disguise that she would use at restaurants); I enjoyed the specificity of the latter more and probably would recommend that first.

That said, time to read about bread - excellent.

1 comment:

Superman said...

you should name your blog "foodievia" instead. Note the extra "e"