Friday, June 22, 2007

Female Food Writing (part two)

This week, it was back to food well as the trip to the library. In searching for "food writing" in the catalog, Through the Kitchen Window: Women Writers Explore the Intimate Meaning of Food and Cooking (ed. Arlene Voski Avakian) was on top of the list.

Unfortunately, that was kind of a misnomer, because this book related more to gender studies than food. (The editor is a associate professor of women's studies.) Don't get me wrong - I love how food intertwines with everything, including gender, and as a female, I think it's incredibly important to observe how such a basic function like eating relates to identity. But in my opinion, the majority of this anthology was overly ambitious by attempting to tie the relationship between food and gender into one neat bow. Ultimately, the food writing portion suffered. Pieces that focused exclusively on narrative or on an academic perspective tended to be better reading - standouts included "Laying on Hands through Cooking: Black Women's Majesty and Mystery in Their Own Kitchens" by Gloria Wade-Gayles, and "Follow the Food" by Barbara Haber. But for the most part, no piece was particularly memorable. I was also uncomfortable with the explicit material in some essays.

On the other hand, I'm in the first half of Cornbread Nation 1 (ed. John Egerton), an annual anthology of Southern food writing. While its Southern nostalgia overwhelms me at times as I read, each cook's profile draws me in. The writing doesn't have as much "sparkly metaphor" as Through the Kitchen Window, but the storytelling paints a vivid picture nonetheless. The food is not necessarily the main character here - sometimes dedication is - but it plays a meaningful role. Interestingly enough, it's easier for me - a teenage girl who has never been to the South - to identify with this compilation.

1 comment:

Me said...

Yesterday I was at the used bookstore and I saw a book on bananas. It was in the uncategorized, random section. I thought of you.