The dining room off the kitchen, the cobalt blue ceiling with white trim, massive rosewood cabinet that took up one wall, housing the good dishes, goblets, and liquor. My dad sits at the head of the table, mom takes the chair next to him, along the side. My older sister sits beside her, me and my younger sister sit opposite them. No books allowed at the table. No TV in the room. Frisky, our collie/spaniel watches from the kitchen – she’s not supposed to be in the dining room. She lies on her stomach, paws within the confines of the kitchen. By the end of dinner hour, she’s sprawled halfway between the kitchen and dining room, just watching as we laugh and talk. She would always hide during fights, scared of the raised voices and that they’d turn to her. But at dinner hour she wanted to be close.
Rewind further: drying apple slices, cored through the middle, hanging on a line that crosses the kitchen window. Jams on the basement shelves, made from our U-Pick spoils, peach, blueberry, strawberry, labeled in my dad’s block printing with our names, “AMANDA’S PEACH JAM.”
Even further back: my mom and aunt making siaopao, setting the dough to rise on the kitchen counter. When they come back to it, two little fistfuls have been taken out. The likely culprit? Maybe the one who, when given two bottles of milk, one for her and one for her little sister, drank out of both as she toddled down the hall.
After I completed my Masters study at Goddard College, writing for three years on the mythology of romantic love and its continuing influence on Western pop culture and my own experience in love, I went into the kitchen. Cooking wasn’t the way into my now-fiancé’s heart, but a way for me to connect with something tangible, something that used all of my physical senses, and something that had an immediate goal. I didn’t go into the kitchen for theory: but writing about the process of cooking, feeling and sensing the produce at the Greenmarket, sparked a new energy that made me think about the history of this role, the role of the woman in the kitchen, a role she held for thousands of years.
The question that informed my study at Goddard was how do unconscious myths of romantic love affect one’s personal experience and expectations in relationships? Now, as I embark on a new journey, as Curtis and I plan our wedding and our future together, I wonder: how do we continue to create authentic love, family, and home beyond the script of romantic love?
For me, the answer lies in the creating and sharing of food. I have previously used this site to explore myths of love and gendered expectations within romantic relationships; taking this work a step further, I will be looking how food creates relationship, home, and identity. I will look at the generations and traditions that have come before me: the cultures that didn’t have the option of eating out or ordering in; cultures that created cuisines out of new climates and old techniques; women who cooked because that was their role; and now women who cook because they want to. Throughout, I will be looking at my own role in this history: how my own notions of family have been influenced by food; and how, in turn, cooking and food create and strengthen love and home.
Amanda Faye Lacson
December 8, 2012