Ahead of tomorrow’s Feminist Kitchen book club meeting (come one, come all! Thrice Cafe, 909 W. Mary St. at 7 p.m.), my fellow food blogging feminist Melanie Haupt introduces some of the concepts we’ll be discussing. I’m hoping to set up a live blog over on my Tumblr page, so check back and participate online if you can’t be there in person.
I am particularly interested in reading the first two chapters of Dinner Roles against Because I Said So; in the book Inness goes to great lengths to demonstrate that early- to mid-20th century cookbooks worked very hard to reinforce gender roles through a discourse of food and cooking. For example, she writes,
When picking a food, a girl was taught that aesthetics was more important than taste. This belief went beyond creamed potatoes: women were supposed to be concerned about attractiveness in all areas of their lives from home to personal appearance. This concern is one of the main signifiers of femininity. Thus, cookbooks were not just teaching a lesson about how to concoct a Jell-O salad; they were also giving an additional subtle lesson about how femininity was constituted. (41)
Broken down into its most fundamental elements, Inness’ argument is that these cookbooks operated as conduct texts. One of the questions I’d like for us to consider going into our meeting is how does the discourse of food as conduct text function within the movie? One other passage from Dinner Roles that stands out to me as I think about the movie is from Chapter 2:
Girls learned that good cooking skills were essential because the were the best means to attract boys (aka future husbands). Cookbooks taught about cooking, but they also taught how girls should make themselves appeal to boys. The cook who could whip together a stellar banana cream pie or the lightest, moistest chocolate cake was promised more men than she could squeeze into the kitchen. (45)