Postcards from the Plate (Part 3)

Food as Language.

Food as Porn.

“In some recent poststructuralist work, food (and the mother’s breast) has also been specifically associated with words and self-representation (or identity). This association is foregrounded in Kristeva’s scenario of abjection in which food symbolically competes with words. But we also find it articulated in recent work addressing prohibitions or disciplinary protocols used to control groups who might other wise be perceived as unruly. Less well theorized, but certainly evident in a wide range of narratives about the forging of individual, national and diasporic identities are more positive definitions and descriptions of food as consolidating communities or genealogies ranging from the family to the nation….Cross-Cultural Perspectives On Women, Identity, Food – University of British Colombia Workshop, 1998

Food as Language? Food for Thought, indeed.

Woman’s Language. Woman’s Words.

Women’s Business. Women’s Work.

Double, double, toil & trouble. Fire burn, cauldron bubble. Eye of newt, tongue of toad. Famous murderesses are the poisoners. Mad, mad women slump, thump around kitchens, expressing madness with pale offerings, melted plasticware, burnt offerings, lime & bitters. Eve and Snow White, seduced by an apple, witches have insatiable appetites.

Puberty Blues girls mustn’t eat in front of the boys they want to impress – to do so breaks a rule.  A ‘disciplinary protocol’ to control the ‘unruly’?

Announcement for a Radical Lesbian Feminist Festival – When, Where, and What’s to Eat? “….for anyone who wants to come early to help chop vegetables and plan the revolution.” – Food is Serious Business, Women’s Business, Women’s Work – even for Revolutionaries. More “positive definitions …… consolidating communities“?

Language of Food, is Language of Solidarity as well as Division. Women United/Divided by Food.  The bulk of agricultural workers are women, the bulk of food processing workers are women, the bulk of food is sold, prepared, cooked, bartered, carried, and shared by women.

What messages we send through food! Pleasing mothers-in-law, grandmothers, getting-to-know-you – we instinctively offer food, or help out in the kitchen – holiday dinners, afraid to offend, or quick to offend in our rebellion/rejection of the Language of Women. We know how much it means to them to communicate through the food they’ve prepared. We *hear* other women’s messages encrypted in the stuffing, salads, desserts, sauces. We both Love/Hate it as Bonding/Bondage.

Food is the Language of Women. Food is Serious Business, Women’s Business, Women’s Words, Women’s Work – We grow, harvest, pound, grind, shell, slice, chop, julienne, grate, sift, squeeze, pinch, knead, roll, bake, saute, fry, grill, shred, blend in instinctive and conditioned rituals – too much, too little – never sure, the agony and the ecstasy – we love/hate our food Bondage/Bonding.

TV ads – women serving food mountains-high, smiling beatifically at margarine. Dad gets take-away, but Mum’s hands are the ones to dish it up. Magazines for women, so many about food, catering, dinner-parties, healthy lunches for pre-schoolers, diets, ‘summer-slim’ recipes. Women always serving food, but never eating in ads – why is that?

Except maybe – snack-foods, directed at the adolescent market, when cartoon, or disembodied exaggerated feminine lips seductively lick phallic chocolate bars, or play, snatch, throw, steal them, peel them – but are not shown actually eating? What message does this Food Language send? The Pornography of Food? Woman is Object. Source of Nourishment, symbolic Fountain Breast of all pleasure – she provides pleasure with her hands this time – disembodied hands serve chicken nuggets fresh from the oven. Men and children eat. The woman smiles, radiant, standing while the subject eaters sit. There are none left for her – she doesn’t mind. The girls of Puberty Blues dispense burgers, chips – there is none for them – they don’t mind, they ate earlier, secretly – they smile, radiant their secret safe.  

Dainty morsels only when menfolk are around. So thoughtful women are, being cheap dinner dates. Binge, feast & puke when alone, or with the girlfriends, in secret. Men and children first, women must wait their turn.

Food as pornography, indeed. Popular misogynist relationship books, the Men are from Mars, Women From Venus books – men need ‘quickies’ the author says, for ‘sustenance’, a maintenance ‘diet’, so to speak – if women love their man they will provide regular ‘quickies’,  the author says, and he will provide ‘home-cooked’ sex once a week – ‘gourmet’ sex once a month – in return. She must wait her turn, in return. She masturbates, silently, secretly in the bathroom.  Or binges and pukes.

Reminder of the old hunter/gatherer paradigm. Hunter food is not regular day-to-day sustenance food, it is ‘feast’ food, ‘party’ food – it is rare, special, an occasional ‘treat’ – provided by the male. The greatest chefs in the world are men we are told. Sustenance diet of ‘quickies’ in bed, and ‘quickies’ on the breakfast table are Women’s Business, Women’s Work.

Messages of the Language of Food get mixed-up, mix-mastered, mashed, pulped, blended, dropped, lost, spoiled, boiled off, fallen, over-cooked, burnt, too cold, too stale, too hot, too spicy, hunger, hurt – tones/tomes overloaded with too much salt or sugar, pleasure or pain.

Anorexia. Bulemia. Mad, Mad Women. Misfit women, earth-mothers, laughed at – their contribution to nutrition/nurture not valued. Weight-watchers. Junkie women extol the virtues of appetite suppression by heroin, cocaine, speed, crack.  Diseases of heart, kidneys, thyroid, are wondrous for appetite-suppression. Misfits. Diets. Obsessions. Cravings. Chocaholics. Sweet-tooth. Church functions – the invitation reads ‘Ladies, please bring a plate’. Bake-sales – out of fashion now, our grandmothers wistful for cinnamon, home-made ginger nuts, lamingtons.

Misfit women pay homage to the Joy/Despair of Food, Life, Love, Women – chopping vegetables for the Revolution, chopping their bodies. Diabetes. Heart disease. Iron-deficiency. Blood thin, blood-letting. Tiredness, lethargy, allergies. Diet Coke. Take-out, take-away, disposable. Daytime TV discusses stomach-stapling surgery and the Joy of Herb Gardens.  Binge, feast & puke when alone, or with the girlfriends.

Mad, Mad Women – we come to love/hate food, we starve, we purge, we feast and stuff, we hunger, we feel for bruised tomatoes, pick carefully through apples, obsessed with ‘purity’ we cuddle our half-litre bottles of water to flush away the poisons, we love/hate our bodies, love/hate our Selves.


Oh girls, girls, Silly little valuable things,

You should have said, No, I am valuable,

And again, It is because I am valuable I say, No.

Nobody teaches anybody they are valuable nowadays. — ‘Stevie’ Smith



One thought on “Postcards from the Plate (Part 3)

  1. This is good, Rain. Women are only allowed to subsist, anything more exuberant is a sin. Feasts are for men only, our existence must be a thin barely expressed affair.

    “Food as pornography, indeed. Popular misogynist relationship books, the Men are from Mars, Women From Venus books – men need ‘quickies’ the author says, for ’sustenance’, a maintenance ‘diet’, so to speak – if women love their man they will provide regular ‘quickies’, the author says, and he will provide ‘home-cooked’ sex once a week – ‘gourmet’ sex once a month – in return. She must wait her turn, in return”

    Trouble is, if you abandon yourself for others you have nowhere to live.

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