By Katharina Vester, Professor of History and American Studies
This year's issue of Food, Media, and Culture presents a new batch of excellent undergraduate research that is concerned with the political, social, and cultural implications of representations of food in media such as cookbooks, television, and the internet.
The articles in our fourth issue seem at first glance to have nothing in common. In "Comparing Culinary Queens: Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, and Femininity on the Food Network," Dana Bramble shows how female hosts of TV cooking shows cater to the expectations of hegemonic femininity although the hosts in question seem decisively different in their gender performance. Samantha Ruggirello, in "Creating a 'Palatable History': African-American Cookbooks as Political Texts," presents a fresh contribution to the scarce scholarship on community cookbooks, focusing on texts compiled by the NCNW (National Council of Negro Women). Lindsay Sandoval in "Icing on the Cupcake: Baking, Blogging, and the Promise of New Domesticity" discusses how cupcake-themed blogs reflect a neoliberal revival of domesticity. And Samantha Theriault in "Julia Child, Feminist?" assesses Julia Child's political potential by comparing how she has been received by feminists of her own time and more recently.
What unites all four articles is their concern with questions of femininity and cooking advice, revealing a complex power dynamic where the two come together. While traditionally cooking advice confined women to the kitchen, it also granted female authors authority and expertise. As the four texts show in their historical and comparative analyses, authors of cooking advice use this authority to challenge racial stereotypes, or dominant ideals of femininity. But they demonstrate, too, that cooking advice also has been and remains complicit in constructing and distributing the same stereotypes and expectations. As some of these examples show, resistance and affirmation of hegemonic ideals are not necessarily mutually exclusive but can go hand in hand. Dana, Samantha, Lindsay, and Samantha‟s texts are therefore not only interesting as contributions to the field of food studies but also to the study of gender.
COMPARING CULINARY QUEENS:
PAULA DEEN, GIADA DE LAURENTIIS, AND FEMININITY ON THE FOOD NETWORK
By Dana Bramble
Paula Deen and Giada De Laurentiis are two celebrities on Cable TV’s The Food Network who have amassed fame through cooking television shows, books, and tours. Their many accomplishments are admirable, especially given that Deen and De Laurentiis achieved success in an industry dominated by male chefs. But it appears that Deen and De Laurentiis gained fame in the male-dominated world of cooking by perpetuating traditional feminine tropes. This paper will explore how Deen and De Laurentiis both subscribe to and subvert gender norms through their portrayal of femininity. Read More
CREATING A "PALATABLE HISTORY": AFRICAN-AMERICAN COOKBOOKS AS POLITICAL TEXTS
By Samantha Ruggirello
This paper illustrates how community cookbooks written by the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) are powerful political texts. Focusing on two cookbooks—The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro published in 1958 and Celebrating Our Mothers’ Kitchens: Treasured Memories and Tested Recipes published in 1994—this article will show how these texts by the NCNW did justice in honoring African-American public figures and celebrating black motherhood. It was important to disseminate knowledge on black history and motherhood at a time when both subjects were silenced and distorted by Anglo-centric historical discourse. This paper reveals how the NCNW used food as a vehicle to celebrate the African-American experience and dispel racist stereotypes in the cultural climate of the 1950s and 90s. Read More
Icing on the Cupcake: Baking, Blogging and the Promise of New Domesticity
By Lindsay Sandoval
Despite impressive strides in the workforce, many women are fleeing careers in the corporate world and returning home to perform domestic housework. This shift to the domestic sphere is evident in the rising number of “cupcake bloggers” who have left high-power jobs to create blogs that deliver advice on cooking and other domestic matters. Cupcake blogs have emerged within the context of “New Domesticity,” a movement that celebrates an appropriation of traditional house- and craftwork. This paper analyzes the role of womanhood in cupcake blogs to unpack the economic, social, and gender discourses underlying cupcake blogs fueling the New Domesticity movement. Read More
JULIA CHILD, FEMINIST?
By Samantha Theriault
In the mid-twentieth century, Julia Child revolutionized the act of cooking for women by treating it as an art form and career rather than domestic labor. Feminists of the 1960s and 70s, however, might not have perceived Child's work in the kitchen as supportive of second-wave feminist ideals. It was not until the twenty-first century that Child truly gained respect as a leader in feminism and a challenger of gender norms. Yet, the modern-day acceptance of Child as a third-wave feminist hero is flawed given that Child's career alienated the gay community and women of the lower classes. This paper explores the changing perceptions of Child as a feminist within the context of second-wave and third-wave feminism. Read More
Jasmine Dawn Samuel:
Caribbean Cuisine and Identity”
“Taking a Big Bite Out of the Food Network: The Importance of Masculinity in Food Programming”
“The Queer Dish: Gay Cookbooks after Stonewall”
“You Know You’re a Redneck If…Road Kill Is Not a Joke”
The Managing Editor would like to thank Katharina Vester, Emily Schmidt, Patty Housman, and Thomas Meal for their continued assistance and support of this project. Many thanks to Leena Jayaswal for creating the powerful photograph that graces the cover page of this journal, as well as Travis Bozeman and Hannah Tiner for producing striking photographs of our student writers. With contributions from these students, professors, and staff at American University, we proudly release the latest issue of Food, Media, and Culture.