Practicing Habits and Rituals of Care
Many of the letters received throughout this project disclose a sense of some of the cooking and caring habits of each participant. In Joseph’s letter, he reveals that he is a ‘slow cooker’, but also spontaneous in switching up ingredients in his recipes. Maria admits to making ‘accidental alterations’ to the recipe she was sent by not peeling the potato and adding spinach. Both have kindly offered these details as intimate insights into how they behave in the kitchen, what is familiar to them and how they go about business. Rebecca returned their letter alongside a recipe card from Hello Fresh for grilled aubergine pasta. In their note, they detail that this is the meal they make with every guest who stays within their home, describing it as an ‘initiation meal’ of sorts. Knowing this detail left an affective imprint upon me as I made and ate this meal (which I have now done several times). The meal, in light of this note, becomes an invitation into Rebecca’s home and a connection to their previous guests (who I do not know and who do not know me).
In this way, it is interesting to reflect upon these sorts of rituals around meals. When I lived in my parents’ home, it was ceremonious for my father and I to order takeout on a Friday night. Is this a sort of ritual to celebrate, through food, the end of the working week? To take care of each other through communing over this meal as a marker of the weekend – a time of ‘no labour’? In my first year of university, Maria and I would have dinner together on a Tuesday (or Wednesday? I forget) night to commiserate having to wake up early for our French and Spanish classes the following morning. Is this a sort of caring food ritual, finding the time to spend together over food to attempt to lift our moods? In the final year of my undergraduate degree, Eilis would make lunch for us to share once a week when I would return home to our flat after one of my classes and before she would head off to work. Perhaps this is a ritual of making time for one another through food despite busy schedules?
It is interesting to consider these habitual rituals as the practicing of care practices. This is something that Maurice Hamington comments on in his article ‘The Will to Care: Performance, Expectation and Imagination’ (2010). Hamington argues that practicing care - in the sense of rehearsing or exercising caring - is crucial to cultivating and maintaining the will to care. For Hamington, although ‘caring habits are not rote repetitions […] Iterations of care help develop habits that can be applied in new circumstances’ (2010, p. 690). I wonder if Danielle’s letter speaks somewhat to this idea? Within her letter she writes that she likes to hold conversations with friends while cooking with them, a habit she cultivates by choosing to cook meals that she knows she can talk while preparing. She adds that when she was cooking the meal I had sent her, she found herself talking aloud to me. Perhaps this suggests an adaptation of her caring habit of conversation to the new situation?
What habits and rituals do you uphold within your kitchen? How might those be practices of care? Can they be adapted to new situations?
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and reflections upon these topics in the comments below.