• roz whiteley

Returning Home: where do we learn to care through cooking?

Some of the letters received reveal where the writer picked up their cooking skills. For example, Toby directs us towards the instructions on a fajita meal kit. Maria references a Rick Stein recipe. Rebecca includes a Hello Fresh recipe card. Joseph references a Gordon Ramsay YouTube video. I myself am an avid watcher of cooking videos on YouTube, known to spend hours viewing exciting dishes and picking up tricks and tips. Sometimes I even try the recipe out after. Each of these sources contributes knowledge to our repertoires of cooking skills, which most surely inform how we practice care through cooking.

Maternal figures pop up in a few of the letters sent by participants: a provider of spices for Alice, a disturbance for Maria and a caregiver for Shauna. Shauna’s response does seem to be located within the family home. Of course, she knows her recipe well; her familiarity is present in the instructions which reveal how she ‘usually’ prepares her vegetables and how much cheese she prefers (‘a heck tonne’!). Yet, when introducing the meal, she provides the detail of her mother frequently making ‘spag bol’, providing Shauna with her ‘favourite’ meal. Shauna has taken us home – that is home home – evoking the maternal-filial dyadic relationship of care.

Perhaps this reflects what Nel Noddings has written towards; care is first learned through how we are cared for, the (family) home is (or can be) the starting point of that, and looking to build a society following care ethics requires starting at home (2002). It makes sense to start with reflections upon family homes when ruminating on what care looks like in our kitchens. What did caring adults teach us about food? What did we learn? How do we practice their care today? What practices do we replicate that we might need to challenge?

I find this approach congruous with Sara Ahmed’s reflections in ‘Living a Feminist Life’ that feminism is ‘homework’, work that must take place within our homes as well as outside of them, work that transforms our houses (2017). Ahmed talks of being at home in feminist theory; what theories and tools and discourses make themselves known within our homes? Have damaging discourses about bodies and food snuck into our domestic spaces? If we start with care at home as our political work, what cleaning up do we need to do?

What sources do you draw upon within your kitchen habits?

Mine are certainly YouTube videos and memories of my family members cooking for/with me (particularly, but not at all exclusively, a pie with my aunties, tuna pasta bake with my grandma, sausage plait by my mum, bacon rolls with my sister).

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and reflections upon these topics in the comments below.


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my name is roz whiteley. here are some places you can find me...

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