I thought I was done with this ish after my cake-based disavowal of the Grammys, but last week we had yet another awards ceremony, meaning more goofy offensive shit went down, and it’s got me thinking. Bear with me — I promise I will be done bitching about awards ceremonies by next week (and on to bitching about something else, no doubt).
But this problem directly relates to food and food-writing culture, and that’s why I wanted to write this column in the first place — to talk about the intersection of food and politics.
The very real, very important hashtag #OscarsSoWhite resurfaced weeks before this year’s event. In response, the Oscars committee decided to arrange for the most socially conscious (and Twitter-inside-joke-celebrating) ceremony of all time. Over the course of what turned out to be the world’s longest ceremony, host Chris Rock and a slew of attendees covered racism, child sexual assault, global warming, domestic abuse, rape and consent, colorism, anti-capitalist rhetoric — the list goes on. It was wild.
But like…as anyone on Twitter would know, the wide world of hot takes couldn’t shake convention even in the face of such an insanely political event. My dude, the mysterious entity known as Shit Food Blogger, did everything short of taking to the air in a skywriter to broadcast one of these ongoing problems: the fact that food magazines haven’t yet gotten the memo that it isn’t OK to compare really successful women to food.
Feminist theoreticians like Jean Kilbourne (Killing Us Softly) and Carol J. Adams (The Sexual Politics of Meat) have spent their careers explaining why presenting the idea that women are food is damaging: It furthers the notion that women are sweet objects, able to be purchased and consumed. It sexualizes the logic that women belong in the kitchen (and, conversely, makes it standard to expect women to know something about food and cooking, antiquated thinking that should have been left behind back when Friedan was still popping off about the housewife’s dilemma).
Compounding this is the very real, VERY problematic trope of comparing women of color, specifically, to food. WOC get this treatment year-round, ceaselessly: While white women are likely to be described as ivory or porcelain (fine, expensive materials), black and brown women are most often labeled with descriptors of coffee, chocolate, caramel. Adding insult to injury is the fact that cacao and sugar are crops kept afloat by inhumane labor practices and native to places that have historically been pillaged and colonized by white capitalists. Who the fuck in your editorial meeting was like, sure, it’s a great idea to compare a black woman to coffee, seeing as the contemporary coffee trade is still run on slave labor and shit?
(The greatest comeback to this asinine practice, by the way, comes from Heben Nigatu‘s “If White Characters Were Described Like People of Color in Literature,” e.g., He looked at her longingly, as he imagined her exotic, mashed potato skin laying gently against his.)
I’ve spent all of Black History Month writing about popular black artists in relation to food: Kanye, Beyoncé, Dev Hynes, and now Kendrick — because what else are you supposed to write about on a day when it breaks that TDE is expecting to release new Kendrick music before the end of 2016? And now I have to ask myself: Is this comparable to what SFB railed against with women and food journalism? Where are the boundaries when it comes to comparing artists, who make deeply personal art from their position as marginalized people, to food?
We consume music; we consume cake. Like music, food and the democratizing of its distribution can be a site of political resistance. In food, as in music, we engage in conversations about the means of production, capitalism and labor, promotion, trend cycles, gentrification. Whole Foods embarrasses itself trying to make collard greens seem like a new, trendy, boutique thing; Iggy Azalea tries the same thing with rap, and we see through it.
It takes more than food to nourish a community. Art, music, film, and food intersect in places where people are uplifting and supporting one another. As people who make (and criticize) art, it’s unequivocally important for us to think critically about the way we regard each other’s work and each other’s bodies. Make sure you’re getting a balanced diet when it comes to the criticism you consume.
(Adapted from several recipes found — where else? — on Pinterest)
2 pints fresh blackberries
1 cup flour*
1.5 tsp baking powder*
1/2 tsp salt*
1 cup milk
1 stick butter
1.25 cups sugar, divided
* This is the technical breakdown for 1 cup of “Self-Rising Flour.” Don’t think you have to go out and buy special flour just for this project when self-rising flour is just all-purpose flour with leavening agents pre-added. If you happen to have SRF on hand, just use one cup of that and disregard the baking powder and salt.
1. Melt the stick of butter in a double boiler.
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk flour (either regular flour + baking powder and salt OR one cup of self-rising flour) and 1 cup of sugar. Whisk in milk.
3. Whisk melted butter into flour-milk mixture until everything is nicely combined.
4. Pour batter into an oiled 9” round cake pan.
5. Distribute 2 pints of blackberries evenly over the top of the batter.
6. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over top of the berries.
7. Bake at 350 for one hour. While the cake is in the oven, think about how you can best dismantle the state and its oppressive systems. Relish how easily this recipe came together. Share with those you love.
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