We just finished celebrating Thanksgiving. Many may have the leftover turkey and stuffing for breakfast today (I will be having a slice of my mother's homemade sweet potato pie).
Over the years, I've wondered if there are others who share my experience of "stories of the kitchen." Today, I decided to ask.
How many of you learned about your family, your culture, what was expected of you by spending time with those in the kitchen? As they were telling you to pour more flour or sprinkle in salt, you also heard about the uncle who came upon hard times, or the great aunt who was a successful artist?
You learned the recipes passed down from generations. You learned short cuts in the kitchen, and perhaps in life. You learned about faith, the power of prayer. About people in the neighborhood -- who was sick and who needed you to bring the extra pot of soup you were learning to prepare from scratch.
Our kitchens – when we were growing up and now—are filled with stories. Stories, not just about food but about ourselves, about others. We talk religion, politics, pain, suffering, hope, joy, births. And we listen. We take in. We are fed.
I want to gather those stories.
1. Stories and storytelling are a part of our shared humanity. We are connected by them, and stories are our connection to the past and the future. What happens when we let stories dies? What happens when we keep them alive?
2. Stories and storytelling speak to our culture. They show our commonality and our differences -- both are to be celebrated. I want to know about cultures that are different than mine (and be a place for those stories to safely emerge). Cooking and the kitchen are prime places where these stories of culinary uniqueness blend with life (think Anthony Bourdain "Parts Unknown").
3. There's something special about food and the "place" of the kitchen. There are a number of books and research on the history of food, the politics of food, and food as a cultural icon. But I want to look at what happens around food. What happens to the "family" when we cook together or at least are in the same area when food is being prepared? What are we laughing about? Or, are we holding back tears? What do we take away from the experience and what do we give to others? And, what is it about the kitchen that makes it the central place of the home? Is it the food itself?
When I was young child, I wasn't allowed in the kitchen depending on who was in there. A group of women? They were having adult conversations. Aw, to grow to be older that I might be able to join! Then, when I was old enough, I wasn't interested in learning to cook or hearing the stories that were taking place over large pots and a hot stove.
However, both my grandmothers and mother gave me little choice. I am thankful for their strong will. I not only learned the basics of cooking, I learned more about them and the woman I wanted to be, and who I am still becoming.
Now, as an adult who comes from a line of culinary excellence, I feel led to explore more of my own history and create a journey for each of us to examine the bounty of our kitchens. Let's exchange stories?!
Lets sit and see, smell and taste, listen and hear. Let's learn – not the secret family recipe but the experience and how that shaped who you are (who I am) and if we're using, consciously or not, the kitchen as a place to share and shape others.
I'm hoping this space will be a step for individuals to reflect and to share that we might capture the stories that will last for generations to come.
This is just the beginning of this journey. I hope you will take it with me. Let's explore, over food even, and give thanks.
Want to join the conversation? Simply add your story by submitting a Story Form. I will follow up to your submission. Also, feel free to add a comment below!
Have questions or suggestions on who I can contact? Email me at email@example.com. Thanks!
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Jacinta V. White is a poet and workshop facilitator. She's adding "researcher" to her title and she begins to collect stories around food and culture.