Monday, June 28, 2010

Back to the kitchen

I submitted an abstract for the Women's Studies Association (NZ) conference in November which has just been accepted:

Back to the Kitchen: Middle class women’s role in a new social movement
Despite the second wave of feminism’s emphasis on freeing women from the confines of domesticity, a new generation of middle class women are now reclaiming the kitchen in an effort to take control of their lives and their health as well as the health of their families. Modern industrially processed food has reached the point where it has become a political issue in terms of its indigestibility, negative health affects and unethical production - unjustly harming communities, the land and animals. Not only are these middle class women empowering and educating themselves and changing their own lifestyles and diets, armed with PCs and the internet, they are sharing what they know through weblogs, producing information and networking to form online communities. This presentation will look at the transformation of the kitchen as a place of confinement to a place of empowerment, explore the role of middle class women in this new social movement and draw parallels to other historical social movements that middle class women have been influential in such as the anti-apartheid movement and the US civil rights movement.
While I was intending to be a bit controversial with the title, the person in charge of submissions had a few concerns:
While your abstract is accepted, I do feel I should warn you that you are likely to receive some interrogation of your argument.  A return to the kitchen on the bases you outline, while perhaps experienced by women as freely chosen and even 'empowering', could also be a response to new pressures on middle class women to be 'good' mothers who actively protect their families from external 'dangers' posed by processed food and other environmental contaminants - and thus is not dissimilar to 1950s moral panics about physical (and social) hygiene - 'dirt danger'. So middle class women are called upon to be more concerned than ever about their family's and children's health, diet, and wellbeing, as well as the planet's wellbeing, with a new set of expectations and disciplinary practices emerging to replace the old.  At the same time, such a choice fits with contemporary neo-liberal requirements in terms of taking full responsibility for the care of the self as a condition of citizenship.  So in these two senses, the return to the kitchen might not necessarily be progressive or emancipating, or at least has a dual aspect to it which may simultaneously entail hegemonic recuperation. You might also want to see this link:

This raises some interesting points about feminism and choice.  While many food bloggers probably wouldn't identify as feminists, from what I have read there is a sense of agency in their chosen lifestyles and the blogging process.  There is also recurring conflict that occurs between the second wave feminist emphasis on leaving behind traditionally female roles and, particularly on participating in skilled, full-time, paid employment.  This was a particularly moving blog post on this topic from the perspective of a food blogger:
(Note the religious overtone which is common in US based nourishing blogs)

I would agree that taking full responsibility is a typically neoliberal thing, which is probably why this movement is common in largely neoliberal countries - it is also an example of rebellion against the corporate domination of neoliberal countries. 

From my perspective, feminism  - or any human rights based movement is about freedom and choice.  It is possible that these women are still shackled by patriarchy or pressured by moral panic, perhaps some are more than others, and that is something worthy of investigation, but social pressure applied from the other side has the potential to be just as disempowering.  From my interpretations of the perspectives of these women, there is a sense of empowerment in knowing what is in their food, where it came from and that the processes involved in preparing it to make it more nourishing.   There is a creative outlet in cooking and a sense of sharing and community in blogging as well as the satisfaction of contributing to the growing body of alternative nutritional information available on the internet.  There is the sense of security in feeding their families and themselves safe, healthy food.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chocolate Kumara (Yam) Pudding

There's nothing better than chocolate pudding on a cold winter night.  I have made similar puddings before, but this one was particularly yummy.  I consider it to quite healthy because of the relatively low sugar levels - because most of the bulk and sweetness come from the kumara (this is another case where we have different names for the same thing, but I'm pretty sure these particular kumara are called yams in the US).  The texture varies depending on how much you mash/puree the kumara, I quite like it with a bit of variation rather than completely pureed.  The kumara needs to be pre-cooked.  I often put them in the oven when I'm using it for other things so I have them ready to be mashed - remember to poke a few holes in it before you bake it.


One large orange pre-baked kumara (yam)  - you could also use other varieties but these ones have a nice texture.
50 grams butter or coconut oil
2 free-range eggs
Half a cup of cream or coconut cream
1/4 cup of brown sugar, honey or preferred sweetener
30 - 50 grams very dark chocolate, I used Schoc 100%
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot water


1. Melt the butter in a medium sized pot, when it has melted remove from heat and add in the chocolate in pieces
2. Mash/puree the kumara and add to the pot along with the eggs, sugar and cocoa.  Mix thoroughly.
3. Add the hot water and heat gently until the mixture is heated to your satisfaction.

My two year old loves this - she ate her whole cup full and then asked "More chocolate?"

She is now on her third little cup "Yum!"

I also had the idea that I might use up some of the extra pudding by freezing it in ice block moulds.

The Chocolate Non-Controversy
One thing I have come across in my research of the Weston A. Price Foundation is that Nourishing traditions is very anti-caffeine despite having a recipe for kombucha which used caffeinated tea.  Many of the nourishing blogs I have come across include chocolate (and sometimes coffee) containing recipes - something that I am in immense support of being a huge chocolate fan.  Although this could be seen as a contradiction I prefer to see it as an example of the dynamic nature of a grass-roots movement - whereas in a hierarchical top-down movement the chocolate rebels would have been thrown out long ago.  I'm not sure if there has been any discussion about this within the movement.

This was posted as part of The Nourishing Gourmet's Pennywise Platter

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why We Ferment

Thanks for all the feedback on my fermented feijoa drink - I'm planning on trying it with quince next.  I wanted to explain my reasons for fermenting food - other than the obvious taste benefits.  Above is a picture of some lacto-fermented pickles I made recently. I used a few handfuls of olives from my tree, some dandelions, some of the last courgettes and tomatoes, small onions and herbs - put them in brine for a few days at room temp and then into the fridge.  The olives are still bitter so they might take a while in the fridge before they reach perfection.

In our modern germ-phobic society micro-organisms often have a bad name (germs are just a naughty word for micro-organisms).  I'm not a big fan of sterilizing everything in sight - those hand sanitizers give me the creeps and I'm convinced that the recent increases in auto-immune diseases are related to our war on the germ.  We seem to forget that micro-organisms basically run our bodies and that most of them are harmless or very useful - particularly in the digestive system - helping to break down soluble fibre and make nutrients more absorbable etc.  Apart from cheese and the good old lactobacillus acidophalus yogurt our supermarkets seem to be freakishly microbe free - food keeps longer that way.  But traditional cuisines are full of lacto-fermented pickles, drinks and all kinds of other cultured foods.  Fermented food is easy to make and not particularly time consuming.  Here are some fascinating blog posts on fermenting food:

Fermented foods
Fermented food: benefits of lactic acid fermentation
Fermented food for beginners