Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Dinner Party

This is a story that really happened; it may not have happened as I remember it, exactly, but nothing ever does, does it? So there's your caveat lictor.

When I arrived in my village a few years ago, some very nice people invited me around for dinner to introduce me to some other very nice people. I can honestly say, sadly, that other than my hosts and one other person at the dinner, I do not remember who else was there.

This may be because I actually have a terrible memory for dinner parties. I was once introduced to someone who I believed I'd never met; he was incensed, and responded to my enthusiasm at meeting him for the first time, "But Aruna, you had me to your house for dinner!" "Oh!," said I, horrified, but not remembering. "In Paris!," he said, wanting to prompt my recollection. "Oh!" said I, still horrified, but still not remembering. "SEVERAL TIMES," he (almost) screamed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


When I was in grad school in the early 1990s, I constantly faced well-meaning-but-actually-strangely-and-condescendingly-misguided-and-if-I-really-think-about-it-probably-a-little-racist professors (mostly random ones, not MY professors, that is) who would, within ten minutes of meeting me, tell me that I should be studying Indian art instead of French modernism. Never mind that I speak exactly zero Indian languages (but had learned French since the time I was in 4th grade). Never mind that I had taken not even one course in Indian art. The assumption was that I must have had a deep, even genetic connection to the art of the subcontinent.

I found this incredibly presumptuous, even offensive. And it certainly was borne of those things, so I stubbornly refused to even consider such a shift in my research interests. I would not be essentialized! I would not be limited by my skin color!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cooking as a Feminist

At the risk of being repetitive -- this has certainly been a theme woven through many posts on this blog -- I have a burning desire to revisit the question about what it means for me to be a feminist who writes about food.

Because it is a real question, and one that I think about a lot. It bothers me to think that I might be playing out -- embracing! -- a female stereotype by spending so much time cooking. It worries me to think that my daughter might end up identifying what I do as "mom stuff" -- a category I can already see being devalued in big and small ways in her mind, despite my best efforts. I see the way some of my older feminist friends engage with my blog -- either with an enthusiasm moderated by the assurance that "of course I never cook," or with a skepticism, even perhaps a sense of betrayal -- and I feel tremendous guilt. 

I am not complaining about this guilt, or lamenting the fact of feeling guilty. I think guilt is one of the great gifts of being human. Shame, not so much. But guilt -- it's a prompt to self-reflection. Especially, for me, when it comes to politics.