04 Dec How the pictures of the food I cook are small acts of rebellion
I’m making dinner. This is something I do almost every day, and have done almost everyday for more days than I can count. At some point in my early 20s as I started reading cookbooks and watching the Food Network, I started taking pictures of the food I made. I plated it. I tried to find perfect lighting and I hovered over the plates with my Sony Cybershot Camera. The photos were included in various, long dead, food blogs I had.
People make endless jokes about folks like me who take pictures of every meal they eat and post it online. It may seem frivolous and excessive, but to me, a fat woman, it can also be an act of bravery and revolution. I grew up with the women I loved counting points, signing up for Jenny Craig and standing on scales as Oprah documented her weight loss on TV. Thin beautiful bodies appeared on TV, on the cover of Seventeen Magazine and YM, and it became clear that fat bodies were undesirable and therefore I should do everything I could to get my body under control. There was one problem: I love cooking and food, and believe that food should be celebrated and shared with others.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where fat people are not supposed to explore food and find joy in food. There’s also a strange belief that if you’re fat it’s because you don’t cook and instead rely on a steady diet of McDonalds. Newsflash, you can enjoy cooking and food regardless of the body you’re in, also can’t we all just stop commenting on other’s bodies. This makes me remember when I posted a picture a creamy, cheesy baked gnocchi thing with Italian sauce and kale on Instagram and Facebook. An hour or two after I posted it, someone commented saying: “I hope you ate a salad with that.” I replied saying something about there being extra kale for good measure, but why did I have to justify the beautiful dish I’d cooked? Why did I have to apologize for making a meal that I was proud of and was excited to enjoy?
I was reading an essay that Nigella Lawson had written in her cookbook Cook, Eat, Repeat about pleasure. In interviews she’s been asked what her “guilty pleasure” is. Nigella hates this question because why should we feel guilt about experiencing pleasure. For those who know me, or even just follow me on Instagram, it comes as no surprise that I cook a lot. I love cooking. I love cooking for others, but cooking for myself has been a journey. It feel like I have permission to find joy in cooking but joy in eating.
There’ve been times when I’ve hidden what I’ve eaten, when I’ve lied about what I had for dinner because I felt there was something to be ashamed of. Just like the way that women’s sexuality is monitored and controlled, so is the pleasure we get from food. If we can be made to feel bad about the meals we love, about the joy we get from the way it tastes, smells, feels on our lips, our bodies and minds will be controlled and restricted in new ways. It may not seem like a big act of rebellion, to some it may seem silly, but sharing the food that I love to make, that I drool over and lick my lips in anticipation of, feels like an act of joy, pleasure and love towards the beautiful fat body that is my home.