The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity

The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity

by Sandra M. Gilbert


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From the recipe novel to the celebrity chef, renowned scholar Sandra M. Gilbert explores the poetics and politics of food.

In this stunning and important work, the prominent critic, poet, and memoirist Sandra M. Gilbert explores our relationship with food and eating through discussions of literature, art, and popular culture. Focusing on contemporary practices, The Culinary Imagination traces the social, aesthetic, and political history of food from myth to modernity, from ancient sources to our current wave of food mania.

What does it mean to transform raw stuff into cooked dishes, which then become part of our own bodies; to savor festive meals yet resolve to renounce gluttony; to act as predators where in another life we might have become prey? Do the rituals of the kitchen have different meanings for men and women, for professional chefs and home cooks? Why, today, do so many of us turn so passionately toward table topics, on the page, online, and on screen? What are the philosophical implications of the food chain on which we all find ourselves?

In The Culinary Imagination, Gilbert addresses these powerful questions through meditations on myths and memoirs, children’s books, novels, poems, food blogs, paintings, TV shows, and movies. Discussing figures from Rex Stout to Julia Child and Andy Warhol, from M. F. K. Fisher and Sylvia Plath to Alice Waters and Peter Singer, she analyzes the politics and poetics of our daily bread, investigating our complex self-definitions as producers, consumers, and connoisseurs of food. The result is an ambitious, lively, and learned examination of the ways in which our culture’s artists have represented food across a range of genres.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393067651
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/25/2014
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Sandra M. Gilbert is a distinguished literary critic, professor, and poet. She lives in Berkeley, CA.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Romance in Food! xv

Part I Digging In: Tastes of Past and Present

1 Add Food and Stir: Life in the Virtual Kitchen 3

Eating Words 3

Burgers and Mache 9

Tales of American Culinary Transformation 10

Firing Up the Stove in the Sixties 18

2 Black Cake: Life (and Death) on the Food Chain 25

What We Eat-and What We Are 25

Cooking-and Coping 31

The Funeral Baked Meats 36

The Pulse of the Kitchen 43

3 All That Is Toothsome? Sacred Food, Deadly Dining 51

The Powers of the Cook 51

The Powers of Food 68

4 Master Belly and Our Daily Bread: A Brief History of the Literary Kitchen 81

Transcendental Gastronomy? 81

The Morality of Renunciation 87

The Morality of Celebration 100

Part II Today's Table Talk: Recipes of The Modern

5 The Kitchen Muse: The Modernist Cookbook and Its Sequels 113

Changing Times and Tables 113

Spaghetti and Beans? 118

A Rape of the Icebox 120

The Modernist Fruit Bowl 125

A Sudden Slice Changes the Whole Plate 130

Sculpted Meat 136

6 Tastes of Clay: The Many Courses of the Culinary Memoir 141

Feeding the Foodoir 141

A Portrait of the Transcendental Gastronome as a Young Woman 149

Two Portraits of a Hunger Artist as a Young Woman 160

7 Bitter Herbs or the Spices of Life? The Ambiguities of the Transnational Foodoir 167

How I Ate and Who I Am 167

Ubi Panis, Ibi Patris? 180

The Redeemed Kitchen 191

8 Hail to the Chef! The Cook, the Camera, the Critic, and the Connoisseur 199

Soup Operas: Mysteries of the Kitchen Unveiled 200

We Love Julia 204

Viagra in the Kitchen 214

Lights! Camera! Eat! 220

Molly, Miriam, Brenda, Chloe, Betty, Toni, Emily 225

9 Cooking the Books: Cosiness, Disgust, Desire, Despair 231

In the First Kitchen 231

Mealtime Mayhem 239

Just Desserts 244

Nausea 249

Plenitude 258

Ghost Milk 263

Part III Food For Thought: Blessings and Curses

10 The Poetics of Ice Cream: Eating Art at the Table, in the Gallery, and in a Grownups' Garden of verses 271

Eating the Body of Art 271

The Meat of the Matter 278

Blessing the Ice and the Cream 283

The Imperatives of Pleasure 290

The Flesh Made Word 298

11 Food Chained: Food Fights, Fears, Frauds-and Fantasies 307

Diets and Diatribes 307

Dystopias 317

Disorders and Diseases 329

Postmodern Pastorals 336

Notes 343

Bibliography 361

Acknowledgments 379

Credits 381

Index 383

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