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Kitchen Secrets: The Meaning Of Cooking In Everyday Life

kitchen secrets

By Frances Short

Berg, Oxford International publishers, New York, USA, 2006.
Frances Short is an independent writer and researcher and is an associate lecturer at the Open University.

I invite curious and inquisitive foodies like yourselves to go beyond the “food and cookery section”, for instance try sociology, history or culture.

You’ll find interesting works like this one that takes a refreshing approach to food by analysing the cultural aspects of preparation; changes in the way we consume it, when how, why and with whom.

The author cleverly deconstructs the figure of the cook and the chef to explain their nature as social constructs. When academic studies meet food great things happen! Short combines her own research with many compelling studies and interviews with cooks, journalists, and chefs, going beyond the common place of the “the decline of family meals” and instead she explores topics like  the loss of cooking skills:

“A deficit of skills is […] seen as hindering people’s ability to prepare and cook raw food and understand what goes into the ready-prepared food they eat instead” the author underlines that the lack of cooking skills equals to the loss of control of what we eat.

When discussing the uprising of tv food programs, glossy recipe books and the adoration of celebrity chefs, one of her interviewees tells that: “popular cookbooks tell us a great deal about the culinary climate of a given period, about the expectations and aspirations that hovered over the stove and the dinner table”.

This also applies to contemporary cookery books and tv shows that don’t necessary reflect the everyday cooking practices of a society but reflect the aspirations of the readers/viewers.

What we eat and cook tells less about our health and dietary habits and more about “our distinctiveness in terms of socio-economic group, religion, gender, lifestyle, age […]”.

Above all, this book aims to contribute to the discussion and better understanding of the role of cooks in society because notwithstanding of their ethnicity, economical status, education, or level of skills, they are “nurturers, sharers and minders…They are the practitioners, creators, observers and thinkers.

They are the food-getters, distributors and story tellers”. Amen!


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