Thursday, April 30, 2020

Always Bee Cooking #9: Working Through What This Is

Since my last Always Bee Cooking post at the end of February, there's an argument that I've been embodying the title. In that time I baked my first cake, baked my second and third cakes, baked my fourth and fifth cakes in one day, and baked my sixth, seventh, and eighth cakes on one other day, all with nothing more than about three mixing bowls, a couple of whisks, and some dollar store pans.

I made a sweet offshoot of Sourdough starter, fed and kept it, recipe tested it against my Seared Sourdough Pikelets, and abandoned it. I tested out some pan sauces, spent a week making scrambled eggs and thinking seriously about how to make them better (or the differences between cooking methods, at least). I collaborated with a friend on genuinely great pastas, spent three hours making tater tots from scratch, made my first pizza, stuffed mushrooms, buttermilk-marinated chicken. And those are just the things I remembered to post about on Instagram.

So the lack of posts here haven't been because I don't have "potential content," I guess. It's been for two main reasons. The first are a series of brick walls I've been running up against. You know the ones. They're labeled things like Mental Health, Global Pandemic, Financial Insecurity, Defense Mechanisms Developed Out Of Childhood Trauma And Damn Near 30 Years Of Unacknowledged Dysphoria, Impostor Syndrome From Having No Formal Training And A Garbage Palate. Just normal stuff.

The other is that there's a pretty big gap between what I want this series to be and what I'm able to produce for it right now. What I'm able to produce is this sort of thing. Blog posts with heavy Personal Stories hooks. Text dumps that put people off reading them. Acknowledgments of my limitations that hopefully punch through to something interesting or useful, especially to people who don't have a ton of cooking experience. I can see some theoretical value in that. It's not what I want to be doing, though.

Basically every other post since I started this series, I've been threatening to do a longer theoretical post. I've been threatening that because what I actually want to develop within this space is a genuinely left wing way to write about cooking, from the perspective of someone who is deeply inexpert. Not because people who have gone to culinary school or worked their way up in restaurants are less left wing or some bullshit, but because these are the two perspectives I have and they are two perspectives that feel deeply, miserably lacking from the Culinary Discourse, at least as I'm aware of it. Please feel free to point me toward folks who embody these things, if you know of them. If you point me to some liberal I will judge you, just a little bit. Not that much, though, if it dissuades you. The problem is that I've learned a lot from them, because cooking media is overwhelmingly, exhaustingly, and too often deliriously usefully, liberal.

I would like to clarify that last sentence, but that's precisely the problem. The clarification requires a significant amount of clear background, and the brick walls aren't avoidable. Not even by reference to the framework of reproductive labor. Theory is theory; praxis is praxis; those walls can be fungible, but sometimes you cook theoretically and write actively. And sometimes the structural analysis is right and the individual circumstance is fucking broken.

Is this another empty promise, then, that I'll have a full dissection up, soon, of the pedagogy & ideology of cooking media, especially around how it interacts with learning to cook for the first time in your late twenties/early thirties? I guess that's to be found out. As a comrade says, we can only hold space to allow others to hold themselves accountable. I hope to hold myself to account.

Linkout/Announcement: Quarantine Digital Book Tour with Spectology

I've joined with the inestimable folks at Spectology to edit & sometimes(/mostly?) host a series of "Digital Book Tours," to provide a space for speculative fiction authors whose book tours have been interrupted by COVID-19. You might remember Spectology from when I talked about Samuel R. Delany's Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand with them in December, or when I called them my 8th favorite podcast of 2018.

The first episode came out on Tuesday, where I interviewed El Lam about their book Goldilocks, which came out in the UK today and is coming out in the US May 5th. The book was a really neat read - it features five women who steal a spaceship in a climate-ravaged, fascistic near future in order to found a utopian society on a new planet, and does a great job of being both thriller-paced and pausing for character development & striking images. And it does a phenomenal job of drawing characters whose class position defines them against their desires, which is a phenomenal achievement, imo. That's a reductionist reading, but I'm trying to be brief, okay.

Anyway, support Goldilocks when it comes out & subscribe to Spectology, because there's a grip of good conversations about SF novels there already &, yknow, you probably miss my irrepressible giggle. It's terrible podcast audio, but it's irrepressible, so.

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