In my current project I want to understand how relationships work, why we hold on to certain structures in our relationships and why food plays such a big part in our lives. Food has gone from being fuel for our bodies to a complex net that not only communicates feelings but also holds patriarchal power structures in place.
In Laura Esquivel’s book the character Tita is cooking quail in rose petal sauce. ”It was as if al- chemical process had dissolved her entire being in the rose petal sauce”. Then Esquivel continues
”That was the way she entered Pedro’s body, hot, voluptuous, perfumed totally sen- suous...”
Power and relationships of women and men are revealed through meanings about bodily penetra- tion through sex and food.
In many cultures eating is a sexual and gendered experience through life. In some cultures unmar- ried women and men aren’t allowed to share a meal in public due to the sexual tension that could awaken during a shared meal.
Eating together implies intimacy, both sexual and kinship. A shared meal can be a start for a new romantic relationship or it can tear one down. There is that saying ” there is no such thing as just lunch” but also having a potent new partner pick their food or not touching it, can be a deal brea- ker. The emotion we put in our food may come as a surprise for many. It is a universal language that communicates feelings.
A woman happily in a relationship said she and her partner have a tradition of making each other lunch boxes for the next day. It’s a small thing but it communicates affection. She also said that during their first month together she had made breakfast nude in his kitchen. Apparently that morning the coffee was extra tasty, according to her partner.
Food and sex are metaphorically overlapping.
In my project I interview women about their relationships, their sex life and food. I’ve always been interested in how food and sex overlap. As a child I learned that affection is showed through coo- king food and serving it; My dad, a great gourmand who loves to cook, had made a stew. My mom was caught up in work and I was being unappreciative and didn’t want to touch my food. This resulted in the saucepan flying across the kitchen and nobody eating anything that evening. Why? Because he had poured his heart into that stew and serving it cold to a family that didn’t appreciate it was heartbreaking for him. I get that now.
We can easily say food plays a big part in our relationships, wether it’s on a romantic level or about kinship. The foods we consume together or alone affect us not only by triggering memories but they are also part of a larger power structure. Women have reported how men gain power over women and denigrate women by commenting on what and how much women eat. A meal is there fore not just fuel for our body, it’s much more than that.
After I’ve photographed these women, I take the slide film and soak it in the specific foods that have come up during our conversations. The point is to get some nice mold to grow on the slide film that will make the picture more abstract. Finally the slides are reshot and developed.
”I was waiting for my OK cupid date to arrive. I hade made a pizza with goat cheese, sage, dried eggs and tomatoes. He showed up and said he’s not hungry but he’ll have a glass of wine. We didn’t meet again.”
Another woman was dating a musician and was road tripping in California with him for a summer. Exhausted one night, they stopped at a road side café for dinner. The pasta dish that arrived to the table was awful. Canned pasta with tuna and she couldn’t bare to eat it. This was the second time she was being fussy about food in front of him. They broke up some time after, and later she overheard an interview he gave for a radio channel where he said he really hopes he learns to cook some day. Apparently the meal she had refused prior to the pasta dish was a breakfast he had cooked for her. She said that she feels really bad for having hurt his feelings like that and that she din’t realize how big of a deal it was for him back then.
One woman said the relationship she had been in gave her heart burn and gas. The fact that she couldn’t relax with him made it worse. One night she had seafood with tons of garlic at her dad’s house before going to her partners house. She said the smell of garlic was everywhere and that she has never felt less sexy in her entire life.