I talked to a good friend today, and she’s angry. She’s angry at her old college friend who crashed on her couch and mounted her while she was sleeping last year. She’s angry at the friends who didn’t believe her, the people who needed to make sure they heard “both sides” of the story. So, she asked me to tell her about food. She doesn’t know how to cook, but she wants to be able to feed herself. She wants to have control.
Last night, I covered my counters with kitchen scraps. I made piles of ribboned carrot peels and wrung purple water out of cooked bitter greens. I steamed up my apartment windows by running the oven and all four stove burners, juggling between three different dinners and a hodgepodge of other ingredients that will live in my freezer, ready and waiting for a mid-winter nights when my toes are too cold or my legs too tired to stand on the cold kitchen floor long enough to start from scratch. When I started, I was scattered and distracted, overwhelmed and anxious about many things and nothing at all. When I finished, when the counters were wiped clean and the dishes piled high, when the fridge was emptied and the freezer filled, I had a little bit of control. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
We minimize our experiences. We brush off unwelcome touches, laugh off inappropriate advances, keep our mouths shut to protect our bodies. We listen to “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk”. We feel it in our guts; they tangle and seize and tell us the truth we already know. We taste it in the acrid bile in our mouths when we eat our words.
My friend felt it in the gnawing of her stomach for weeks after her attack. She could barely eat.
My other friend felt it when the sweet buttery layers of her pastries turned sour in her mouth after one too many times a line cook called her a cunt. She tasted it when her coworker suggested “someone ass-f*ck her to get in line” to the entire kitchen...and everyone laughed. She hasn’t walked into a restaurant kitchen since she walked off that line. She confines her baking to her home. There, she can shape bread loaves with ease, losing the tension in her shoulders. She can mother her starter without trying to minimize her femininity. She can finally have a little bit of control.
I felt it walking down the street in Manhattan, light-headed and wired from a few too many hours between meals. I could smell the mixture of creamy and herby and spicy from the falafel truck half a block away. I couldn’t stop myself from unwrapping the steamy foil packet while walking down the street, but choked on my first bite when a man jumped in my path, yelling “nice ass!” and grabbing at me as I swerved away on the darkening sidewalk.