Voices in the Kitchen
Views of Food and the World from Working-Class Mexican and Mexican American Women
Mexican American Studies - Cooking
6 x 9, 264 pp.
13 b&w photos.
Rio Grande/Río Bravo: Borderlands Culture and Traditions
  cloth
Price:        $40.00 x

978-1-58544-477-9
  paper
Price:        $22.95 s

978-1-58544-531-8

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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2007 Liz Carpenter Award Finalist, presented by the Texas State Historical Association

Voices in the Kitchen

Views of Food and the World from Working-Class Mexican and Mexican American Women

By Meredith E. Abarca

“Literally, chilaquiles are a breakfast I grew up eating: fried corn tortillas with tomato-chile sauce. Symbolically, they are the culinary metaphor for how working-class women speak with the seasoning of their food.”—from the Introduction

Through the ages and across cultures, women have carved out a domain in which their cooking allowed them to express themselves, strengthen family relationships, and create a world of shared meanings with other women. In Voices in the Kitchen, Meredith E. Abarca features the voices of her mother and several other family members and friends, seated at their kitchen tables, to share the grassroots world view of these working-class Mexican and Mexican American women.

In the kitchen, Abarca demonstrates, women assert their own sazón (seasoning), not only in their cooking but also in their lives. Through a series of oral histories, or charlas culinarias (culinary chats), the women interviewed address issues of space, sensual knowledge, artistic and narrative expression, and cultural and social change. From her mother’s breakfast chilaquiles to the most elaborate traditional dinner, these women share their lives as they share their savory, symbolic, and theoretical meanings of food.

The charlas culinarias represent spoken personal narratives, testimonial autobiography, and a form of culinary memoir, one created by the cooks-as-writers who speak from their kitchen space. Abarca then looks at writers-as-cooks to add an additional dimension to the understanding of women’s power to define themselves.

Voices in the Kitchen joins the extensive culinary research of the last decade in exploring the importance of the knowledge found in the practical, concrete, and temporal aspects of the ordinary practice of everyday cooking.

Born in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, Meredith E. Abarca moved with her family to the United States as a young child. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, and is an associate professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . . an outstanding book . . . Meredith Abarca is to be commended for her text, which is destined to become an important addition to the fields of food studies and gender studies . . . She suggests that conversations about cooking can be as important as ones about poems or novels [and] reveals that such conversations show a great deal about their speakers’ lives. Voices in the Kitchen gives these typically overlooked voices a place to be heard.”--Sherrie A. Inness

“. . . an outstanding book . . . Meredith Abarca is to be commended for her text, which is destined to become an important addition to the fields of food studies and gender studies . . . She suggests that conversations about cooking can be as important as ones about poems or novels [and] reveals that such conversations show a great deal about their speakers’ lives. Voices in the Kitchen gives these typically overlooked voices a place to be heard.” --Sherrie A. Inness

“Meredith Abarca breaks new ground in her fascinating study of Latinas’ food voices. She uses feminist approaches from literary criticism, geography, anthropology, and architecture to examine material from the ‘charlas culinarias,’ or ‘culinary chats,’ she held with working class Mexicanas and Chicanas. Through their stories, these women demonstrate agency, reveal diverse subjectivities, embody an epistemology of the senses, and transform the kitchen into a site of power and creativity. Abarca’s passion and insight make this a compelling book.” --Carole Counihan

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