So, my academic year just ended with grades being due a couple days ago. I’ve been debating what to write for this post–well, I’ve thought about it for all of the celebration weeks, really. I’ve enjoyed reading many of your posts during these last celebratory weeks and realized that I at least need to participate in 1! 1 week!
I guess I want to comment on this group and its community. Apologies: I think my professor stuff is showing here. Through those years I was not an active member, I still followed along to see what people were doing and watching people come and go (much like I’d done). Many of you have spoken to the special and unique group that is the Doristas and I’ve been doing some reading about food writing and rhetoric to wrap my head around all of this as it’s concluding.
One particular article, by Lynn Z. Bloom (2008 in College English), had some interesting commentary and analysis about what makes a good food writer.
One aspect she highlights is the relationship between reader and writer.
“Readers and writer are allies in the text, and therefore in life. They share a passion for both the text and the subtext, a zestful appetite for life, which they expect to be satisfying—if not in the living, then in the writing, the retelling and interpreting.”
We are definitely each other’s allies working through dishes like Salmon in a Jar and Caviar in Aspic (shudder) as well as yummies like Paris-Brêst and Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake. Yet, as I see it, we are not just looking through the window at each other’s kitchens and lives as is, really, the most typical reader-writer relationship for food-type blogs.
Instead, we share all that Bloom mentions and we share a book–a common uniting force and author, no less(!)–which means we are both readers and writers on many, many levels.
Which brings me to the next Bloom quote.
“Food writing emphasizes its human contexts . . . . an intimate social context of family and friends . . . and occasions made happier by the presence of food.”
I read this and I thought, ah! The Doristas do this, yes.
But, it happens on more levels than just the writer sharing. It’s a give and take where part of the social context is, well, us. For writer and audience alike this happens, because we are cooking the same things in the same week, whether we live in Canada, the US, Greece, Malaysia, Australia, or anywhere in between. We are sharing cooking experiences, in part like people used to share recipes in the pre-internet days, but it’s almost like our kitchens are next to each other where we can nearly call out, “do you have an extra cup of sugar?”
Even more, we use this medium–our blogs–to speak about our lives and to establish a social context of friends in our Dorista group.
But, why didn’t any of the other groups have the same closeness, even when based on books by the same author?
Here’s what I think (if you’ve even made it this far).
Around my French Table.
Dorie, with that title, and with her bonnes idées and headnotes and sidebars, invited us into her social context and occasions made happier by the presence of food. (Even Ina cooked through it. ha!)
I guess, in the end, what has happened is that by cooking Dorie’s book we’ve settled around her French table; and in the act of blogging we’ve also settled, week by week, around each other’s French tables as well. There may also be something about cooking and not just baking. Desserts are wonderful, but in centuries past they were often enjoyed in more rarified domains. Instead, we’ve cooked through soups, snacks, seafood, meat, veggies–all of it! I could go on about anthropologists and how what separates us from animals is cooking, but I’ll leave it at that.
The point is, there’s an intimacy to that cookbook title, more than any other of Dorie’s cookbooks, an invitation to settle in and enjoy. Even Baking Chez Moi is, I think, more action-oriented, what with the “baking.”
Oh, but ‘our’ book . . . Around my French Table. Sit. Stay awhile and enjoy. I think the Doristas have carried that torch forward nicely.
Thank you to this wonderful community.