A cook book to be read. What about it?" Alice Toklas, Gertrude Stein and the Language of the Kitchen

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This essay analyses the way that the writings of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas use food as part of a poetics of intimacy and argues that the continuity between art and the everyday in Stein's Tender Buttons (1914) and in The Alice B Toklas Cookbook (1954) can be read as a trace of the way that both women acted as the constant and moving background to each other's lives and texts. The paper proposes that Toklas's highly involved, expensive and often impractical recipes provide a meditation on wider and more complex desires than just bodily hunger, particularly at the time of Toklas and Stein's stay in occupied France and after Stein's death in 1946 when Toklas wrote the Cookbook to avoid having to sell Stein's collection of early twentieth century masterpieces. The paper finds antecedents for both the quality of 'obstinate and homely shrewdness' in Stein and Toklas's texts in the brusque and authoritative women's voices captured in nineteenth century cookbooks and suggests that through the fetish status of the nouns in both recipes and in poetry Gertrude and Alice use the reciprocal making and writing of food to articulate, represent and direct desire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-56
Number of pages23
JournalComparative American Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

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