It’s fairly standard practice for me to bake when I’m feeling overwhelmed. There’s something about combining simple ingredients and creating something spectacular that makes me feel calm. People often ask me how I find the time to bake; baking, for me, is meditation. The question becomes: how could I find the time not to bake?
Of course, as with all things, I sometimes get concerned about what my visibly overachieving proclivities say about me as a feminist. I wonder, for instance, whether making a batch of doughnuts in the afternoon after I’ve spent the morning wrestling with theories of embodiment makes others feel like they’re not doing enough.
I’m acutely aware of the “busy competition” that goes on in academic – and other – spaces. I’m also aware of the problematics of calls for women to “have it all.” At this point, an analysis of that discourse seems almost too simplistic. Of course it’s more complicated than simply choosing to lean in to all of the roles we’re asked to fill. Of course my privilege affords me the occasional afternoon covered in flour and sugar.
My domesticity lies in a funny rub with my insistence on being a career-minded individual and achieving in the academic realm of my choosing. I struggle with how to present my baking endeavours much in the same way that I ponder my posting of a self-portrait of my studio afternoons. Am I unwitting participating in the perpetuating of ideals of neoliberal femininity?
Of course I know that baking and dancing (and the subsequent posting of pristinely styled doughnuts and dance pictures) does not make me a “bad feminist.” The question becomes, of course, how to represent without subtly reinforcing dominant notions of a “good life,” a beautiful existence, a healthy balance?
Add to all of this a layer of eating disorder recovery, and my recipe for grapefruit curd doughnuts suddenly becomes an inquiry into the nature of engagement with and love of food in eating disorder recovery. I vividly remember sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a circle at feedback group during eating disorder treatment when I was looking into getting a job near the end of my day hospital stay. “We’d like you to evaluate your motivations for wanting to work at Second Cup,” they said “you realize you’ll be around food all day.”
This infuriated me, but I smiled and nodded politely. I hadn’t considered it, if I was being honest – I just really liked coffee. I never got the job, but that and several other encounters with folks about my love of food have landed me in some interesting conversations over the past eight years. Now, I’m no stranger to people questioning my motivations for all things – my career as eating disorder researcher, my enjoyment of dance, my baking, my proclivity toward hunting down the next “it” restaurant while travelling – and linking these to pathology.
This questioning evidences, to me, an inherent distrust of people who have had eating disorders that I find problematic. There’s a funny expectation that people in recovery will become agnostic about food and exercise. There’s not a lot of room for exceeding that agnosticism in either direction – loving the multisensory experience of making and/or eating delicious food, or not being interested in it and really just eating because it’s a human need. I think to discount either is problematic – because it ignores variations in human experiences in their bodies that I believe lend a lot to the world.
As you will expect from me, I have more questions than I have answers; but the questions seemed worth rising – much like these grapefruit curd doughnuts.
Grapefruit Curd Doughnuts with Citrus Sugar; recipe from Bon Appetit