Aesthetic Pleasure in Twentieth-Century Women's Food Writing
The Innovative Appetites of M.F.K. Fisher, Alice B. Toklas, and Elizabeth David
By Alice McLean
Routledge – 2011 – 196 pages
This book explores the aesthetic pleasures of eating and writing in the lives of M. F. K. Fisher (1908-1992), Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967), and Elizabeth David (1913-1992). Growing up during a time when women's food writing was largely limited to the domestic cookbook, which helped to codify the guidelines of middle class domesticity, Fisher, Toklas, and David claimed the pleasures of gastronomy previously reserved for men. Articulating a language through which female desire is artfully and publicly sated, Fisher, Toklas, and David expanded women’s food writing beyond the domestic realm by pioneering forms of self-expression that celebrate female appetite for pleasure and for culinary adventure. In so doing, they illuminate the power of genre-bending food writing to transgress and reconfigure conventional gender ideologies. For these women, food encouraged a sensory engagement with their environment and a physical receptivity toward pleasure that engendered their creative aesthetic.
"Recommended." -- C. Holt-Fortin, SUNY Oswego, Choice
"McLean presses page-after-page the importance of dining, and so the literature about it…being so genuinely gastronomic makes the book a pleasure to read… McLean’s intelligent and fascinating account provides unmatched delectation for the meals-into-words tragics among us, people who might entitle a thesis something like, ‘Eating into thinking’, as I once did." – Aristologist, "Women and gastronomy," Michael Symons
1. Nineteenth-Century Food Writing: From Gastronomic Literature to Domestic Cookbook 2. Forging a Space for Female Desire: M.F.K. Fisher's The Gastronomical Me 3. A Queer Appetite: The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook 4. A Mediterranean Engagement: The Aesthetic Pleasures of Elizabeth David 5. Literary Heirs
Alice McLean is the author of Cooking in American History (1840-1945). She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Davis, before being awarded an Honors Teaching Fellowship at Sweet Briar College (2005-2009).