Academic journal article Liminalities

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

Academic journal article Liminalities

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

Article excerpt

There are rules to setting a table. I learned this quite young from my grandmother, a domestic goddess of the mid 20th century, Midwestern America who took it upon herself to teach me the rules of table etiquette. Plate centered, fork to the left, knife and spoon to the right. Depending on the grandeur of the meal, the rules can become more complicated. Salad forks. Soup spoons. Dessert spoons. According to my grandmother, there is a specific rule and order for all of it.

I conceptualized Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner with these rules buzzing in my head, interested in photographing the ritual of a specifically "American" meal, the etiquette of dining in Midwestern America. I turned to Norman Rockwell for context, looking specifically at Freedom From Want, the poster image of the multigenerational American family at Thanksgiving. The smiling patriarch stands at the head of the dining table looking down as his aproned wife places an enormous roast turkey before him. The extended family sits around the table, their place settings sitting delicately on the white tablecloth. Plate centered, fork to the left, knife and spoon to the right. Just like my grandmother instructed. It is a high-gloss portrait of the American family, a gendered, whitewashed, smiling world that defined my Midwestern upbringing and infiltrated my psyche.

A quiet violence stirs within me when I look at Rockwell's images, an untapped desire to dismantle the systematic dining ritual he so lovingly glorifies. This sensation grounds my photographs. I wanted to create images that conveyed the regimented, personal traditions that constructed my upbringing while exploring their inherent constraints that I find both oppressive and exclusionary.

I began by assembled family recipes, unpacking memories of sitting at the many kitchen tables that composed my childhood. A grapefruit on Sunday mornings, lamb on Easter, salmon on Fridays during Lent, many of the dishes are tied with my Catholic upbringing. …

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