Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century

By Kyla Wazana Tompkins | Go to book overview

Conclusion
Racial Indigestion

As I finish this book, I have been writing and thinking about food for almost two decades. From my beginning as a food writer and journalist and then on through my graduate education, food, eating, and the life of ideas have maintained an intricate relation to each other. Throughout my education I wrote about food; food and eating culture harassed me until finally I gave in and started the project that became this book.

This book had another prelife in a paper about Martha Stewart that I wrote as an undergraduate at York University. At the cookbook store where I worked while I was a student in Toronto I remember selling early copies of Martha Stewart Living magazine, fascinated with the alternatively vituperative or adoring relationship our (mostly female) customers had to Stewart and her work. When later I rewrote that paper, I came to realize that I would never really understand the Stewart ethos or aesthetic without delving deeper into her backstory, without understanding her in the context of the aesthetic, political, and alimentary history that produced her.

It was in that graduate paper that I began to think about the strange and perverse stories that we tell about food in our culture, stories that, as I came to understand, the United States has been telling about itself for quite a while. I argued that we might profitably read the commercial space of food culture, in particular the strange washed-out interiors, exquisitely lighted food items, and uneaten meals of Martha Stewart’s high-WASP magazine, through related frames of race and the erotic. In particular, I came to believe that Stewart’s work was defined by its coy relationship to ideas of vice and appetite, organized around the logic of masturbation, specifically around the spectacle of Martha Stewart’s pleasure in her own product. In essence, I asked, is Martha Stewart a pornographer of (her own) white pleasure? And how did that come to be?

-183-

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