Aunty Sylvie's Sponge: Foodmaking, Cookbooks and Nostalgia

By Supski, Sian | Cultural Studies Review, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Aunty Sylvie's Sponge: Foodmaking, Cookbooks and Nostalgia


Supski, Sian, Cultural Studies Review


Why does foodmaking matter? Largely because it holds within it so much of everyday life, thought and activity across time, place and generation. This article explores women's embodied foodmaking knowledge as 'thoughtful practice' with a pinch of 'anxious practice'.1 It begins with a brief biography of my Aunty Sylvie and my mother, and then relates a story that illustrates intergenerational recipe sharing and baking knowledge. In doing so it examines cookbooks as a form of nostalgia and explores aspects of gustatory nostalgia in the creation of 'manuscript' cookbooks and their variation in the twenty-first century. It also reconstructs, in part, the history of a family-of sisters, aunts, grandmothers, mothers, daughters-told through cookbooks and, in particular, a recipe for sponge cake. In using a particular recipe I seek to produce a nuanced argument that illustrates the complexity of intergenerational recipe sharing via the triangulation of aunt, mother, daughter. It also shows the acquisition of a 'thoughtful practice' intertwined with 'anxious practice' across the generations.

My grandmothers were bakers of bread and of cakes. My mother and my aunts are bakers. I bake occasionally. This (mostly) matrilineal and intergenerational baking is one that holds the women of my family together. Many recipes have been shared over the years between my mother and her sisters and with her mother and mother-in-law. I have also slowly begun to write down my mother's recipes. She has homemade cookbooks filled with recipes cut from newspapers and magazines and many written in her own handwriting. I have one of my grandmother's manuscript recipe books-the recipes are written in my grandmother's handwriting as well as the script of my mother, the next door neighbour, friends and even my own 12-year old's printing, each letter separate and clear. In 2010 my Aunty Sylvie self-published a cookbook, A Lifetime of Cooking: Compiled with love by Sylvia Harris for all her family to enjoy. It contained a number of her recipes, photos and memoir snapshots-a giftto her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.2 It was also a giftto her sisters, one of whom is my mother. My mother features prominently in the cookbook as a baker and a sister, in recipes and photos-they have shared a life of cooking together. Cooking is one of the strengths of the women in my family. It represents solidarity, the continuity of family across time and place.

My cooking apprenticeship began when I was four or five, maybe earlier. I watched my mother baking cakes and slices, but my earliest memories are of my paternal grandmother baking bread and Anzac biscuits.3 I sat on a stool or the bench and watched. At that age I was able to stir the flour with the bicarbonate soda and baking powder, an easy job. If a cake or slice was being made I would have been able to lick the bowl. As I got older I was able to break eggs into the mixture, siftthe flour, cream the butter and sugar and add other more exotic ingredients depending on the cake or slice being made. My mother or grandmother would have been by my side throughout the exercise, guiding my hands, talking to me about the texture of the ingredients, describing what they should feel like and look like: 'the creamed butter and sugar should feel like breadcrumbs', 'when you add the milk to the flour it will have a consistency like glue', 'beat the eggs until they are stiffand stick to the beaters'. This knowledge only comes from doing-knowledge and practice that philosopher Lisa Heldke calls 'thoughtful practice'.4 It is here that subject and object become blurred, they are imbricated and intertwined in particular foodmaking activities; for example, in kneading bread: 'kneading is an essential part of the theoretical-and-practical process of making bread-a part in which subjects' and objects' boundaries necessarily meet, touch and overlap'.5 Such thoughtful practice is implicit to my aunt, my mother and my grandmothers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Aunty Sylvie's Sponge: Foodmaking, Cookbooks and Nostalgia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.