UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Eating's a part of being after all" : (un)gendering foodways in the work of Sallie Tisdale, Ruth Ozeki, and Hiromi Goto Harris, Lisa


This thesis examines how gender operates in food theory, and reads across three contemporary North American writers to understand how they take up or divert gendered culinary configurations. Food is deeply embedded in cultural practices, and is therefore inflected by gender and gendered roles of a particular culture. In North America, for example, meat is commonly understood as symbolic of masculinity and eaten by men, and vegetables are symbolic of femininity and eaten by women. Sallie Tisdale’s The Best Thing l Ever Tasted (2000), Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats (1998), and Hiromi Goto’s Chorus of Mushrooms (1994) and The Kappa Child (2004), can be read as investigations into how a gendered subjectivity can be established or destabilised through food. By offering a close reading of moments of food consumption in these texts, I argue that Tisdale, Ozeki, and Goto offer a complicated and implicated gendering of food that moves beyond the binary model. The thesis is divided into three chapters that discuss how each writer approaches food and gender, and reformulates eating practices as a complex conversation rather than as a direct result of gender. The first chapter offers an introduction to how gender operates in food theory, an in-depth analysis of contemporary gendered food practices and commercials, and gives an outline for how Tisdale, Ozeki, and Goto write oppositionally from within a gendered culinary structure. Chapter two investigates how the implementation of gender roles through food practises, and cultural figures such as Betty Crocker inform how women cook and eat in Tisdale and Ozeki’s texts. Chapter three is devoted to how Hiromi Goto challenges received notions of gender and food by not gendering her protagonists and refusing to make her female characters readily consumable by the reader. In my conclusion I theorise how seeing food practices as an extension of a character’s subjectivity can root theories of food in the materiality of the food itself. I conclude that, rather than abiding by gendered stereotypes, Tisdale, Ozeki, and Goto promote awareness, creativity and joy as more sustainable ways of knowing and eating our food.

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