On Women’s Work
A personal note, and a reading list.
It’s come time to admit the truth: I’m burnt out, and it took receiving a very nasty email telling me to choke on a chicken bone (really) last week to get me to admit this, because while I talk a lot about writing and recipe development being real work, I don’t know that I’ve fully internalized that. It feels too good, too exciting, too rich, and I know I’m very lucky. But I’m tired, and I know why people who are able to do so take the month of August off. This is the right time for a break!
Yet I’ve taken no weeks off from publishing this newsletter in 2023, because while the free list has grown, the paid subscribers are down, and I’ve been convinced that if I just keep posting, I’ll somehow recover. (I’m not looking for advice or input here!)
But cost of living is up; there are more newsletters than ever for everyone to support; I don’t actively stoke engagement because it would be a part-time job to stay on top of; and I’m also asking folks to preorder a book. The media and publishing business being a mess isn’t one that individual subscriptions will solve, and the model is ripe for burning writers out and causing personal anxiety about self-worth. Yet it is understandable how many of us have thrown our hat in this ring, when what traditional media offers is often payment in maybe four to six months after a pitch is accepted. We’re just lucky there are still any places to pitch at all.
This newsletter having provided me a stable income for three years now has been a godsend I hope will continue, but perhaps the better thing this audience and thinking in public have given me is the ability to be the writer and thinker I want to be outside of its scope. I’ve been asking myself: How can I use this platform to leap off into something bigger, cooler, brighter?
I have no intention of quitting the newsletter—not by a long shot!—but I do want and need to diversify my work more, and I am crafting the vision I have for that. (And I will be taking a couple of weeks off at the end of August that should help, inspired as I am by those who take the whole month—I’m Not an American, Not Yet a European. [If linking a Britney song doesn’t show I’m being tongue-in-cheek, what will?])
Among the fabulous things that have happened because of this newsletter is that I’ve dipped my toes into academic food studies, through teaching, talking, and now writing my first academic paper (more on that to come). I’ve also done interviews that have been translated into French and German; my forthcoming book has already gotten a deal in Brazil to come out in Portuguese; and a collection of my essays has been translated into Spanish to come out this September in Spain from Col&Col Ediciones (more on that to come, too). It’s called Desde mi escritorio. To have my work taken seriously on such a scale has been wild. As I wrote way back in 2020, the translation of food writing contains a lot of possibility!
Of course, though, the real matter at hand right now is my imminent book launch: No Meat Required: The Cultural History and Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating comes out in two weeks, on August 15, and you can preorder a signed copy from Astoria Bookshop before August 2. I’ll be in New York City this week to sign them. My book tour will start in Brooklyn—home field advantage—before moving on to Baltimore, D.C., and Boston. I hope that if you’re in the area, you’ll come by. Next week, I will publish an interview with the book’s jacket designer and discuss how I approached asking for a specific aesthetic. I ended up with the perfect maximalist cover, despite my personal taste for minimalism.
The day before the book comes out, I’d love to publish a Q&A with you all. If you have questions about the book, the publishing process, or anything at all about my work, please leave a question in the comments or reply to this email—so long as you’re not going to wish violence upon me! Thank you for being here, because your presence has allowed me to do so much.
Onward. Last week, I published a piece I titled “Of Recipes & Resistance.” I wrote it in the throes of doing interviews for the book, getting an excerpt ready for publication, and trying to nail down book tour details, among other things. I don’t think I did the subject justice, considering all of my distractions, and I intend to come back to the topic with more focus and force later in the fall (I have a lot of interesting ideas to tackle in the fall, when the book tour is done!). The nice thing about the newsletter form is nothing has to be perfect; there will always be another chance to tackle it down the line.
I do want to give you a reading list, in case you’d like to dive deeper into the topic of women’s food work and domestic labor under various political and economic conditions. I’d also love to hear about any other recommendations on the subject you might have. It’s endlessly fascinating to me, for the quote I used last week from Claudia von Werlhof: “If we have understood housework, then we have understood the economy.” Cooking falls under the housework umbrella, regardless of our hope that it represents something more.
Rebellious Cooks and Recipe Writing in Communist Bulgaria by Albena Shkodrova
Communist Gourmet: The Curious Story of Food in the People's Republic of Bulgaria by Albena Shkodrova
Feeding Fascism: The Politics of Women’s Food Work by Diana Garvin
Communism Unwrapped: Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe edited by Paulina Bren and Mary Neuburger
Ingredients for Revolution by Dr. Alex Ketchum
Soy Not ‘Oi!’ by the Hippycore Krew
“The Proletarian Is Dead; Long Live the Housewife?” by Claudia von Werlhof
“Notes on the Relation between Sexuality and Economy” by Claudia von Werlhof
“We are All Housewives: Universal Basic Income as Wages for Housework” by Lindsey Macdonald
“What Was Socialist Food and What Comes Next?” by Anton Masterovoy
“Feeding the City and Making the Revolution: Women and Urban Agriculture in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)” by Marta Camps-Calvet, Santiago Gorostiza, David Saurí
“Cooking on Slovene national television during socialism: An overview of the cooking programme from 1960 to 1990” by Ana Tominc
“Women, Men, and the ‘Second Shift’ in Socialist Yugoslavia” by Garth Massey, Karen Hahn, Dusko Sekulic
“Slovenia's socialist superwoman: feeding the family, nourishing the nation” by Tanja Kamin, Andreja Vezovnik
“Notes Toward a Politics of Location” by Adrienne Rich
Emiko Davies, in her newsletter, is chronicling antifascist food in Italy
“The Kitchen Debate,” a 1959 meeting between Richard Nixon and Nikita Kruschev
This Friday’s From the Kitchen dispatch will be the August edition of From the Desk Recommends… where I compile my favorite links (unrelated to the above!) and notes on other cultural ephemera I’ve been consuming. I have plenty of new books that have arrived to my home to note.
I talked about the book (the book!) on the Reframeables podcast!
My small capsule jewelry collection with By Ren, whose designs are handmade to order in Philadelphia, is live through the end of 2023. There are cocktail picks with a pearl on them, which are my favorite thing ever!
Affinities: On Art and Fascination by Brian Dillon arrived, and I couldn’t wait to get into it! I have also been digging into the zine Publishing now: GenderFail’s working class guide to making a living off self publishing — very good, very relevant.
I actually will tell you all about this in an exciting way next week, if all goes according to plan (which is never guaranteed!).