Upon reading, “The Reporter’s Kitchen,” by Jane Kramer I began to evaluate my own life through the foods I have eaten, the people I have eaten with as well as the places I have eaten. She begins by comparing her kitchen to a sort of keeper for her memory, “The memory I ‘see’ is a kind of kitchen. Where the thoughts and character I bring home go straight into a stockpot on my big stove.” This quote supports one of the most important themes throughout her reflection. The kitchen is the stronghold of her memory, and although memory is not all she sees in food (she watches as it helps her writing, represents different cultures, etc.) the aspect of food as memory is the most striking observation within the text to me.
I begin to think of my own stockpot of memories that make me into the person that I am today, but for me it is not so much a stock; it is my mom’s Italian salad dressing. Growing up my mom made her own dressing and while this doesn’t sound like such a feat, up until that age I had only ever seen most of my friends’ mothers squeeze things out of bottles onto their lettuce. She blended these oils and spices together letting me smell the garlic while holding the whisk.
This is the way I see my memory. Occasionally, memories resurface and sometimes they’re blended so far together I can’t separate their distinct flavors. It is interesting that within her article she also discusses the repressing of certain food and the memories that those tastes represent. She forgets about the cauliflower soup that was served as a terrorist’s bomb exploded. Even in different situations, for these same reasons I begin to taste bacon on my tongue even though breakfast passed hours ago. The idea of repressing food memories quickly reminds me of the breakfast for dinner meals we had for weeks in a row when my dad wouldn’t come home during my parents’ divorce. It is almost as if someone is cooking pancakes in the suite next to me. It is the same way when I think of hazelnut coffee with two spoons of sugar, and I am reminded of an old house on Minor Street in Kalamazoo where I tried to cope with my boyfriend deploying to Afghanistan. I have since started drinking my coffee black.
Aside from memory I find it interesting how she compares good writing to good cooking. I see the measured out steps, and the importance of pacing. Even as I sit here now I am eating semi-sweet chocolate chips pacing out each bite between sentences. Kramer writes, “Dishes like these become invocations, little rituals you invent for yourself, in the hope that your life and your work will eventually taste the same.” This I wonder about, as you are reading this do you taste the semi-sweet chocolate chips? Is it strange that there is a double-edged sword in remembering as well as there is in tasting food?