Personal Reflection: Vibration Cooking

I first encountered Vibration Cooking: Or, the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl in my first year seminar. The language of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor is so welcoming and easy to be entranced by, as she is skilled in storytelling. This is the main reason as to why I enjoyed this cookbook so much because she treats this work to creatively express herself, which we have seen in Alice Walker’s piece, was not a reality for many African American women and Smart-Grosvenor includes that that fact.  

Smart-Grosvenor uses her background in storytelling, which is a large part of Geechee culture, to share her culinary experience in a way that does not discount the history of these recipes and the impacts that they have on her life and others. She finds the process of cooking, while a strictly feminine one, also to be one that is spiritual and a part of the shared experience of African American women. Food, as Smart-Grosvenor includes in the section “Demystification of Food”, is a large topic that affects many cultures around the world, and unlike some English or Italian cooks would like to do, no one can take claim over specific recipes and dishes because they are shared across the borders of race and ethnicity. Following this same logic, this insinuates that no one cuisine is superior to another and “[t]here is no mystique. Food is food! Everybody eats!” (Smart-Grosvenor xxxvii). A simple observation like the need to eat is lost in culinary field and the discussion surrounding food, and the raw and uncomplicated approach that Smart-Grosvenor pushes forward in her book allows for readers to gain confidence and interest to making her recipes and cooking in general. It also creates a space for inclusivity and an observation on how race affects food, because the cultural foods of some races and ethnicities are treated in the same regard as those from French cuisine, as an example, in the United States because of the power that certain races and ethnicities hold over others.  

As I read this cookbook in an academic circumstance, I paid more attention to the language and implicit meanings of it more than I would if I were reading it for pleasure. But as I was still a first-year, there is much that I had not learned yet in terms of how to read a text, and I was focused more on the context of the class, which was food and gender. While I did focus on the impacts of race and culture, I did not go into much depth about this significance, especially within the context of diaspora and identity within the United States. Now that I have read this text again, I can appreciate more of her narration of her life not as simple, personal accounts, but stories of themselves that employ purposeful language and organization. For example, the organization of Vibration Cooking is unique as it follows a stream of consciousness of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor and while I noticed this importance in my initial reading of the text, in terms of my thesis topic, I would state that it is significant because of the creative outlets in which African American women had access to were mainly storytelling. So, Smart-Grosvenor’s cookbook follows these oral traditions by using language that is universal and colloquial reveals that culture cannot be separated from the discussion of food. The narrative voice also acts as an opposition and revolt against jargon and Western and White claims about culinary and food studies. Smart-Grosvenor states that “[f]ood is not racial” (Smart-Grosvenor xxxv,  not to diminish the significance that food has on cultures, including her own, but to state that there is much more beyond trying to divide food into racial categories, and more of just letting the spirituality that comes with food to bring yourself, and others, joy. 

Smart-Grosvenor, VertamaeVibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee GirlAthens, The University of Georgia Press, 2011.  

One thought on “Personal Reflection: Vibration Cooking”

  1. This was a beautiful exploration of the sources of your reactions. I had never thought about how some cooks claim recipes take cultural claim over certain recipes. I never thought about how in some ways that racializes food, which is so interesting! I love how you made the connection to Alice Walker’s points about the long term stifling of the creativity of women of color. I think that the connection that you make between creativity and spirituality is so true. This made me think about cooking and consuming food can be such a spiritual experience, whether that be eating bread and drinking wine in the Catholic church or find solace and meditation in the practice of cooking alone in the kitchen. I wonder about the orgins of the racialization of food, and would be really interesting to learn about where and when that tendency began.

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