Two Books: An Introduction Part VI
The Way to a Woman's Heart
Book One: My name is Black Girl Baking. I am a collection of recipes. They are a result of trying, often failing, and persisting.
Book Two: Nice to meet you. I am El libro secreto de Frida Kahlo. I am an invention. An interpretation of love through recipes and conversation.
Book One: I can understand that. I am constantly reinventing through recipes. “The biggest difference between the ten-year-old me and the me right now is that my younger self didn’t have space for speaking up and being bold, or even being seen. And my daddy was always there reminding me to watch myself, know my place and grow thicker skin.” (pg. 9)
Book Two: Te comprendo. My relationship with my father made me who I was. Where are you from?
Book One: Lantana in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Book Two: Hmm. I missed warmth too often in my life, especially when my injuries restricted me to a hospital bed. What brings you here?
Book One: Touch. Sound. Taste.
Book Two: I too live through the express of my own relationships and emotions through ingredients underused by others. Art is a visual expression of the senses you name. “El libro de Hierba Santa. “Era una colección de recetas de cocina para elaborar las ofrendas con motivo del Día de Muertos.” (pg. 1) This book was organized around my representation of life during death.
Book One: And yet, it’s about connecting life. “ The power and self-control I gained from cooking things from scratch expanded my world, and it made me happier than anything. I’d put all of myself into the things I’d bake for people. And that’s when people started to listen to me. I never felt I belonged to any one group—I was just communicating across them all. . .” (pg. 10). How have you arrived here?
Book Two: By focusing on connections, though seemingly mismatched, in a family and a country that struggled to connect. “Los mexicanos nos reímos de la muerte. . .Tragedía y diversion.” (pg. 59) Spices. Colors. Food. All were always vibrant. I broke rules, but never broke.
Book One: We have a lot in common. “Rules and precision aren’t naturally my thing. I’m a hypersensitive baker, preferring to get lost in the smells and textures of food and the sizzling sounds they make while boiling in a saucepan or roasting under an oven’s coil. So in this way, I’m not the baker you might expect.” (pg. 10)
Book Two: We speak the same language. One of the unexpected. Of revolution. And of learning to walk over and over again.
Book One: “While there are tips I’ve lifted from books. . . part of me enjoys making a fool of myself on the first go-round while botching a batch of whatever recipe it is I’ve dared to change and ruin. It’s a moment of masochism that has made room for big waves of happiness and pride to flood in when it does come out perfectly and I’ve invented something new.” (pg. 10)
Book Two: That is food. That is art. An altar for the dead that really represents life. Blue. Red. Yellow. Few colors. So many stories. El mole, for example. “Hay un chorro de historias de cómo nació el mole. Para mí todas son mentiras y la pinche Iglesia se quiere robar el crédito.” (pg. 90)
Book One: “A recipe can only do so much anyway. Flour, eggs, ovens--” (pg. 10) I wrote my book ‘To every Black girl who creates her own power. In her own way.”
Book Two: We do not always find power in words. In conversations when I couldn’t speak. I could cook. For example, meeting with Trotksy, “pues podia decirle más con mis sabores sobre mi visión de un mundo major, de lo que pudiera decirle con palabras. Los dos deseábamos solo eso: un mundo mejor. Quién no desea eso en la vida. . .?” (pg. 220) Food is life so food is power.
Book One: I agree. I was proud to be featured in an empowering series, High on the Hog, that restored power to African cooking in the history of the United States.
Book Two: “No me gusto nada comer entre los güeros. . . Lo que sí me gustaba eran sus pasteles. Eran como edificios perfectamente construidos. También me gustaban los restaurantes de la gente de color. Ahí todo era colorido, desde la música hasta la amable sonrisa de la camarera.” (pg. 128)
Book One: “I eat with my eyes before I eat with my tongue. That’s where most anticipation builds. Seeing the shapes, colors, patterns and the way it all gets arranged on the plate or platter. . . decadent and luscious things like dripping caramel and chocolate, or mesmerizing patterns like braided bread, will make it hard for me to stop staring.” (pg. 12) And cinnamon.
Book Two: “El aroma de café y canela.” (pg. 253) “Es el inicio de un nuevo día y con él, el recuerdo de lo maravilloso que fue el día anterior.” (pg. 254)
Book One: Cinnamon. “It was the only desert spice we kept in the cabinet when I was younger.” (pg. 49) “My daddy loved toasting slices of cinnamon raisin bread. . . reminds me of him and being back home.” (pg. 51).
Book Two: “Me gusta preparar platillos para la gente que quiero. Pensar en la comida como una serie de reverencias, de caricias, para que se sientan extasiados.” (pg. 199)
Book One: I imagine my book in hands, so many hands. Its pages smooth and new. Its pages stained and torn. “The feeling behind food, the emotions and sensations they impart, is the most complicated part of eating and cooking for me.” (pg. 118)
Book Two: Food shows who we are. For example, soup, like la sopa de tortilla. “Ella es lo que somos nosotros. Complicada, pero sencilla. Picosa, pero sabrosa. Caliente, per refrescante. Es la comunión perfecta para entender de qué estamos hechos y por qué México es así.” (pg. 295). Who we love. What we love. And the way to love again.
Note-I usually use literal quotes from two books that speak to each other for this blog post series. The heart of this conversation are the recipes in the two books referenced. I encourage you to have your own conversations through and over food. Food is art. It is connection. It is story. It is family. It is absence and indulgence. It fuels you and can kill you. We form ourselves and others. We remember ourselves and others. We invent ourselves from a handful of ingredients. We feed others from a full hand. In this month of February, each book at its heart is a love story.
The intersections and conversations between these two women and their foods are endless. I do not presume to summarize yours.
Guy, Jerrelle. (2018) Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing.
Page Street: Salem.
Haghenbeck, F.G. (2009) El libro secreto de Frida Kahlo-Una novela Atria: New York.