Reading Response to “The Reporter’s Kitchen,” by Jane Kramer
The best part about Jane Kramer’s story is her ability to correlate food and writing at different levels. There is first the literal level: of her stopping the piece of work she’s currently writing, in order to walk into the kitchen to cook something. However, beyond the literal level, she connects for the reader how the time she spends in the kitchen (in whatever country she inhabits at the time) clarifies her writing while she metaphorically “brews” her thoughts together in a melting pot. I think it is most clearly put when she says: “The cooking that helps my writing is slow cooking, the kind of cooking where you take control of your ingredients so that whatever it is you’re making doesn’t run away with you, the way that words can run away with you in a muddled or unruly sentence,” (164). This description illustrates how one is inextricably mixed with the other, and it appears that for Kramer to be a good writer, she has learned that she must also strive to be a good cook: even though she admits that good cooking is far easier to achieve than good writing (166).
For Kramer cooking and memories are not, cannot be, mutually exclusive which is something I haven’t considered in my life before, however seems to have a universal truth to it. Food takes you places, and also creates innately individual responses in the people who make and consume it. Kramer sees memory as a “soup that never tastes the same as it did before, and feeds a voice that, for better or worse, is me writing,” (159). And I like this analogy because for even someone who may not be the best cook, like me, food is always associated with some memory from before; when someone tries a dish for the first time, a memory pops in of when they tried a different thing for the first time and hated it, or loved it etc.,. I’ve never looked at food as such a gateway to memory before, which is funny because we spend so much of our lives eating! It opens a whole new possibility for writing because it gives people a whole new angle to look at their lives. What would it look like if we narrated our lives from a food perspective only? If we took only memories that came with food and stacked them up in order, would the outcome be a close summation of how we would narrate our lives otherwise? It’s definitely something I would like to explore now. I would also like to consider how cooking affects writing and memory as well—are memories of time laboring over a meal more substantial than memories of merely eating? I think they are. The way in which Kramer talks about cooking makes me interested not only to try cooking myself, but to also try it while in the process of writing something. Maybe I should have cooked something while writing this: I wonder if the outcome would have been different.