A Budding Gourmet
A Budding Gourmet
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‘A cook can’t just mix things up’, says a woman with a typical Brooklyn accent while the camera shows sophisticated images from food and travel magazines. In this black-and-white video, her first in this format, Martha Rosler explores the relationship between gastronomy, class and breeding. A silhouetted woman hiding her face from the camera describes her efforts to improve her status and that of her family through gastronomy. With a deadpan voice and accompanied by the strains of a violin concerto, the woman explains why she wants to become a gourmet. The text comes from one of Rosler’s ‘postcard novels’ entitled Budding Gourmet – also written in 1974 – in which in eleven chapters the artists tells the story in the first person of a woman wanting to learn haute cuisine to climb the social ladder. Appropriating the aesthetics and visual language of popular TV cooking programmes, the video combines the voice of the woman with images from food and leisure magazines, of producers and consumers, of poverty and abundance. Rosler discusses food as a key to cultural refinement, class and, in the case of Eastern cuisine, spirituality. For her, cooking is a way of accumulating and demonstrating cultural capital, whether it is the elegance of French haute cuisine or the exoticism of cultures from other countries such as Brazil. While cooking has been traditionally associated with women and a non-existent sphere of power, the same culinary practice in the public sphere is associated with the glamour of famous chefs.

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