TEXARKANA, Texas — This past Friday morning in Texarkana, tuning in to the Texas A&M University-Texarkana PLACE lecture provided listeners with some down-home cooking, Southern style.
That is to say, the lecturer for this talk, Dr. Lily Kelting of Flame University in India, discussed the no-doubt delicious subject of Southern cookbooks. The virtual talk was part of A&M-Texarkana's Program for Learning and Community
In addition to the taste of Southern food, however, there's the rich cultural
milieu associated with it and deeper issues of culture, geography and history to be explored.
Kelting's talk, which was presented on Zoom, was titled "Southern Cookbooks and the Making of Place."
An assistant professor of literary and cultural studies at Flame University, Kelting explained that her
participation in the PLACE series had its roots
in an article she wrote titled "The Entanglement of Nostalgia and Utopia in Contemporary
Southern Food Cookbooks," which appeared in the journal Food, Culture & Society.
In the lecture, she talked about issues such as performativity. She first encouraged listeners to imagine what it's like to be at a live event, such as a concert, and what distinguishes that from platforms like Instagram Live.
"If I'm alone in my house I'm not having that sensory experience that I'm having at a concert. I'm not drinking a beer necessarily or I don't smell the sweat of the people around me," Kelting said.
And if someone attends a punk rock music show, it's embodying for both the performer and the audience. It's a physical experience. Ringing in
the ears, bruises from punk show dancing — those experiences are not there without the live element. These experiences also vary according to someone's background like ethnicity or sexuality, she pointed out.
Kelting connects this issue to "food and time," as she put it. It's a way of seeing things about food that we may miss otherwise, including the aspect of performance studies. She's interested in the rehearsal aspects of performance.
"Performance means never for the first time," Kelting said, then noting that ritual behaviors have a temporary element, and this includes
She used the example of a cookbook, Edna Lewis's "The Taste of Country Cooking," capturing the sensory knowledge of cooking with a caramel layer cake recipe. As she put it, this still exists even if nobody
ever made it again.
"The cookbook captured that sensory embodied knowledge and put it into
print," Kelting said. She calls this the idea of restored behavior, and she connects this
to be the reason people love cookbooks: the poetry of them. It's a way to reach others and keep this knowledge
"That desire to kind of use print to reach across time and space is so magical, but it's also dangerous," Kelting said, explaining cookbooks can be performative texts, like scripts for performance. Cookbooks create something, cake, but they also create
In that sense, cookbooks create place, said Kelting, who urged her audience to consider this question: Are you in the South,
and how do you know? That leads to a discussion of how cookbooks contribute to the cultural construction of the
This year's PLACE theme is "The Southern Experience."
Kelting has a Ph.D. in Theatre & Drama from the joint programs of the University of California, San Diego and Irvine. Her research concerns how performance artists explore food to discuss the issues of race, gender and ethnicity in contemporary German society, according to her online bio at Flame
The talk is posted at the PLACE page on Facebook: Facebook.com/TAMUTPLACE.