Special Series on Cookbook Literature/Historiography #4: Lesbian and Queer Cookbooks

This post is the fourth in our new series providing a literature review of cookbook scholarship. Click here for the first post of the series: cookbooks as scholarly resources and here for the second post of the series: environmental countercultural cookbooks and here for the third: postwar sexism and feminist response in cookbooks
Lesbian and Queer Cookbooks
Lesbian cookbooks also challenged stereotypes and sought to bring respect and pride both to the role of cooking and also to the lesbian community at large. One of the great sources of feminists’ frustration with cooking was the unequal distribution of household labor in heterosexual couples. Lesbians cooking for other women were not experiencing that same unequal division of household tasks based on gender; however, lesbians who cooked experienced other inequities. Sociologist Stacey Williams has discussed the Cincinnati Lesbian Activist Bureau’s 1983 cookbook Whoever Said Dykes Can’t Cook?, whose editors created the cookbook to, in their own words, defy the stereotype that  “lesbians can’t cook” (2014: 59). As psychologists Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson imply, this stereotype comes from the positioning of cooking as an inherent component of heterosexual women’s essentialized identity as nurturers and thus feeds into the harmful stereotypes of lesbians as non-caring, masculine, and thus unable to cook well (1995: 99). If cooking symbolized care, creating a cookbook was a political act in humanizing lesbians in showing their capacity to nurture. Leatherella O. Parsons collected recipes from other coordinators for the International Association of Lesbian/Gay Pride Coordinators and published Cooking with Pride in 1989. Since the 1980s, there has likewise been an increase of lesbian cookbooks including Fannie Flagg’s Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook by Fannie Flagg (1995); Tasty Lesbian Dishes by Lesbians For Change (1997); The Queer Cookbook by Donna Clark Genre(1997); The Lesbian Erotic Cookbook by Ffiona Morgan Genre (1998); The Lesbiliscious Cookbook by Kim Gillow (2000) which includes recipes by the residents of Camp Sister Spirit, friends, visitors, and performers along with stories and photos;The Butch Cook Book by Sue Hardesty, Nel Ward, and Lee Lynch (2008); Lesbians Have to Eat, Too! by Jenice Armstead (2011) and Lesbians Have To Eat, 2! (2012). Lesbian cookbooks both from the period of the 1970s to 1980s and from the 1990s to present share the theme of countering harmful narratives about lesbians and the queer community. These cookbooks also served as a way of gathering recipes from community members and preserving community history. In that way, the recipes in these books are political as they stood as testament to community members’ existence and fought to counter the erasure of the lesbian, gay, and queer communities. 

by Dr. Alex Ketchum