Cooking with Luce: Parler-Femme through Textual Montage




cookbook, montage

How to Cite

Nahrung, N. J. (2013). Cooking with Luce: Parler-Femme through Textual Montage. M/C Journal, 16(3).
Vol. 16 No. 3 (2013): cookbook
Published 2013-06-23

This series of digital cut-ups offers a personal response to my readings of selected works by Luce Irigaray, using words, images, and graphemes from domestic cookery books as ingredients for thinking and writing. Through these textual montage experiments, I engage with parler-femme (speaking (as) woman) as both concept and practice to explore love, fluidity, and desire through multiple mimetic modes.

Textual montage is an alternative writing practice that foregrounds embodied ways of knowing (Emberley). By merging and juxtaposing diverse elements in non-linear modes, textual montage encourages the visual to enter the written, exposing the conditions of reading, writing and making meaning (Lupton). This opens a space of dialogue that challenges scholarly conventions surrounding “the essay form and the production of knowledge within its logics, rhetorics, and silences” (Emberley 72). 

This project uses an eclectic range of mass-produced cookbooks from 1928 to 1962 as source material for textual montage. These texts are intended for domestic use by women, as evidenced by their modes of direct address, and/or illustrations or photographs. This reflects the traditional construction of cooking as a gendered practice undertaken by women in Western societies within the private sphere of the home (Fleitz). While such allegiance to the sexual division of domestic labour mobilises hierarchies of race and sexuality in addition to gender (Hill Collins), domestic cookbooks represent collective social, embodied and textual practices that are constructed as being specific to women (Fleitz).  

Importantly, such constructions are not static. As evidenced by the revisions and amendments made to popular cookbooks over time, texts about domestic cooking are shaped by broader technological, cultural, social, and economic conditions. This is apparent in several of the source texts I have used, which have been revised or updated to acknowledge changes to ingredient availability or type (Royles Food Products), cooking techniques (Wijey), kitchen equipment (Wijey; Bentley; Howard), or health research (Davy in Royles Food Products) current at the time of their publication. 

In addition, three of the source texts reflect the historic relationship between women’s magazines and commercially published cookbooks (State Library of Victoria). The Delineator Cook Book (1928, taken from the New Butterick Cook Book), the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookery Book (c.1950), and Good Housekeeping’s Picture Cake Making (c.1955) are all published by popular magazine franchises, positioning domestic cookery within the sphere of consumer culture. Here, the inclusion of a text by the Australian Women’s Weekly (AWW) is particularly significant, as this franchise has achieved “trusted brand status” among many consumers within Australia, and continues to publish cookbooks today (State Library of Victoria). 

The enduring relationship between the AWW and domestic cooking in Australia indicates the importance of cookbooks in communicating knowledge between different generations of women, as both established and innovative foodmaking practices are circulated by a collectively known and “trusted” source. In constructing this inter-generational body of knowledge, women are of central importance as both authors and readers of cookbooks, in contrast to many other spheres of activity where their knowledge and participation has historically been subjugated or limited (Fleitz). In considering this, my inclusion of textual montage elements from cookbooks produced by, and/or used by, different generations of women acknowledges the maternal genealogy made absent within patriarchal Western thought and institutions (Irigaray). 

Although cookbooks are a source of instruction, they can also facilitate women’s experimentation and innovation (Supski). When women revise or recast cookbook recipes, they perform an authorship role by editing or rewriting the original text (Fleitz). Similarly, textual montage is a dynamic and performative process that complicates notions of the author (Emberley) while challenging the conventional “recipe” of writing; demonstrating the parallel between cooking and women’s writing as forms of embodied knowledge (Fleitz). 

In this project, textual montage aligns to the “thoughtful practice” of cooking, which entwines knowledge and practical application (Heldke 203). In writing through my body, I reject the binary opposition between thinking and doing, and advance parler-femme as a practice of enunciation (Irigaray). In cutting and reassembling the language of domestic cookery within an alternative context, I seek to open it to different modes of thought, address, and sensual affect. Here, I endeavour to present a series of playful encounters that embrace the potentiality, plurality, and mutability of language in the feminine. 


 Fig. 1. As she is rendered


Fig. 2. Re: generative organs


 Fig. 3. Fluid measures


Australian Woman’s Weekly. The Australian Woman’s Weekly Cookery Book. Compiled by the Food and Cookery Experts of the Australian’s Women’s Weekly under the direction of Leila C Howard. Sydney: Consolidated Press, c.1950.

Delineator Home Institute. Delineator Cook Book. Rev. ed. Ed. Mildred Maddocks Bentley. New York: Butterick, 1928.

Emberley, Julia. “Body, Interrupted: Textual Montage, Traumatised Bodies, and the De-disciplining of Knowledge.” Resources for Feminist Research. 29 (2002): 69–84.

Fleitz, Elizabeth. “Cooking Codes: Cookbook Discourses as Women’s Rhetorical Practices.” Present Tense. 1 (2010): 1–8. 

Good Housekeeping. Good Housekeeping’s Picture Cake Making. Melbourne:Colorgravure, c.1955.

Heldke, Lisa M. “Foodmaking as Thoughtful Practice.” Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food. Ed. Deane W. Curtin, and Lisa Maree Heldke. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1992. 203–29.

Hill Collins, Patricia. “It’s all in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation.” Hypatia.13 (1998): 62–82.

Irigaray, Luce. The Irigaray Reader. Ed. Margaret Whitford. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

Lupton, Ellen and Miller, J. Abbott. “Deconstruction and Graphic Design: History Meets Theory.” Visible Language. 28 (1994): 346–66.

Royles Food Products. Cardiol Good Health Cook Book. Sydney: Royles Food Products, 1962.

State Library of Victoria. “Research Guides: Food in Victoria”. State Library of Victoria. 9 May 2013. 28 May 2013. ‹›.

Supski, Sian. “‘We Still Mourn that Book’: Cookbooks, Recipes and Foodmaking Knowledge in 1950s Australia.” Journal of Australian Studies. 28 (2005): 85–94.

Wijey, Mabel. Ed. Warne’s Everyday Cookery. Revised ed. London: Frederick Warne, 1929.

Author Biography

Nollie Joy Nahrung, Southern Cross University (SCU)

Nollie Nahrung is a PhD student in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University (Lismore campus). Her thesis is an interdisciplinary work that explores Relatonal Anarchy through fictocritical and textual montage techniques.Nollie holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree with First Class Honours from SCU and a Bachelor of Multimedia Studies with Distinction from Central Queensland University.