While engaging in my favourite pursuit, that of pretending to be an intellectual, I came across an interesting quote by Julia Kristeva in her book Strangers to Ourselves. I am continuing to research ‘The Other’ with the hope of sometime soon producing some work on the subject. She is talking, in this case, about the meeting between the foreigner and the non-foreigner.
“The meeting often begins with a food fest: bread, salt, and wine. A meal, a nutritive communion. The one confesses he is a famished baby, the other welcomes the greedy child; for an instant they merge within the hospitality ritual…….the banquet is outside of time. It imagines itself eternal in the intoxication of those who are nevertheless aware of its temporary frailty.”
Reading this brought two famous works of art to my mind; firstly Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and secondly Judy Chicago’s heavily critiqued, The Dinner Party. I was struck, not so much by the ritualised aspects of eating food together, but by the infused ‘Otherness’ – a spiritual otherness in the first, and a gendered one in the second.
I’ve also been thinking about the power dynamics involved in the ritualised (and actual) giving and receiving of food, and the effects charitable acts (specifically those involving food) have on the perceived status of the donor.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments, suggestions, disagreements etc