My very first cookbook was the classic vegetarian tome “Laurel’s Kitchen.” Though the recipes opened my eyes to the wonders of vegetarian cooking, it was the prefix to the book that changed my life. The introduction tells the simple story of friendship between women, the value of home cooking, and women’s history as “keepers of the keys.” Laurel Robertson and her co-author Carol Flinders recall a time when women held the keys to the food storehouses and pantries. In this esteemed position, women were responsible for wisely using their food resources and preparing nourishing meals for themselves and their loved ones. The fate of the family’s health lay squarely in her hands.
The story of women’s relationship to food goes even further back in history. Many anthropologists believe that women were the first agriculturalists, called to the duty of planting while men were away from home hunting. As they then gathered the harvests, women sang songs of praise to the land, to the sun, to the rain, and to the Creator behind these miracles. Thus women became tied to the land and food preparation forever.
Unfortunately, some of us have forgotten the importance of this role. The health of our bodies and that of our families and society show the loss. And many women choose not to cook, have forgotten how or never learned in the first place. It is time to heal the rift and take back the sacred role as keepers of the keys. It is time to come back to the kitchen.
"Laurel's Kitchen" features wonderful, folksy woodcut prints,
like this one, along with fantastic recipes.