Brita M. Thielen's essay "Consuming the Past: Food Metaphors in the Intergenerational Food Memoir" has been published in the forthcoming collection Consumption and the Literary Cookbook, edited by Roxanne Harde and Janet Wesselius (Routledge). Thielen's chapter demonstrates how the deployment of food metaphors in three food memoirs—The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty (2017), Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family and Identity by Candace Walsh (2012), and A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (2011)—enables the authors to participate in their family histories rather than simply exist as products of them. Twitty, Walsh, and Tan make family members present in the embodied sense of cooking and consuming family dishes and figuratively through metaphor. The food metaphor’s tendency to collapse the physical and temporal boundaries between food and family brings the latter into the presence of the writer and reader. Thielen argues that these authors use food metaphors as a rhetorical strategy that complicates the individual autonomy we typically associate with memoir authorship, as the authors take on the identities of others in addition to their own by way of embodied and metaphoric consumption. Thielen presented a version of this chapter as a participant in the Baker-Nord Graduate Affiliates program in Spring 2020.
Thielen is a fifth-year PhD Candidate in English at CWRU, with an emphasis in Writing History and Theory (WHiT). Her dissertation (under the direction of Prof. Kim Emmons) examines the rhetorical strategies used by authors of food writing texts—particularly cookbooks, food memoirs, and food blogs—to represent and construct textual identities, while considering respective generic affordances and constraints. She received her M.A. in English Literature with a Certificate in the Teaching of Writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.