Knowledge and Tradition of Foodstuffs

by Raina DeFonza

In the kitchen, postcolonial women have control and power in countries where women often have little prominence anywhere else. Women are inherently linked to the domestic, and the kitchen is often considered the woman’s place. While it can serve as a place of oppression, it also brings them power. They find this power through their traditional knowledge of foodways and production.

Postcolonial women’s kitchens are filled with tradition and nostalgia; the women often follow recipes and using tricks passed down from their mothers and grandmothers and other female relatives. Their knowledge of foodways is what brings them power in their homes and their communities. Mary Elisa Christie believes that, “women control relationships and consumption from kitchenspace” (Christie, 654). In the Central Mexican kitchens she examines in her article Kitchenspace: Gendered territory in Central Mexico, the food knowledge and the “kitchenspace” brings the women particular esteem and respect (Christie, 658).

In the kitchen, the postcolonial woman may feel confident and useful. She has deep understandings of how to cook and produce food, and this gives her power within her home and community. Her knowledge is important, beneficial and sometimes profitable.


The kitchen is an important link in maintaining culture and tradition, and is a place in which older generations of women may pass on recipes and foodways to their children and grandchildren. Besides the more obvious purpose of passing along vital domestic and cultural knowledge of foodways, the kitchen has less space-specific importance. In these spaces, “non-material culture, including beliefs and knowledge about the environment, and expectations regarding socially acceptable gender roles to children and grandchildren”. They serve as places for forging intergenerational connections, helping to convey important traditional and cultural knowledge from one generation to the next (Christie, 656).

Tradition is imperative in the domestic postcolonial spaces. It works as a conveyance of food knowledge as well as cultural and familial knowledge. Women have the unique benefit of controlling the knowledge that is produced and transmitted in the kitchenspace. This control of the knowledge empowers them, making them useful and purposeful.

This page is part of a larger project entitled “Domesticity and Kitchens” by student researcher Raina DeFonza. Please go back to the Table of Contents to further explore this project.

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