Textualisation of the Domestic Self: Hildagonda Duckitt’s Autobiographical Cookbook
Keywords:Food, gender, colonial writing, autobiographical cookbooks, paratextuality, feminism, autobiography
Hilda’s Diary of a Cape Housekeeper (1902), by Hildagonda Duckitt, is an example of culinary literature and essentially a diary of life in the Cape at the time (one that includes recipes, notes on gardening, etc.). This text is investigated in this article with the aim of examining the responsibilities of women with respect to food, food preparation and the kitchen, the depiction of men with respect to food, its preparation and the eating thereof, and the influence of class and the ethnicity of the author’s intended audience. The article notes how these responsibilities have changed over time, particularly with regard to their content and appearance, as well as discusses the relationship between cookbooks and men. Cookbooks have become a mainstream subject of academic study, of popular culture and the media, not least of all for the insights that they provide about gender (especially in terms of the division of labour), ethnicity and culture, and while they have traditionally been aimed at white women, this is no longer always the case. Such gender issues are the primary focus of this article. The context of the book, namely South Africa under British colonial rule during the late 1800s and early 1900s, is also considered in order to shed light on the questions of ethnicity and culture. Duckitt’s affinity for the British Empire is explored, as well as her views about the indigenous people of South Africa, their roles with respect to food, and their place in the colonial home. Lastly, the article takes stock of Duckitt’s voracious appetite for new knowledge and its production, despite the patriarchy of the time.
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