Learning to Cook: Awakening Queer Tastes

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Learning to Cook: Awakening Queer Tastes

The initial stages of vegetarian desire are characterized by what may be termed 'epicuriosity' on the part of the food consumer -- an inclination towards food pleasures beyond the meat-centred menus favoured by North Americans -- but often, the transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet is made difficult by the centrality of omnivorism within popular culture. From frozen TV dinners to foie gras, meat's accessibility as a convenient pre-packaged commodity means that animal products are the accepted norm. And, since popular adherence to the principles of omnivorist consumption culture dictates that the rejection of meat-eating be viewed as a cultural transgression, the choice to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is often met with hostility (not surprising given that aggression and defensiveness seem to be standard responses to the suggestion of difference within western social orders). However, this hostility is especially evident towards young vegetarians for whom the choice to adopt an alternate diet is interpreted as an affront to the 'compulsory carnivorism' that is the social and parental expectation of the adolescent. Therefore, the challenge facing the bold vegetarian is one of articulating her appetites to a meat-oriented populace.

Queer Subjectivities in formation

A similar obstacle faces the adolescent subjects in Leontine Sagan's Machden in Uniform and Sadie Benning's Me and Rubyfruit, who are forced to express their sexual identities and desires from positions defined as marginal in relation to the normative paradigm of heterosexuality. What these characters are faced with is the supremacy of one model of sexuality that pathologizes all other forms of sexual preference as deviance. The importance of these films is that not only do they represent characters whose expressed desires destabilize dominant expectations of adolescent sexuality but that further, by performing such challenges they offer the potential to contest the very system of socialized heterocentrism which impedes the acceptance of queer sexualities.

In Machden in Uniform we are offered a peek into the bourgeoning of such illicit desires amongst a group of girls sharing a dormitory at a German boarding school. The girls are represented as exploring a number of erotic fantasies -- some revolving around male film stars but others centred around their teacher, Fraulein von Bernburg. Within the closed environment of the school, the expression of any type of desire is considered a sinful indulgence but it is the expression of homosexual affection that is the least tolerated transgression.

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