Home Cooking by Elizabeth Woody

Elizabeth Woody tackles the subject of cultural identity in this prose, taken from her book titled Home Cooking. This piece discusses the narrator existing in a modern world who has a story and background connecting her to the past. This passage is a lively one which confuses the reader, causing them to read on to understand more, which is what the narrator is actually doing herself. This piece can also be considered as stereotypical as the narrator doesn’t really want to live in the modern world but rather live like they used to in the olden days, where she finds she belongs.

The title of the book is one that may perplex readers. When they notice the book titled Home Cooking, they imagine what they will pick up will be a book jam-packed with recipes. On the other hand, this book is actually a story which talks about ancient times that no longer exists, and also an old way of life which is portrayed through her grandmother’s cooking. Her grandmother’s culture is a part of her own identity, living in the mid twentieth century in America but the funny thing in this prose is that she doesn’t actually realize that her grandmother’s culture is stuck inside her.

As she finds stories of old days being magical, it shows that she lacks belief and personal identity as she continues on about how gullible and ‘young enough’ she is to ‘still believe in magic’. Evidence showing that this prose is not a cookbook, and is no where near being one is shown during the first two paragraphs, as these first two paragraphs do not talk about cooking or anything related to it whatsoever. As the narrator is presented in first person, this leads to the prose to be more engaging, more personal and it also adds depth to the text.

The fact that it purposely confuses the reader is a great way to create interest and mystery as well as causing the reader to pose questions about her past, present and future. Due to the confusion of the text, readers are forced to read on so that they can understand the text, in the same manner that she is trying to understand herself. The narrator is trying to put the readers in her shoes so that they experience her confusion. In my outlook, I think that the second paragraph wouldn’t have worked as well lacking the narrator as she adds profundity to the text and gives it significance through her internal conflict.

In this text, the narrator experiences a clash of cultures. There is also evidence of her grandmother’s spiritual culture when she meditates and constantly waits, as Woody uses a repetition of the words ‘she waits’. Her culture clash is revealed through her internal confusion, which is the central tension of this prose. The internal confusion showed is of her identity and she also shows how her grandmother is out of place in the modern world, shown when the two are having a conversation and her grandmother mentions that she ‘never got the hang of cooking on electric stoves’.

It is made obvious to the reader that her grandmother appreciates the old culture more than the present culture as she mentions that she ‘always cooked on wood stoves or campfires’. This piece jumps from the modern world to her old culture. All ideas are presented through dialogues and in first person, which as I have already mentioned, adds depth to the text. Family values are merely discussed in this prose, where her grandma mentions putting her brother through college. There is tension between the culture clash between the past and present.

The narrator is actually calm and accepting that both cultures are a part of her but she is not aware of it. This passage also highlights the different roles of men and woman. Important skills, like cooking, have been coded into this piece. Cooking is a household chore that is stereotypically expected of women. The narrator also mentions how women are supposed to follow their boyfriends or stay behind. We are not, however, given her boyfriends point of view on this subject. Men are also portrayed as not being sensitive and understanding.

When she talks about beading, in line nineteen, what she actually means is that she is one of those beads out of a lot of them and therefore is a metaphor for different people as none of the beads are identical, just like no human is identical. Women are portrayed as dominant people and their community is held together by woman so they are the ones with the power. Our attention is drawn to this prose through love as our narrator is a romantic person. Other than romance, nature is also included. There are repetitions of images, such as the mountain, which is also a use of personification by Woody.

Nature also forms the songs that she hears, like the meadowlark tinkling a song from the yard. Her grandmother can also be considered as the nature woven into the text. The use of nature not only expresses her views, but also engages the audience. Another way readers are interested in the prose is through the fact that she constantly mentions the Changer, Dreamer, and Great Transformer but doesn’t tell readers who they are. She also doesn’t explain the new culture but goes on endlessly about her loving old culture. The use of repetition brings energy to the prose.

Woody has also used short sentence structures to build up the tempo, intensifying the text and also to add ideas. The use of triads adds more details and using emotive language shows the narrators point of view. The last paragraph reflects the second paragraph to maintain constant tone throughout the piece and the tempo also keeps the piece flowing smoothly. The writing has been underpinned through emotions, which includes the battle between the old and new world, her feeling of confusion, the fact that she is unsure of her identity, and how she finds that the modern world doesn’t respect her heritage.

To wrap up this commentary, Woody uses various literary devices to drive readers interest, concentration, and curiosity in the story. In my opinion, she does this successfully, but I still find that she doesn’t give enough details, so I find that if she finally gave more detail then readers may be more interested in the story and also have more of an understanding of the text and will therefore appreciate it more. ?