Infrastructural Affects

December 12, 2018

Task 5 drawing

There are no free lunches

“[…] happiness functions as a promise that directs us toward certain objects, which then circulate as social goods. Such objects accumulate positive affective value as they are passed around. My essay will offer an approach to thinking through affect as “sticky”. Affect is what sticks, or what sustains or perserves the connection between ideas, values and objects”

Sarah Ahmed, 2017, ‘Happy Objects’

The primary function of the kitchen is to prepare food – to cook. All animals eat, but we are the only animal that cooks. So cooking becomes more than a necessity, it is a symbol of our humanity, that separates us from the rest of nature. Eating makes us feel good and it is also a profoundly social urge. People gather to eat together and our meals are events when friends, whole families or strangers come together. Food is also an occasion for sharing, for distributing and giving, whether from parents to children, children to in-laws, or anyone to visitors and strangers. At the same time the sharing food and cooking for someone else becomes not only a symbol of happiness, love, security, care and affect, but also a “sticky” object imbedded with values and ideas.

Around kitchen tables we are, under the guise of a meal, entangled with particular norms of behaviour and specific life choices. Ideas of making the ‘right’ choices, and being directed towards specific happy objects and scripts, are formed here from our earliest days. The joint consumption of food can be a powerful tool to preserve connections of ideas, values and objects. We all probably have a story about a specific meal or food that can be associated as a reward for doing something “good” or punishment for doing “bad”, that dish that is culturally significant and important to preserve or how the “fine” tableware was for certain occasions etc. What we serve others, but also how we do so, is very susceptible to evolve in to something loaded with meaning that form our relationship to objects of food and meals.

Every context has its’ own happy objects that tell its story and exclude others. We feel happy in company with our friends and family we love, surrounded by those objects we learned are affiliated with this feeling, while other contexts might invoke other feelings. Three sets of forks might make you feel restricted and out of place if you are not used to this, while eating from a shared plate is strange to others. Heated arguments are accepted – or encouraged – at some kitchen tables, at others silence is a premiered quality.

The kitchen is a catalyst for gathering, loading and dispersing sticky objects. We learn, accept, adapt or challenge these in different context but there are no free lunches, and an empty stomach might be the best listener.

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