All posts by Melissa Reynolds

Melissa Reynolds is a PhD Candidate in History at Rutgers University. Her dissertation compares "practical" knowledge in fifteenth-century manuscripts to sixteenth-century printed books to understand how changes to the presentation, circulation, and reception of mundane but useful information shaped early modern English culture. She is one of the RP's social media editors and is a current 2018-19 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow.

Olfactory Notes: Integrating Embodied Research in Art History

By Madison Clyburn

In early modern Italy, perfumes were powerful substances whose therapeutic properties could generate pleasure and preserve or remedy one’s health if worn on or consumed by the body. In this post, I feature a typical Italian perfume recipe, “To make perfume for clothes,” from the Italian engraver and author Eustachio Celebrino’s (c. 1490-after 1535) printed vernacular pamphlet, Opera nova piacevole laqvale insegna di far varie compositioni odorifere per far bella ciaschuna donna…intitulata Venusta (Venice, 1550) intended for female consumers. Celebrino’s formulaic recipe books, typical of the genre, are printed records of socially important topics, like women’s health and adornment.

I made this recipe in Dr. Chriscinda Henry’s graduate seminar, Materiality and the Senses in Late Medieval and Early Modern European Art, at McGill University in the Winter of 2023. Celebrino’s recipe allowed us to work through experimental research methodologies in our final week dedicated to Embodied Knowing and Experimental Methods, which I co-led with fellow seminar member Mahdis Mohajeri. Making this perfume recipe raised questions about what it means for art historians living in one sensorium and studying others, like early modern Italy, where smelling amber rosary beads during prayer might bring one closer to God, chewing myrrh pastilles could prevent plague or wearing musk might help conceive a healthy child.

“To Make Perfume for Clothes”

The first step toward integrating embodied research in our art history seminar was to choose a recipe with accessible ingredients that was relatively quick to make. Celebrino’s perfumed sachet was just right since it simply asks one to take “fresh rose leaves & dry them in the shade & then take two carats [or vials] of musk, and make it into a powder, & two coins of fine cloves, and mix together, & then put it [all] in one or two little bags in the clothes.” 

Graduate student, Em Grisdale’s sachet keeps sweaters moth-free and smelling fresh one year later!

Before our seminar, I assembled a recipe kit with instructions and ingredients for each participant. I found cloves and dried roses from a local herbalist shop, while I substituted musk root for musk, whose extraction from the musk deer’s preputial gland is primarily illegal today. 

Next, I transcribed and translated the recipe, placing that information in a PowerPoint. This left more time in class to examine primary texts like Pliny’s The Natural History and Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s Commentaries (1565) to understand the varied classical and early modern uses of musk, roses, and cloves. At the same time, selections from Sven Dupré et al. Reconstruction, Replication and Re-enactment (2020) and Pamela Smith’s From Lived Experience to the Written Word (2022) grounded our entrance into an aromatic art history, offering insight into how hands-on historical recipe experiments can help make students more resourceful researchers and inform early modern health, hygiene, and beauty practices.

The final step consisted of interpreting the recipe through practice. Students opened their kits and began to crush, mix, and add the ingredients to a draw-string bag.

Some participants followed the recipe, and others adapted it; some used their hands, while others used a hammer or mortar and pestle to crush the musk root.

The recipe’s flexible ending tells one to put the sachet “in the clothes,” possibly in a chest, carried in a pocket, worn under a skirt or attached to a belt. Making the recipe together allowed us to pose questions, such as what types and materials of bags might be preferred, how much musk equals a carat or vial, and share reactions like musk stinks! 

Em Grisdale shows us how to wear Celebrino’s recipe on a belt loop.

Implications for Sensory Research in Art History

Embodied research welcomes questions about the sensuous relationships between the ephemeral body and its material culture. Things like perfumed sachets for clothes hinted at but not seen in visual media reveal how olfactory experiences in the early modern period are everywhere and nowhere. For example, middle- and upper-class women often had the luxury of owning multiple sets of clothes. When not worn, women stored their clothes in chests with sachets made from pure ingredients like musk or, for aspiring citizens, a counterfeit version made of spices and toasted breadcrumbs to preserve the fabrics’ quality and cleanliness. One can imagine only the finest ingredients perfuming Lambert Sustris’ Reclining Venus (c. 1548) in this wholesome atmosphere comprised of a downy mattress sprinkled with fragrant pink and white roses, sumptuous fabrics, and a woman playing a folding harpsichord, whose charming sounds vibrate through the clean air wafting through an open colonnade window.

Attributed to Lambert Sustris (c. 1515-20 -1584), Reclining Venusc. 1548, oil on canvas, 116 x 186 cm, Venice or Padua, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, SK-A-3479. Image credit: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

But of course, we cannot see the physical sachet made from Celebrino’s recipe that may lie nestled inside the elegant cassone (chest) in the background of Sustris’ painting. We cannot sniff notes of rose, musk, and clove possibly escaping the fibres of the pastel pink dress that a woman holds above the chest. Only by reconstructing these sachets can we begin to sense smell’s critical role in preserving hygienic bodies and homes as well as in observing or challenging socially constructed gender and class hierarchies in early modern Italy.

Detail of Sustris’ Reclining Venus showing a young woman leaning over an open-lidded cassone. Image credit: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Embracing what we cannot see or smell through embodied research allows us to imagine how Celebrino’s recipe and Sustris’ painting document once fragrant interiors. An art historical approach to making recipes aims to recenter early modern sensuous practices and experiences in artworks so that teaching and academic scholarship can help us bridge two sensoria—that of our current moment and overlooked pasts.


Madison Clyburn is an Art History PhD candidate at McGill University. Her thesis focuses on the material culture of women’s wellness in late medieval and early modern Italy. Her research combines art and gender history, the history of medicine, material culture, and sensory studies to determine how perfumes were used to observe, challenge, and invert socially constructed gender and class hierarchies in the early modern period.

The Little Mermaid and The RP

By Melissa Reynolds

Disney’s animated The Little Mermaid (1989) is the first movie I remember going to see at the theater. In case you’re wondering, that makes me two things: 1) old and 2) the target demographic for the 2023 live-action remake of the animated classic. Not only do I have fond-but-hazy memories of hearing “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World” for the first time, lo those many years ago, I also now have a daughter through whom I can experience that magic all over again. The movie industry may be selling nostalgia these days, but as it turns out, I’m buying.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid (2023).

All of this is to say: it should come as no surprise that I loved every minute of the live-action The Little Mermaid, released in theaters this past May. Can we talk about Halle Bailey for a minute? That voice! Her gorgeous face! The athleticism required to appear as if she was actually swirling, floating, and diving underwater! She was magnificent, as was the whole world conjured in the film. Somehow, Halle and the wizards behind the computers at Disney studios made mermaids, sea witches, and singing crabs feel real.

When I began thinking about The Little Mermaid and its relationship to the RP, my first inclination was to highlight our many posts on love magic. After all, love spells like this one from eighteenth-century Russia or this one in a sixteenth-century English manuscript aren’t so very different from the spell Ursula weaves for Ariel. True, neither of these magical recipes requires a mermaid to give up her voice in exchange for legs, but grinding the heart of a snake into powder to sprinkle in a woman’s food as a love potion isn’t so very far removed from Ursula’s oeuvre.

Ursula’s love magic seems to require a tongue of some kind, the winds of the Caspian Sea, and of course, Ariel’s voice. Scene from Disney’s animated The Little Mermaid (1989).

Love magic we’ve got a-plenty in our archives, but that wasn’t what stood out in my viewing of the live-action The Little Mermaid. For me, the thrill of the remake came from seeing Ariel’s underwater existence come to vivid, three-dimensional life. We live in an entertainment era chock-a-block full of CGI effects, and even still, I found myself agog at the visuals in the film. How did they make Ariel’s hair swirl like that? The visual effects actually changed how I thought about a story I know by heart. Because Ariel’s CGI-conjured world felt both real and fantastical, her deep desire to give it all up for the mundanity of carriage rides and dinner conversation (or lack thereof) came into sharper focus for me.

In the Disney version, Ariel’s choice to leave the water comes with consequences: she has to give up her voice to grow legs. She can’t be what she was underwater when on dry land.

In that respect, she’s kind of like coral—or, at least, she’s kind of like coral as premodern philosophers understood it. As Laurence Totelin wrote in her 2016 post, The Coral and the Seal: Ancient Amulets Against All Ills, it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that naturalists discovered that coral was in fact an animal—or, more precisely, thousands of marine animals whose secreted exoskeletons form the structures we call coral. Before then, natural philosophers believed that coral began its life underwater as a plant and then transformed into stone when it came into contact with air. Like Ariel, coral became wholly different when it crossed from the underwater world into our own.

Because it transformed from plant into stone, premodern people believed that coral had transformative properties when used as a medicinal or magical ingredient. Totelin wrote about ancient recipes in which coral was used to staunch blood, to whiten teeth, or to protect against all manner of evils. Other posts in the RP archives show coral being used in recipes centuries later: in the medieval French Livre de simple médicines, in recipe collections from early modern Austria, and in published recipe books from seventeenth-century England, to name just a few. The prevalence of coral in recipes spanning from the ancient to the early modern world points to its perceived power as a transformative ingredient. Like a singing mermaid, coral was precious because it was that rare object that could cross from the watery world into our own. The very fact of its presence on land suggested a wondrous metamorphosis.

Illustration of a cabinet filled with medical ingredients, including coral (second row, right). Livre des simples médecines, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS n.a. fr. 6593, fol. 12322.

The worldview that brought us mermaids and medicinal coral may be long gone, but in so many ways we remain fascinated and mystified by the creatures of the deep—and for good reason! Every day scientists discover new life lurking in the depths, some of it nearly as fantastical as singing mer-people (though not, perhaps, as photogenic as Halle Bailey). Who knows? Maybe somewhere in those depths is an organism with powerful, transformative properties of the kind premodern philosophers could only imagine for coral.

A small selection of deep sea creatures from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. I’m told none have the singing voice of Halle Bailey.

But just as Ariel was up against Ursula’s deadline in The Little Mermaid, we have our own deadline to meet when it comes to marine life. At the rate our oceans have warmed this summer, we may lose the world’s coral reefs within a few years. Early modern naturalists would be appalled—as should we. Deep sea creatures we can only imagine may become extinct before we have a chance to discover them.

So, if there’s one lesson I think we should take from this summer’s excitement for The Little Mermaid and premodern philosophers’ misapprehensions about coral, it’s this: the ocean may be inhospitable to humans and filled with creatures beyond our wildest imagination, but, in the lightly edited words of our marine heroine, that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a “part of [our] world” worth saving.


In the spirit of remembering those who have been “part of our world,” I’d like to take this opportunity to offer enormous thanks to our co-editor, Clare Gordon Bettencourt, who is stepping down from our editorial board. Clare first joined the RP team with me in 2019 as a social media coordinator. If you’ve enjoyed our Twitter feed over the past few years or felt buoyed by the RP’s community online, it’s because of Clare’s work amplifying new scholarship, celebrating accomplishments, and bringing people together in ways that made us all stronger. Of course, Clare is also a researcher and scholar in her own right, and we were lucky to feature her post on “Food Identity Standards and Recipes as Legislation,” based on her dissertation research, in 2021. We are so grateful for her contributions and wish her well in her new career at Santa Clara University.

Interview with Dr. Rebecca Whiteley about Birth Figures: Early Modern Prints and the Pregnant Body (Chicago, 2023)

Interview by Melissa Reynolds

Dr. Rebecca Whiteley, author of Birth Figures

In this issue’s publication highlight, we are delighted to share an interview with Dr. Rebecca Whiteley, whose book, Birth Figures: Early Modern Prints and the Pregnant Body was just published this spring by the University of Chicago Press. Dr. Whiteley is a British Academy Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. An art historian by training, her research works on the intersections between visual and material culture, medical history and social history. Her current research focusses on the nineteenth century, the material culture of obstetric education, and the entanglements of medicine and sex. Her book, Birth Figures, is the first full-length study of the printed images of the pregnant womb that circulated widely in midwifery manuals and surgical books from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

Below, Dr. Whiteley shares her insights about birth figures’ relationship to recipe knowledge, histories of women as practitioners and knowledge-makers, and the practicalities and pleasures of using images as historical sources.

Front cover of Birth Figures: Early Modern Prints and the Pregnant Body, published by the University of Chicago Press in spring 2023.

MR: First, congratulations on the publication of your book! It’s a really important contribution to our understanding of early modern cultures of care work, medical practice, professionalization, print, and visual culture. I’m delighted to share it with our readers. Let me start with a simple but important question: What are “birth figures,” and why do they matter?

Birth figures are images of the fetus in the womb that describe the different ways in which it can present for birth. 

Images of fetal presentation had long been produced in medieval gynaecological manuscripts, but my focus in this book is on the explosion of printed versions in early modern surgical and midwifery guides. They mattered to early modern readers because they described an aspect of pregnancy and childbirth that was very important, but invisible and hard to detect, even once labour had begun. Most babies are born head first, but other positions do occur, and make it more difficult or even impossible to deliver without the intervention of a midwife or surgeon. The role of birth figures in the development of techniques to identify and deal with ‘malpresentations’ is one of the things this book tracks.

But birth figures were important beyond this relatively narrow and technical use. They were a wonderful window into the mysterious interior and held all kinds of power for early modern viewers: an expression of the troublesome womb; a symbol of the alchemy of conception; a tool for shaping the fetus; an argument for the good practice of their commissioning author; a picture of the anticipated child. I tried, in my book, to think as broadly as possible about the way that these little images might have been used and understood by their early modern viewers. Indeed, that is the core of why they are important: they were seen and used by all kinds of people, men and women, professional and lay, and so they encompass something of the vibrant plurality of early modern body culture.

MR: An important argument in your book relates to the idea that birth figures are “practitional images,” by which you mean that birth figures are “images of the body that are primarily concerned not with anatomy but with medical practice” (36). This framing got me thinking about the broader economy of early modern texts/prints that bridge a perceived divide between theoretical and practical knowledge, of which recipes are an important component. Are birth figures and recipes similarly “practitional,” or do you see key differences between the textual directions in midwifery manuals and their visual components?

Yes and no, I think! I find birth figures so interesting partly because they are visual productions, which could communicate things that people struggled to express in text: position, direction, temporality, sensation. Birth figures from the late seventeenth century get really experimental with what they could communicate. Recipes, as largely textual sources, often imply, but rarely attempt to teach this kind of embodied knowledge. A recipe is an aid to a skill still largely learned in the practice. Birth figures, at least in some cases, were attempting to transmit embodied knowledge at a distance (though their success in this is something I debate in the book).

On a deeper level, however, I think there are strong links between recipes and birth figures. Both are abstract, static and permanent expressions of embodied knowledge and lived experience. They make knowledge durable and shareable. They are sources that we need to treat in similar ways in that they give insight into lost knowledges, but they also draw our attention to the gaps, what wasn’t and couldn’t have been recorded. On a related note, in Birth Figures, I speculate briefly about whether birth figures were not just practitional, but also a tool for practice. Both paper and images were important parts of materia medica, especially in Catholic countries where holy printed images were regularly kissed, touched, worn and consumed to effect healing. Even in Protestant countries, prints were widely understood to have very direct and physical effects on the mind, shaping understanding, taste, and emotion. I would love to find out more about how printed images, including birth figures, worked as materials for recipes as well as conduits for knowledge.


Engraving of two fetuses with placenta attached, showing the internal anatomy that connects the umbilical cord to the placenta.
Paul Androuet de Cerceau (draftsman) and Lombars (engraver), engraving, 11 x 17 cm (plate). From Francois Mauriceau, Traité des maladies des femmes grosses et acchouchés (Paris: Jean Henault, Jean D’Houry, Robert de Ninville, and Jean Baptiste Coginard, 1668). Public Domain Mark. Wellcome Collection, London.

MR: One of the themes that I loved the most in your book is its emphasis on women readers and users of birth figures. You reclaim the birth figure as an especially important epistemic site for women, through which they could learn about their bodies, about pregnancy, and about labor and delivery. I can’t help but think about similar arguments regarding recipe collections and recipe knowledge in works by Elaine Leong, Sharon Strocchia, and Alisha Rankin, to name just a few. How do birth figures, like recipes, better help us understand women as healers, practitioners, and experts in their own right? And building from that question, how do birth figures help to complicate a longstanding narrative in the history of medicine and science about women’s displacement from positions of authority as healers and practitioners?

There’s lots of evidence to suggest that birth figures were as much a part of women’s culture of birthing, as they were of men’s culture of learned medicine. Not only do they cross this boundary, they show it up for the flimsy thing it is! Some women were learned, expert medical practitioners who used tools effectively and kept up to date with the medical literature. Others, of course, were completely without these professional masculine spheres and incorporated birth figures into their own epistemologies of birth. Women of both camps, particularly when they worked as midwives, were respected within their communities as experts. Focussing on a printed source that had valence in these different social and epistemological spheres shows the real mobility, flexibility and power that early modern women could have as medical practitioners.

If we take a rare but interesting comment on birth figures by the seventeenth-century midwife and surgeon Percival Willughby—

“all the schemes, and various figures, on which midwives look, making their women to think of wonders, by shewing them these pictures of children, assuring them, that, by these, they bee directed, and perfected, and much enlightened in the way of midwifery”

—we can see that birth figures worked as symbols of women’s knowledge and practice that was simultaneously denigrated, exploited, and respected by medical men. If Willughby was ambivalent about the usefulness of birth figures, he knew better than to try to remove them from his planned midwifery manual. Because, as with recipes, we really can link birth figures to women’s practice and knowledge in childbirth, they offer a valuable insight into these aspects of history that are both difficult to trace, and too often neglected or side-lined.

Engraving of four fetal presentations showing the internal anatomy of the uterus, the spine, and the position of the fetus within the womb.
Frederick Birnie (draftsman) and William Taylor (engraver), engraving 35.6 x 21 cm (plate). “Anatomical tables illustrative of the theory and practice of midwifery. See the System. Plate 4. Reduced from Smellie’s tables by Frederick Birnie, anatomical draughtsman to the late Dr. William Hunter, and engraved by William Taylor.” London: C. Cooke, 1791. Wellcome Collection 561823i. Public Domain Mark.

MR: Finally, recipe collections often feature diagrams or illustrations intended to represent process, very much as birth figures do. What advice would you give to our readers who might be interested in thinking about visual sources of “practitional” knowledge alongside textual sources like recipes?

I would say… good idea! Technical or informational images, which are often called ‘epistemic images’ in scholarship, are rich and valuable sources that haven’t received nearly enough attention. Working on them, then, is not only interesting, but it can also help historians to break new ground. I imagine that images in recipes might help scholars to enrich their understandings of practice, to unearth hidden elements of knowledge, but potentially also to read at a cross grain, to see criticisms, challenges or jokes on the textual matter. Images are good at doing these things because they can be more ambiguous and pluralistic, less direct and implicating, than words.

Working on this kind of image involves juggling different disciplines. To research Birth Figures, I combined methodologies from book and print history, art history, social history, the history of medicine, and material culture. But there is also an increasing body of excellent work on epistemic images specifically. Guiding lights for me include: Susan Dackerman; Lorraine Daston; James Elkins; Peter Galison; Nick Hopwood; Matthew Hunter; Sachiko Kusukawa; and Alexander Wragge-Morley. My one word of warning is that if you want to work with images, be prepared to approach them as complicated sources in their own right. It is all too easy use an image as a simple illustration for a point you want to make, or as ‘evidence’ for a practice you think existed. But all images are creations, they are interpretations of reality, not simple records of it. You need to interrogate not only what they say, but how and why, and always with an awareness of the capacity of an image to be read and used in very diverse ways.

Thank you, Dr. Whiteley! Readers interested in learning more about birth figures and their relationship to medical practice should order Dr. Whiteley’s book here.

Unlearning Patriarchy: Flavors of Change in the Kitchen

By Niharika Tripathi

In the heart of our family kitchen, where the flavors of tradition and conformity converged, I witnessed a peculiar blend between food and patriarchal influence. As a child, I observed how my father’s preferences dictated our kitchen. His love for pumpkin permeated every dish, while the absence of spices like amchoor reflected in our meals. The very clear patriarchal hierarchy fueled by the society shaped our family dynamics. However, amidst this influence, my mother quietly rebelled by striving to please my brother and me with foods that catered to our tastes. It was a small rebellion, but it stood out as a symbol of individuality in a household that often adhered to traditional norms. Little did I know then that this seemingly mundane aspect of our daily lives held a deeper connection to the journey of unlearning patriarchal codes and the pursuit of personal rejuvenation, reimagination, reconception, and rebirth.

An image of kaddu ki sabzi (pumpkin dish), lovingly prepared by my mother.

Thinking back on the food choices that were made, one ingredient stands out in my memory: khatai. This small, pickle-like condiment, with its tangy and savory notes, held a special place in my heart. Growing up, khatai was a rarity in our meals, as my father never allowed its inclusion. I could only indulge in its delightful taste when I visited my grandmother once a year.

The limited access to khatai made it all the more precious to me. It became a symbol of the connections I cherished, the memories I treasured, and the small rebellions that brought me joy. So, as I continue to infuse the flavors of khatai into my meals, I do so with gratitude for the memories it evokes and the personal liberation it represents. It’s a reminder that even the smallest additions to our kitchen can carry profound significance, honoring our past while shaping our future.

A collection of spices, including amchoor, representing the diverse flavors explored in our kitchen.

Thinking back on the food choices that were made, one ingredient stands out in my memory: khatai. This small, pickle-like condiment, with its tangy and savory notes, held a special place in my heart. Growing up, khatai was a rarity in our meals, as my father never allowed its inclusion. I could only indulge in its delightful taste when I visited my grandmother once a year.

The limited access to khatai made it all the more precious to me. It became a symbol of the connections I cherished, the memories I treasured, and the small rebellions that brought me joy. As I continue to infuse the flavors of khatai into my meals, I do so with gratitude for the memories it evokes and the personal liberation it represents. It’s a reminder that even the smallest additions to our kitchen can carry profound significance, honoring our past while shaping our future.

As I grew older, I couldn’t help but notice another aspect of patriarchal codes: the unequal distribution of food. Even as times changed, the practice of serving men first persisted within our extended family. Even now, as my cousins’ wives and my sister-in-law strive for change, my aunts and mother find solace in feeding everyone else before savoring the meals they have lovingly prepared. 

Amidst the flavors that defined our family’s culinary landscape, there was one dish that my mother held close to her heart: kadhi. Its tangy notes and velvety texture had always enticed her taste buds. However, a cloud of restriction hung over this beloved dish. My father, driven by his own preferences, made it very clear that he did not care for kadhi. The mere mention of it seemed to trigger an unspoken restriction. Although my mother had a strong fondness for kadhi, she still adhered to the restriction. It was a silent sacrifice, a relinquishing of her own desires to appease the patriarchal codes that subtly dictated our family’s culinary choices.

Kadhi Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons gram flour (besan)

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)

Curry leaves 

Salt to taste

Fresh coriander leaves for garnish

My mother would whisk curd with gram flour to form a smooth mixture. In a pan, she would heat ghee and add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and a pinch of asafoetida, sautéing them briefly. Then, she would add the yogurt-gram flour mixture and stir in water, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and salt. The kadhi would simmer on low heat until it thickened and the raw taste of gram flour disappeared. Finally, she would garnish it with fresh coriander leaves. While this process resulted in a delicious dish, its significance has always been beyond its flavour for me. 

Through these experiences of our kitchen, I developed a sense of self awareness of the pervasive influence of patriarchal codes and their impact on individuals and relationships around me. I started questioning the norms and expectations that permeated our family dynamics. Witnessing my mother’s quiet rebellion and the compromises she made to accommodate the preferences of others opened my eyes to the hidden sacrifices and silencing of personal desires that often accompany traditional gender roles. It became clear to my brother and I that unlearning patriarchal codes required a conscious dismantling of ingrained patterns and a reimagining of relationships rooted in equality and individual autonomy.

A bowl of tangy and velvety kadhi, representing a dish restricted by patriarchal preferences.

The change in our kitchen may have seemed subtle at first, but in hindsight, it was a much-needed and transformative shift. As I began questioning the patriarchal nature of our surroundings, a seed of change was planted within our family dynamic. The conversations initiated sparked a collective awakening, encouraging each family member to reevaluate their own beliefs and behaviors in the kitchen. We recognized the need to break free from the limitations imposed by tradition and embrace a more inclusive and authentic way of living. Gradually, our kitchen became a space where everyone’s voices were heard, preferences were respected, and contributions were celebrated. It was through this subtle revolution that we cultivated an environment of harmony, equality, and individual empowerment. The change in our kitchen rippled into other aspects of our lives, inspiring us to challenge societal norms, pursue personal growth, and forge deeper connections with one another. In hindsight, I now realize that this seemingly small shift held the power to transform not only our family’s relationship with food but also our overall sense of well-being and fulfillment.

The dining table displays a variety of dishes. In the center, a vibrant pumpkin dish stands out, accompanied by a creamy kadhi bowl.

Niharika Tripathi is a feminist researcher and writer specializing in research and advocacy. With a background in law, she brings a unique perspective to her work, focusing on gender-based violence and social change. Through qualitative research and community engagement, Niharika challenges patriarchal norms, striving for a more inclusive world.