Too Many Cooks: Contested Authority in the Kitchen by Sonya J. Lancaster Ellen Douglas begins her novel Can't Quit You, Baby in a kitchen. Cornelia, the white employer, and Tweet, her black domestic servant, sit together at the kitchen table making preserves. "There is no getting around in these stories of two lives that the black woman is the white woman's servant. There would be no way in that time and place-- the nineteen-sixties and seventies in Mississippi--for them to get acquainted, except across the kitchen table from each other" (5). White women's kitchens were one of the few spaces in which cross-racial relationships developed during segregation, and these relationships were rigorously circumscribed by the gulf in status and power separating the black domestic worker from her white employer. Alice Childress, in her collection Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic's Life, shows how her character Mildred, a black domestic, chafes against this circumscription in the stories Mildred tells her friend Marge about her white employers. These two literary representations of cross-racial relationships show white women profiting from the oppressive circumstances of the black women they employ--often forcing a one-sided intimacy on them--and black women expressing
The Southern Literary Journal – University of North Carolina Press
Published: May 31, 2006
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