This article traces how the queer Black writer James Baldwin’s transnational palate and experiences influenced the ways he wrote about Black domestic spaces in the late twentieth century. In the 1960s and 1970s, while Black feminist cooks and writers like Edna Lewis, Jessica B. Harris, and Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor developed new theories of soul food in relation to the Black American community and broader American cuisine, Baldwin incorporated these philosophies and transnational tastes into his lifestyle and works. He traveled and worked around Europe, settling in places like Paris, Istanbul, and Saint-Paul de Vence for years at a time. In Saint-Paul de Vence, where he spent his last years, he set up his own welcome table, at which he hosted internationally renowned guests and shared his love of cuisine. Inevitably, Baldwin’s passion for cooking and hosting meals became a large, though scholarly neglected, component of his novels and essays. In his novels Another Country, which he finished in Istanbul and published in 1962, and Just Above My Head, which he finished in Saint-Paul de Vence and published in 1979, Baldwin’s depictions of food and Black kitchens take a queer turn. Instead of lingering on traditional Black family structures, these texts specifically present new formulations of intimate home life and reimagine relationships between food, kitchens, race, and sex in the late twentieth century.
At the time of their publication, Joanna Baillie‘s dramas were considered to be works of genius in their sustained and powerful fixation on one of the several possible human passions. In their very focus on these intense emotions, however, the plays actually reified the dangers inherent in the extremes of human passion. In other words, by fixing her attention on the passions, Baillie revealed that the emotions she was supposedly focused on often masked other, even more powerful desires. Thus, in Orra fear is the result of the heroines hatred of male dominance, while in De Monfort hatred is shown to be the symptom of incestuous love. But what has not been noticed about Baillie‘s plays is their almost obsessive interest in dead, abjected male bodies. Both plays present a very gothic vision of the indestructible patriarchy, an uncanny phallic power that cannot die, that persistently resurrects and feeds on itself or the legends that it has constructed.