Love and Hate in the Kitchen – April 4 – 6, 2014

Note from Gail:  I am thrilled to present this latest blog post by guest blogger, Liat Katz.

Liat offers this  marvelous summary written in her distinct voice — full of humor and insight.  Enjoy!


“Good food and good eating are about risk.”
Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
Émile Zola

“You Have the Right to Say Big Things”
― David Groff, poet, writer, and independent editor; leader of New Directions optional  day-long workshop on “The Writer as Expert, Cultural Citizen and Author: Building a Publishing Presence and a Persona for your Writing.”


The Washington Center for Psychoanalysis New Directions Weekend, Love and Hate in the Kitchen, was held April 4-6, 2014.  As a guest blogger and a brand new blogger, I will try to give you a taste (pun intended) of the experience.

Liat Katz

First, there is the arrival for the weekend….

kitchen 1 IMG_4360There is something about the smell of the Residence Inn, the familiar hotel staff, Paco and Deb, your nametags amongst old friends’ nametags, the undulating swirls on the carpet, and friends that all greet you like family when you return to New Directions.

Immediately I feel like I am home again.

And the weekend itself…

I should warn you, food puns and tasteless (oop, did it already) food metaphors abound.

I got two big takeaway nuggets from this weekend’s plenaries:

1) Food (and its connected sisters, eating and cooking) is about interconnectedness and relationships, which, of course, always involves the ambivalence of Love and Hate.  

2) Cracking the Webby electronic world of online publishing is necessary, but requires learning a daunting new language, putting yourself out there, and putting in a ridiculous amount of hard work.


Navigation Links

The following links are provided the help you navigate in various ways through the blog.  You can skip the links and read straight through, or you can use to links to take you to the specific parts of the blog that most interest you:

David Groff’s Thursday workshop: The Writer as Expert, Cultural Citizen and Author: Building a Publishing Presence and a Persona for your Writing.”

Michaele Weissman’s Introduction to the Weekend

-Plenary 1: Michael Twitty’s,The Relationship Between Black and White Women in Southern Kitchens Before and After Slavery

Plenary 2: Chefs on the couch, a Conversation with Justin Frank and Ris Lacoste

Friday Night Scientific Meeting: Justin Frank on Love and Hate in the Kitchen

Plenary 3: Galit Atlas-Koch’s Sex and the Kitchen

Plenary 4: Michele Kayal’s Writing for Online Publication


David Groff’s Thursday Workshop

David Groff, Poet, writer, and independent editor, does an optional day-long workshop on Thursday, April 3, 2014, entitled,The Writer as Expert, Cultural Citizen and Author: Building a Publishing Presence and a Persona for your Writing.”

When I was a young child, I ran and I ran and I ran to catch the sun as it was setting, and it was always just beyond my grasp. After about an hour in David Groff’s workshop, I sink deep in my chair, wide-eyed, and I realize that writing can be like that–there is no, I mean no, real point of heavenly arrival in the published world where you know you’ve actually made it. You just keep writing, writing, writing and never quite reach it, but working hard to make a presence in the social media world can get you read and heard and published a bit. (Ok, right about now, I bet the New Directions steering committee is doubting their decision to have such a cynic be their guest blogger. So I’ll just say thank you for this one opportunity now, while I move to the upper Northwest to do logging instead of blogging.)

Groff starts talking about maintaining a social media presence and being a cultural citizen so people will start coming to us. It is then that I realize that although there may not be a publishing point of Nirvana, in this day and age, we have more control over our own literary existence in the world of social media than we ever did before.Kitchen3.jpg

Groff notes that we need to Facebook, to tweet, and to blog (at least 3 X a week), and I am such a novice that I did not realize all of those were even verbs. He suggests that we need to then write small magazine pieces, to write and submit OP/ED pieces, all before submitting to more well-known magazines, and then, eventually, to an agent, and then on to a publisher.

Throughout this session, I continue to slowly get the notion that learning the web-based platforms of the world actually create a whole genre of opportunity to get your work seen by a variety of audiences. Web-based literacy is essential in reaching the reading audience of today.

And the world is moving fast–blogs, twitter, Facebook, self-publishing, tumblr– these are not the tools reserved just for young people, these are the tools for the folks that want to be heard. I learned that I have to tighten up my mission statement as a writer so I have something to say that people want to hear, and then make sure that I am heard.

“A lot of books I would respect in the morning, but I don’t need them,” he noted. He says that we need our readers to need us. (I’m not sure I’ve been that successful in getting people in life to need me, so this is going to be a hard one.)

Groff is overwhelmingly realistic about the marketing/publishing process.

He suggests we ask, “How do you know you’re worth caring about?” Which gives us the imperative to work harder and make ourselves indispensable to a reader.

“You need to be an egomaniacal crazy person” to be the protagonist in your story, he continues.

And he says,“You have the right to say big things.”  It is that point that I realize the scary and fun fact that to be an expert online, all you have to do is say that you’re an expert and try to write like you are one. It reminded me of an exposé I once saw years ago on women CEO’s. One of the women said that the key to her rising to the top was to sound like she knew what she was doing 100% of the time, even if she did not know what she was doing. Declaring expertise online to get followers seems similar. Sound like you know what you are talking about and the readers will follow.

So he tells us we need to build a brand before getting a book published. That writers typically have the default unrealistic notion that ‘I have got to write that book, and I’ll get plucked from the crowd’ for fame. But really, Groff says, the book comes last—people want to know who you are first. As you define yourself, you build a brand and the readers and publishers come to you.

And the publisher piece is complex too—He suggests for us to look at small presses, at university presses (they don’t pay well, but can be prestigious), professional-based presses, and, also, of course, at self-publishing, which is a whole other complex genre. He teaches us specifics about query letters and book proposals.

At some point toward the end, the room grows eerily quiet. Quiet, I think, because we as women, as analysts, very often just us as people—we are background people taking notes, not flag-planting people declaring who we are. Clearly, though, it is time to make our flag and plant it.

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Michaele Weissman’s Introduction to the Weekend

Kitchen 4.jpgMichaele Weissman, the organizer, introduces the weekend. She is a journalist, author (of God in a Cup  and co-author of History of Women in America), and she is a cook. Her husband runs a Latvian bread company—and she speaks about the deep levels of spiritual and cultural meaning of making bread.

“Among Other Things, Food is An Act of Love,” she states, and she spouts off a repeated theme for the weekend: that for her-food is fraught with meaning, relationships, love, and connectedness: “If you come to my house for dinner, ten years later I will remember that you don’t like Brussels sprouts,” she says and we believe her, and instantly want to be invited into her life and into her kitchen.

And when someone asks her about when she writes and her writing process, she notes, “I try to get up [in the morning to write] before my resistance.”  Don’t we all, I think. Don’t we all.

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Plenary 1

ND April 2014-1020521Michael Twitty, was the first speaker of the weekend. He is an African-American and Jewish self-taught Culinary Historian, and on his KosherSoul account on Twitter ( ) he states that he is “re-creating historical dishes from ‪#Africa through slavery and their connection to contemporary ‪#food.”

So, at first, Michael Twitty speaking here seems a bit out-of-place, and we’re all looking around—he is not talking about writing nor is he speaking about psychoanalysis. But when exploring such a vast topic as food, it makes sense to start with food’s roots and history through his historical lens.

Without a speech in front of him, Michael delves into his passion for finding the roots of culture through food. He notes that it is important to look at food history in an interdisciplinary way—he uses archeologists, demographers, zoologists, ethnobotanists, botanists, and sociologists when examining the history of a culture through its food. (I had to look up the field of ethnobotany; I had never heard of such a thing. The fact that you could just look at a plant and know about a culture is such a magical concept to me)

In speaking about slavery and its intertwined history with different peoples and foods, he notes to his virtually all-white audience that everyone in our room has an ancestor that was enslaved.

ND April 2014-1020518He relays the fact that in the 18th century, men were mostly cooks and 19th century, women were mostly cooks, because they stayed in slavery to stay with their children. Enslaved people of different ethnic origins began working together in the US—and the meld in cultures made for combined food. White women writing cookbooks in the 1820’s, such as Mary Randolph were penning African-based recipes they were writing down to pass on to their daughters, including Gumbos and okra dishes.

Referring to the African slaves in the South, Twitty notes, “they were the only enslaved people who enslaved the palettes [of those] who owned them.”

Twitty also briefly speaks about his extensive use of social media, which is how, I believe, the folks at New Directions found him. He says that when he saw that twitter became the medium of the Arab Spring, he knew he wanted to become a part of it. He also notes that he uses crowd funding for his endeavors. And I find myself being glad that he stretched his studies from slavery to food to Twitter to New Directions so that we could benefit from his self-taught wealth of knowledge.

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Plenary 2
Kitchen 6.jpgOn Friday afternoon, Justin Frank, M.D, author, psychoanalyst, and former restaurateur, interviews Ris Lacoste, owner and chef of the restaurant, Ris in Washington, DC.

So this sort of casual conversation is a new format, a different one than any I have seen in my three years at New Directions. The format is relaxed and it is sometimes helpful and generative, sometimes slow, and sometimes awkward and seemingly voyeuristic.

We hear about Ris’ (AKA Doris’) life. She was the 5th of 7 children cared for by a loving but busy working class mother. “Food is love in our family,” Ris says, and relays funny stories about everyone loving to eat.

Not an analyst myself, I start to absorb the Neo-Freudian ear from my fellow audience members, and I sense a subtle flavor of defenses wafting up as Ris describes her quiet non-fighting perfect household in her family of origin. She is so pleasant and vulnerable up there, though, that I choose to hear her story as just that, a story of a chef’s family as she portrays it, warm and tasty and good.

Ris says that as restaurant chef, you need to wear so many hats to make a seductive menu: mother, disciplinarian, schmooze person, businessperson, etc. And for her, the restaurant has become her family as well. She feels, she tells us, that her responsibility as a mentor is to bring out the goodness and creativity in people who work for her.

And when she speaks about her restaurant family, her eyes light up. She talks about kissing the guy she buys peaches from. She wants to know who is growing all of her food and she wants a relationship with all of them. Sometimes she knows the name of the animal she is butchering for a meal. So many hidden relationships and goings on happen in the trenches of the kitchen, and she said sexual tensions make you work harder.

ND April 2014-1020537“[As a chef] I don’t see my home, I don’t have a life,” she lamented, but she acknowledges that she has created a home-like environment at the restaurant. She loves going to work everyday, and she has developed a space for herself and her eighty-five staff members in her restaurant that has re-created the warmth and has embraced all the security that she grew up knowing. She also keeps the important people alive in her life that have passed away by using their dishes that nourish her, she says, like her mother nourished her.

She is clearly confident in her role at the restaurant. In a slightly awkward moment, however, Justin asks Ris about when she is not confident. She speaks about her self-image, her weight, and her [lack of] relationships, and I feel a bit exploitive and voyeuristic. “It sucks to be fat,” she says and smiles, and with that, she seems to own some confidence in knowing herself. And I let a breath out, knowing it is okay to be watching this.

Ris is a fascinating character who clearly has had an interesting life. She proclaims that she still has Julia Child on speed dial—“She was a great student,” she notes.  “I dined with her many times.” Ris closed 1789 Restaurant to throw a 90th birthday party for Julia Child.

As a child, I remember being fascinated by my brother, a champion chess player, who could play chess with other strong players without a board. They would announce moves to each other and visualize the game in their heads. Ris describes something similar. She can make a menu and know how each new item looks, tastes, and smells, just based on the ingredients, spices, and cooking method without actually tasting it. She knows food so well, she can taste it cerebrally, and I sit in the audience in awe of the magic.

She speaks about food and her restaurant with so much love.

As she describes the food she makes and the restaurant that she has created, my mouth begins to water for the experience of eating at Ris. And, after our graduation on Saturday night, I dine at Ris with three New Directions friends. And the atmosphere and food is just as she describes. Warm, soulful, friendly, and with depth of flavor. We could taste the richness of her soul in every bite.

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Friday Night Scientific Meeting

Justin Frank, M.D, author (Bush on the Couch and Obama on the Couch ) psychoanalyst, and former restaurateur, gives the keynote speech: Love and Hate in the Kitchen.Kitchen 7.jpg

Ok, so first of all, it must be noted that Justin Frank has a presence. He has a handlebar moustache, brown cowboy boots, a purple tie, and a bit of a swagger. Not your typical psychoanalytic wardrobe. And he is clearly not your typical psychoanalyst. He appears to be warm, honest, and strongly, um, opinionated. His two passions, he explains, are psychoanalysis and cooking.

Throughout his speech, he compares psychoanalysis to cooking: He speaks of finding truths in the kitchen and in psychoanalysis.

He talks about the relative anonymity of being a chef and of being a psychoanalyst. Anonymity? Justin writes on popular topics, appears on television, and teaches. Oh, and did I mention the cowboy boots and handlebar moustache? Not much anonymity there.

He compares the chef making the dinner to an analyst making the interpretations. He notes that both chef and analyst deal with the interplay of fantasy and reality–taking raw ingredients and transforming them into something manageable. He speaks of the chef in terms of Kleinian statements of mothers milk/nursing breasts/identification with mother/ and resulting fantasies.

Justin Frank touches on the ambiguity of language in the analyst’s office and in the kitchen. “If a patient says, ‘I’m depressed,’ it could mean a variety of things. As such, if a restaurant customer says, ‘ I want my steak rare,’ it could also mean a variety of things,” he explains.  And, like the ambiguity of life in general, I find the truthfulness of both ambiguities unsettling. I want my chef and my analyst to know exactly what I mean even if they don’t.

Like Ris, Justin Frank notes that a chef functions as mommy, daddy, structure, care, safety, and leader who makes the “kids” feel safe. Structure in a family and in a restaurant, Justin tells us manages affect, and acts as container–clear structure makes families and kitchens run smoother.  He notes that as a chef, you can reclaim your history and repair your damage by repairing other people. “Kitchen life is about a life-affirming synthesis.”

Justin Frank acknowledges that being a chef is really hard. When he asked a cooking friend of his, “Don’t you want to be a chef?” his friend responded, “ No I like cooking too much.” After David Groff’s seminar and at this point in the weekend, I was beginning to feel like that was the same with writing—“Don’t you want to be well published?” someone could ask me now, and I’d respond, “No, I like writing too much.”

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Plenary 3

Kitchen 8.jpgOOn Saturday afternoon, Galit Atlas-Koch Ph.D, gives the plenary: Sex and the Kitchen. Atlas-Koch is a psychoanalyst, creative arts therapist, and clinical supervisor in private practice in Manhattan. Her writings focus on sexuality and on the relationship between attachment and sexuality.

Atlas-Koch is lively, warm, and inviting with a thick Israeli-accent, much like the kitchen of her youth that she describes.

She speaks of her Persian Jewish grandmother’s kitchen where the female members of Atlas’ extended family gathered to share their lives.

Kitchen 9.jpgFor the first time in the weekend, we hear the voice of real ambivalence. She describes her grandmother’s kitchen as attractive and disgusting. She realizes that she both idealizes and devalues the kitchen.

Women had a voice and shared secrets in her grandmother’s kitchen. Little girls like Atlas-Koch, though, could not have a voice in the kitchen until they were women.

“The kitchen is a space for the subjective mind, ” Koch-Atlas states, and I wonder if there is a room that is not.

The audience perked up when Koch-Atlas gave compelling case examples fraught with food-related meanings and longings.

Mired in food metaphors, she tells of clients’ relationships and their requests that Atlas-Koch feed them as an omnipotent mother. As I listen to Atlas-Koch, I am reminded that we all want to be fed by our mothers and our therapists. Our everyday metaphors may not be so blatant but for all of us, emptiness hungers for the comfort of a mothers’ kitchen.

Atlas-Koch describes a client’s dreams and how the client slowly develops insight even as she begins to know how to feed herself. And in the end, Atlas-Koch also describes the feminist kitchen where women have agency and power to feed ourselves. I realize that my kitchen at home is both messy and beautiful, and I find myself well-fed and nourished by her talk.

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Plenary 4

Food journalist Michele Kayal, co-founder of the online magazine, American Food Roots, conducts a workshop on online writing.Kitchen 10.jpg

Ok, once again, wow. Just wow. Kayal gives lots of useful nuggets on making an online presence, but for most of us this world continues to be a bit overwhelming.

She suggests that we use “first line grabbers” online.

She suggests we populate our writing with pics.

She indicates that we need over 500,000 viewers to get advertisers. I start to wonder if I have even will see or know that many people in my lifetime. Beads of sweat appear on my forehead.

Kitchen 11.jpgShe notes that we (ok, our blogs) may get sponsors who align with us if we have specific audiences. Unfortunately I think my audience at this point would be people who are overwhelmed by an online presence. And I’m not sure they would make much of an online presence.

She suggests we use WordPress to blog—it is free, intuitive, and easy to use.

Like Groff, Kayal notes that we need to think of a title and subtitle of a blog that reflects our mission statement.

And, by the end of the weekend, our heads are full of ideas on creating an online presence. Or absence. We are conjugating Twitter (I tweet, you tweet, we tweeted on Twitter, you twit.) I hear more than one ND participant say, “Oh sh*t, I forgot my Twitter password already.”  We think about blogging about blogging, and we are wondering what we are really about as we are coming up with mission statements for our own self-corporation.

We are asking people to “follow” us, to “friend” us, to “like” us, to “comment on” us and hopefully, hopefully, we remember how to continue to connect to each other in real ways.  And remember how fun it is to actually write.

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