Dying in Kitchens

By Madeline Lane-McKinley

I: How Many Times Have You Died In Your Kitchen?

“… A young crust punk girl I knew needed a place to crash and so I offered her our couch, kind of out of a desire to feel less isolated from other women. I had to make a birthday cake for this boyfriend, and the crust punk offered to make me tea. This was surprising because she hadn’t cooked anything in the month she’d been there– she’d been living off packs of ramen her mom had bought her. I drank the tea and started baking the cake. After about 20 minutes, the girl asked if I was feeling any different. Because she had put a little bit of acid in the tea, she said. I opened the oven and looked at the cake. It was supposed to be red velvet, but was just neon red molten bubbles like some toxic lake of hell. I feared the cake but was also mesmerized by it. I had, thanks to the acid, forgotten to put flour in it. I pulled the benighted cake out too quickly and its 300 degree red ichor sloshed over the edge of the pan and onto my arm.”

In Minnesota, kitchen fires killed more people in 2013 than in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 combined.

The police arrived at a “tidy suburban home” on a Monday at 1PM. The kitchen was splattered with blood, and the elderly woman was on the floor unconscious. “The daughter, enraged, ultimately stabbed her mother to death.”

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Every year in the United States more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their kitchen or living room.

… in 2 out of 3 female homicide cases, females are killed by a family member or sexual partner. These homicides often take place in either the kitchen or the bedroom.

… approximately 39,000 people die from poisoning, 2,500 people die from choking, 2,700 people die from fires, 25,000 people die from falls, and all of these are considered ‘accidents.’ While most falls are ‘workplace injuries,’ poisoning, choking, and fires happen at home. These are also workplace injuries.

In September 2015, a self-described “ISIS-obsessed” Danish teenage-girl stabbed her mother to death in their kitchen.

“As I unloaded the dishwasher, I lifted up my head and it banged into the sharp edge of a cabinet door. My body jolted, and I threw myself back into the stove. After knocking into the stove, I fell on the ground clasping my head and sobbing. My daughter was standing next to me, with her mouth gaping open. She couldn’t move her feet. I tried to tell her that I was Ok, but my mouth couldn’t move. I wanted to hold her hand but my hand was clinging to my head. We were alone in the kitchen together.”

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II: How I almost died in the kitchen.

“My boyfriend left the house to play a street basketball game, and I sat down in the kitchen to read. The whole time he was gone I just sat there and read half a book. When he came home I stood up and realized where I was in this world, in the kitchen, my eyes went blurry as he gave me a hug. My whole body went limp. He let go of me and said, ‘my arms are tired from basketball.’ I fell straight backwards and slammed my head into the kitchen counter on the way to the floor.”

Her sleeve caught on fire as she lifted her arm over the burner to turn off the kettle.

“I once blew my head up in an old gas oven.  Making brownies on Halloween. I still don’t like either of these things.”

On a Friday, a woman fell to her death trying to climb into her boyfriend’s kitchen window on the fourth floor of a Williamsburg brownstone.

Out of the 2,596,993 deaths in the United States in 2010, 584,881 people died from cancer, 130,557 people died from unintentional injuries, and 41,149 people died intentionally.

She slipped on a puddle in the kitchen and flew onto her back. She felt like a wet fish on the ground as she laid there waiting for hours for someone to come home. She listened for the footsteps on the sidewalk, unable to do much else.

She died “by putting her head in a gas oven as her two small children slept in a bedroom nearby, which she had sealed against gas fumes, and where she had placed mugs of milk and a plate of bread for them to find when they awoke.”

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III: Amnesiac.

His deteriorated body was found on the kitchen floor. There were multiple liquor bottles scattered on the floor. The neighbors said it had been months since they’d seen him. The grass was overgrown in his lawn. The electricity had been shut off. The autopsy determined he’d been dead for over a year.

“I was alone in my echo-y apartment… pouring boiling water into a vintage glass pitcher (the only thing left of my former roommate who I adored, who taught me something about feminism incidentally) to make iced tea, it broke and so I poured the boiling water and shards all down my legs. I don’t really remember what happened next, but I remember going around with gauze for a few weeks after that.”

My friend died in his kitchen. He had been drinking kava tea for his stress while grading student papers all day. He hung himself after buying a full bag of groceries. When I cleaned out his kitchen, I took all of his spices and I am waiting for them to go stale.

“Paralysis still with me… When I stop, moving, other lives & single-track aims shoulder me into shadow. I am fixed, fixated on neatness.”

“[A] high mechanization of domestic chores doesn’t free any time… for the machine doesn’t exist that makes and minds children.”

“I got up and went into the kitchen to do the dishes. And shit I thought I probably won’t bother again. But I’ll get bugged and not bother to tell you and after a while everything will be awful and I’ll never say anything because it’s so fucking uncool to talk about it. And that I thought will be that and what a shame.”

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IV: Fields, kitchens, prisons.

“If a woman sells cloth in the market, she is a weaver, but if she makes cloth in the home, she is only a wife.”

When you cut your finger how many seconds does it take you to wonder how you’ll wash your dishes for however long it will take for the skin to heal over or will you have to wash your dishes with the cut and how much longer will it then take for the skin to heal?

“For not to see women’s work in the home is to be blind to the work and struggles of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population which is wageless. It is to ignore not only that American capital was built on slave labour as well as waged labour, but also that up to this day it thrives on the wageless work of millions of women and men in the fields, kitchens, prisons, of the U.S. and throughout the world.”

After that mustard is used, how will it get back to the fridge?

“… we know that the working day for capital does not necessarily produce a pay-check and does not begin and end at the factory gates. And we rediscover, first, the nature and extent of housework itself. For as soon as we raise our heads from the socks we mend and the meals we cook and look at the totality of our working day, we see clearly that while this does not result in a wage for ourselves, we produce the most precious product to appear on the capitalist market: labour power. Housework, in fact, is much more than house cleaning. It is servicing the wage earner physically, emotionally, sexually, getting him ready to work day after day for the wage.”

The sociologists visited the commune to count the number of dishes the women were washing.

She became the ‘kitchen bitch,’ every single time.

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V: Amnesiac.

“Were I not to forget then how could I do it again?”

 

With infinite thanks to Cara Baldwin, Maya Andrea Gonzalez, Johanna Isaacson, Kristin Koster, Laura E. Martin, Sarah Rupp, Nicole Trigg, and Chloe Watlington for their thoughts, contributions, and inspiration. Additional material from Nicole Cox, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Diane DiPrima, Sylvia Federici, Frances Glessner Lee, Claudia Jones, Selma Jones, Sylvia Plath, and many others…

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