Knowledge Keeping

There was a drawer in our house where Mom stored recipes written on little two-by-four manila cards that yellowed more and more over time. Those were her records.
There was also the unrecorded—though very much so embodied—performance of watching her make those recipes and then declaring rest when the work was done.

My father kept decades of vinyl records up in the attic crawl spaces. Music quite literally filled every high and low corner. Today, the sounds reappear like phantoms in the attics of my memory. Beres Hammond, The Wailers and Dawn Penn are all there.

The people I know maintain a special kind of storage. They are knowledge keepers in mind, body and soul. This is a special kind of keeping.

And so I’m thinking a lot about how value is kept then passed down from them to me and so on. I am starting to think about it in terms of not just food, however grateful I am that food has brought me to this current state. I am starting to think about the many ways of being well. If there is anything I am most hopeful for, it is an opportunity to pass on more generative traditions of wellness to others. Wellness for me has looked like creating my own definition of value and that knowledge I now keep, I pass down in the ways that recipes and records have found there way into my work and me.

XX DeVonn Francis

How does food relate to the concept of the Living Room?

I think about the domestic space a lot as a way to resist the professional space. In a big city, it’s easy to forget that we live in homes because we call them apartments. In fact, I think someone corrected me the other day when I asked them if they were heading home for the night instead of asking them if they were heading back to their apartment. In a lot of ways, ‘home’ is the place we left for New York. Your apartment is a place of functionality that you dress up in to emote a distinction between someone else’s 850 square foot box and yours. We never take the same time and care into our living spaces as we do our professional or institutional spaces. We see our homes as a place to lie down at the end of the day, but not always a primary place of memory.

For me, my getting over the shame of my home allowed me to realize how fortunate I am to have a foundation that was situated in the domestic. No matter who came through our doors, we treated them as if they were family. We offered them what we had because we knew what it felt like to be on the opposite side of that interaction. What’s more, I think that folks who have a migrant history (as my family does) take a specific type of pride in their living space. The walls do trap smells of winter spice and flour particles. The curry hugs your clothes in ways you would rather live without. But in any case it makes a strong impression on you. The meals that we had in our living rooms varied time to time. My mother was as excited to pull out here crystal for the holidays as she was to have perfected a stuffed fish held in place by toothpicks she learned to not burn by pre-soaking them before baking. There is something here, too, about the help-yourself-to-a-plate style table. Leaving an assortment of offerings out in banquet form.

An alter to memory and the spirit of generosity.  

Xx DeVonn Francis