Ever wonder why everyone ends up in the kitchen at a party—even when there’s a huge living room and house to prance in? Or why the waft of garlic from roasting veggies makes your lips turn up in a smile? Or what is it about the smell of a family favorite that can bring tears of nostalgia to your eyes? Or why cooking or spending time in the kitchen can seem intense or foreign?
For Cali-based kitchen healer Jules Blaine Davis, that strong visceral response is based on the stories we grew up with. Davis sees the kitchen as not only the heart of the home but also the bigger body we nourish and live our lives inside of. So many important stories that create patterns, ideas, and narratives for the rest of our lives—conscious and unconscious—are birthed in the kitchen. Layer on a serious dose of guilt, shame, and confusion for many women who fought hard to get out of the kitchen and now aren’t sure of their place in it, and you’ve got a cornucopia of emotions.
After hearing a slew of these stories from her friends, Jules began working with women to rewrite the stories that, for many of us, continue to live in the kitchen and our bodies. Through healing virtually & in-person, Davis works with clients to create a space for them to unravel their connection with their body, the rhythm of their day-to-day life, and their relationship with food. Her intention? To nourish their longing and build a new connection that aligns with who they are, as well as what will support their lives in and out of the kitchen.
Read on to learn about her own connection with the kitchen, why she loves using wood boards to create delicious offerings, and her shopping tips!
SBS: How would you describe parts of your own food story?
Jules Blaine Davis: My food story began with my mother in the kitchen. When she was in there, I was with her a lot of the time. There was every emotion, usually a lot more anger than joy. There was a lot of fire in the kitchen, and that fire wasn’t always turned on by the oven. But I believe in the fire, I believe in the kitchen, and I believe the anger in the kitchen can be healed through the work I do now.
When we were in the kitchen, my experience was that it was grounding to be in there. I wouldn’t say it was light all the time, but it was as though we were doing something with those emotions. At the time, I didn’t look at that and say that. I just knew there was a lot of liveliness. I loved learning about cooking and what my mother was up to in there.
A wider idea for me is that a lot of things were out of my control, but in the kitchen there was control. You could turn on the Cuisinart. And it wasn’t control in the way of depriving ourselves of sugar. When a situation is out of your hands, you want something you can indeed control in your hands. It was something bodily, and as an artist and performer, when I express bodily, I understand. I didn’t know that then in that clear of terms, but anything I could sink my body into felt aligned.
Now, my work is so much about how we were nourished (or not nourished), and how that truly shapes how we end up living our life.
SBS: What was your mother’s cooking like?
JBD: Her cooking was such a mix. Her food story was made from the mix of her being southern Baptist, and then converted to Judaism. That combination is a big piece of both of our food stories. It was fried okra, collard greens, and latkes, or collard greens and then bagels and nova lox. There were no spices. Spiciness came from bodies in the room.
SBS: What other ways are bodily experiences key to you?
JBD: I’ve always been a performer and an artist in dance, theater, and the arts. I have always been so curious about the ability of the body. I always had such a hunger and thought, ‘Wow, look at this body! What am I doing with this body?'
SBS: When did your natural affinity for kitchen healing form as a job?
JBD: About 10 years ago, I’d be in the kitchen often with different women. I’d put squash in the oven, and we’d all be talking, women with babies on their boobs. I could feel and hear the shame when they’d talk about how their husbands cooked dinner. They’d say it was fine, but I could hear their guilt. It was right around the time of all the good work of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and the Slow Food movement. It was a big time around changing the idea about food, how we gather it and what it all means.
Initially, I didn’t know what I was up to. I just kept showing up. I was hungry to be with women and their stories. There were so many issues around food, bodies, nourishment, and life. At first, I was hosting gatherings with women in my kitchen. I would read poetry, cook, and feed them; they would share what was happening for them in their lives and with their hearts. We were a circle of women, in the kitchen, tending to our longing, our gratitude, and our grief.
Then, I started offering kitchen healings. I started with one friend, and it grew from there. Now, I offer what I call journeys. We start cooking something…and we let it cook for 15 weeks. We have room and space and then we soften into that.
SBS: Why do you love wood boards so much (versus other boards)?
JBD: Plastic is not nourishing. Wood is grounding and substantial. Food should be placed on something substantial since it is, in and of itself, substantial. Food is grown to hold us. It’s not an event. We are culturally not connected to food in this way. There are so many walls in the way of our intimacy with food. But with a wood board, it can feel fancy, beautiful, loving and reflects who we truly are.
Plus, the other boards’ popularity exploded based on marketing: Plastic poultry boards exist using fear as a base for the consumerism. Salmonella! But in reality, wood is the most hygienic thing you can use. I don’t want fear on my food.
SBS: What do you look for when shopping for food, wood board love or otherwise?
JBD: I am an enormous beauty magnet; I shop for beauty. It’s not a mind activity. It’s a body activity. I go where my body wants to explore something. I am curious. I wait for the feeling of ‘Oh, I’ve never tried that!’ It’s a risk a few times…and then it’s not!
Then you just put everything together. It’s not a two-to-one ratio. I never have a list before I go to shop. You go there to have an experience. When you go to the market, you want to taste everything. Today, we’ve lost a lot of that experience. We need to use our voice, try the food we buy and get reconnected to all the love that is there for us. We don’t know if it’s ok to engage. The food is ready for us to be intimate with it again.
SBS: What are some of your key ingredients?
JBD: My key ingredients are those that are close to home (local), beautiful and the freshest available (in season). The closer you get to your food, the closer your food can serve you and your body in the highest way. This is not a ‘doing.’ It is more of a ‘being.’
When you go to the market to gather, gather the beauty, the things that are calling out to you and to your body, even if you don’t know what to do with them just yet. Shop for the board. It’s a blank canvas. Feel into what you love. Nourishment is being nourished by what you love, not what you think others will like.
We are coming into spring! I’m loving Persian and/or Japanese cucumbers with honey, goat cheese, manchego or goat gouda. Carrots are delicious right now, as are baby turnips with butter, raw or roasted beets, golden nugget tangerines, navel oranges, cashews or any yummy nuts and dried fruit like mango or cherry. Use whatever is on hand.
The main ingredient is that this is not an event! It’s food that was grown to love you, grow you, heal you, and support you.
SBS: What are the biggest obstacles to connection with the kitchen?
JBD: Time is a very real thing in many people’s stories. And, if being in the kitchen is not a high value, it’s not going to happen. It’s personal and deep.
For many generations we were put in the kitchen, often without wanting to be there. Now, we’re not sure who we’re meant to be when we are in there. So who wants to make the time to be confused in there? Nobody.
When you meet a nutritionist or therapist, they’re not necessarily leaning into the stories to rewrite. You might talk about it and make a list of things you can eat, but in that way it becomes a surgical experience. It needs to become an intimate experience, an embodied experience integrated into your everyday life. It’s an inside job.
SBS: How do you plan on integrating transwomen into your work?
JBD: Everyone has a body and stories. I don’t see a difference. We’re all feeling our longing. We’re all carrying heaviness and the feelings of our story. I work with people who are hungry and ready to rewrite their stories. My clients are powerful, inspiring and deeply loving humans. Bring on the hunger, and let’s nourish our lives.
SBS: Why did you decide to make your work female-focused?
JBD: It’s taken 10 years for women to come do the work, so it’s sort of a ‘good luck with men’ thought! There hasn’t been the desire. If they came, I would serve them. But it was women that felt called to the work. Sometimes I might do a values session with a couple or a family. And sometimes men will ask if I’ll work with men, but they don’t call.
(TED talk photo of Jules)
SBS: Why do you think women are called to the work?
JBD: Throughout (and post) the women’s movement, there is a piece that got left behind. Really at the end of the day, it’s about who we are becoming. That can apply to any human being, but when it comes down to women who are handling a badass CEO job and don’t want to burn the rice and yearn to breastfeed in the conference room, that is a story we are rewriting. It’s not a solo job. It’s a cultural job. That’s where my work comes in to hold the space for women to write new stories around their lives and their nourishment.
SBS: Often in your chats you bring up the question: ‘What are we waiting for?’ What do you think it is we are indeed waiting for?
JBD: We’re waiting to become who we truly are. We’re looking for freedom, permission, ease and to slow down. We’re waiting to truly live inside our bodies. We say it, we are totally OM…and then we go crazy. We’re not integrating, and that’s often because there isn’t enough reflection. If you’re having a mellow day, you might feel like you’re late for something. This angst is a story. It all lives in the body as wisdom. Once we feed this wisdom, we will begin the conversation of what it looks and feels like to be deeply nourished.
Check out one of Jules’s favorite kitchen playlist’s here: https://open.spotify.com/user/juleslove40/playlist/5PDnPuZMpZ6DICGVq4WfrX?si=IVqccWioTSaak4QcbKAncQ
Jules’s Cali Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Sugarfish
Splurge Restaurant: Sugarfish
Fun Activity: Laughing, dancing in the kitchen or both at the same time
Calming Activity: Slowing down
Yoga Studio: My living room
Fitness Studio: At my altar
Nightlife Spot: My bedroom
Books: You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, Devotions by Mary Oliver, Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
The best, zaniest part of being Jules: Being Me!
Jules’s SBS Mantra: Be Kind!
For more information on Jules Blaine Davis, please check out her website here!