In Heartburn, how does Rachel use cooking as a way of interacting with Mark in her life? What does she achieve with it?
Rachel uses cooking as a way to communicate feelings and emotions that she lacks the vocabulary to express. In Rachel’s mind, food and love are extremely similar and she substitutes one for the other in communication. The hope that she holds is that Mark will understand the meaning of such expression. It is apparent that he doesn’t. When she cooks pasta and shares it with him in bed, it is a seminal moment. Notice how she places primacy on such an action. It is an instant where there is communication. Rachel may very well lack the emotional language to say, “I love you” or “I need you.” However, she finds those elements of communication present in her cooking and the expression of it is vital. At the same time, her role as a food critic helps to bring this vocabulary into further existence, as she spends her time critiquing others attempt to master a language that she feels very confident in expressing. When Mark disappoints and betrays her, it is a realization to Rachel that her method of communicating through food is lacking. In a larger sense, she might be fully cognizant of the limitations of language, in general. We can say, “I love you” to someone, anyone. However, such a declaration, though it might be clear in our minds, can still yield uncertain results and usually does reveal that which is not clear. When she seeks to hold on to her secret vinaigrette recipe, it is a reflection of an individual broken in a relationship, seeking to hold on to something, anything that will preserve their dignity and power. It’s no different than someone holding on to a figurine or a particular book or CD after the relationship ends. It’s a substitute for expression and articulation. Perhaps it is because the lexicon is lacking or because it is too painful. Yet, Rachel uses cooking as a way to communicate what she feels. At the end, she recognizes the need to supplement this with actual expression of self- desire and concept of self in order to fully articulate her emotional needs.