What does Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz mean when she says, "What wisdom may be ours if not the philosophies of our kitchen...?"  

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With Sor Juana's history, it might be important to recall that from a very young age, she was interested only in learning and books. (She was reading at age three.)

Later, when Sor Juana had joined the convent, in her writing Respuesta a Sor Filotea, she wrote of time spent in the kitchen:

Well, and what shall I tell you, my Lady, of the secrets of nature that I have learned while cooking?...I shall not weary you with such inanities, which I relate simply to give you a full account of my nature, and I believe this will make you laugh. But in truth, my Lady, what can we women know, save philosophies of the kitchen? It was well put... that one can philosophize quite well while preparing supper.

The meaning of her quotation is in two parts. The first is that women are limited to the kitchen so that is all they know. The second part is that there is sufficient time for women to "philosophize" as there is a great deal of manual work to do and a lot of time spent in the kitchen. Sor Juana knew that education came from every direction, as she states when she was once forbidden by a "saintly" mother superior from reading for three months:

I studied all the things that God created, taking them for my letters, and for my book all the intricate structures of this world....

Sor Juana knew that the knowledge that there was in the kitchen was only what women could know: women were not allowed to attend the university to study; this was only for men. And while I do not think she would have insulted the endeavors of those who served by working hard in the kitchen, Sor Juana would have felt much confined in terms of educational pursuits had she been expected to always fulfill the traditional tasks of women in the kitchen, rather that being educated and allowed to read from the innumerable books available to her, allowing her a vast knowledge of the world at large.

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Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

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