“If no one came in, I sat quietly in the back room and watched him eat. He was meticulously neat, placing his bones in even rows on the paper towel beside his plate. Sometimes my father looked up and saw me watching him, and he reached out and gave me a morsel of meat or a taste of rice and gravy from his plate.
Other times I sat with my book, quietly reading, but secretly waiting and hoping for this special treat. Even if I had already just eaten the same food, or even if it was some dish I did not particularly like, these tastes of my father’s food from his plate in the back room of his office had an enchantment to them that was delicious and magical, and precious. They form the fondest and closest memories I have of warm moments shared with my father. There were not many” (Lorde 67).
In this particular scene in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde illustrates memories of moments shared with her father that were unusually intimate. She explains how her father was rather aloof and secretive because he didn’t like to place himself in rather vulnerable situations and circumstances, especially in front of his children. As a child, Lorde would often view her father in the context of being behind closed doors and eating in the absence of strangers. This particular passage exudes a sense of pride from the narrator, as Lorde is aware of being given access and literal sight to her father having a meal, which is denied to virtually everyone else except his immediate family. The relationship shared between Lorde and her father mimics one of silent reverence, almost worship. Lorde silently, with respect, attentively observes her father’s almost ritualistic eating habits. There is a kind of unspoken communication going on in the tension of the somewhat awkward father-daughter relationship. While the daughter struggles to contain herself from exposing her deep desire to connect with her father, the father feels the uncomfortable need to step out of his comfort zone to pay attention to and care for his daughter.
The moments in which her father offers Lorde some of his food signifies much more to Lorde than the literal act of a father feeding his daughter. For Lorde, this offering and tasting encapsulates the highest extent of intimacy she ever had with her father. Considering the rarity of such a level of intimacy, Lorde can only describe these moments as enchanting, magical, and precious. What makes these memories so beloved to Lorde, she emphasizes, is everything but the literal, physical nature of eating the morsels of food itself. However, it is because of the basic, and necessity-driven nature of the instinct of a father to feed his daughter itself that even allowed the possibility of such a connection to occur, since her father is not one to be bothered with frivolity or open affection. While the act may (or may not) be a trivial one for Lorde’s father, the experience sparks Lorde with a kind of inward, effervescent energy that heightens and intensifies her emotions, which consequently bonds her closer to her father and makes her saturate the most mundane experiences with him with rich meaning. This can be an example of what Lorde would describe as “the erotic” in the essay, “The Uses of the Erotic.” Through such an experience that allows Lorde to find the knowledge of the erotic within herself, it empowers her to have control over a lens through which she filter her reactions and feelings to certain situations or circumstances. With explosions of deep inner feeling and joy that are unlocked from intimate experiences of all kinds, she regains her inner power and control of the erotic that allows her to saturate her life with the intensity of a broad spectrum of feelings. Perhaps this experience in particular helps her find the erotic within herself because of the extent to which she yearns for intimacy with her rather detached father.