Ceyenne Doroshow’s Cooking in Heels Is a Culinary Ode to Black Trans Womanhood
The next three months were full of mistrials and a media storm from the local press, mischaracterizing Doroshow as a deceitful “man in women’s clothing.” After that she was sent to an all-male prison—an unfortunate circumstance that’s still familiar to far too many trans women. “I was serving 30 days for a $5 bag of marijuana,” she says. “Policing at its finest.”
Suddenly a convict for what should have been a misdemeanor, Doroshow knew that the powers that be were making an example out of her—a Black trans woman living on the margins of a cisgender patriarchal white-dominated society. As she sat in her cell reflecting upon the last quarter of the year, she grew more and more hungry, unable to stomach what the cafeteria was offering. “While I was in jail, I was literally starving,” she says. “I couldn’t eat that food! I had to create.”
To pass the time, Doroshow began writing down recipes on pieces of scrap paper. Many of these recipes came from memories. Some were born during her days behind bars, cobbled together with ingredients found in the prison commissary. “Other people in the jail began interacting with me through the vents,” she recalls. “I looked at the commissary lists and told them how to tweak things to make meals for themselves, and then I started writing down recipes. I carried them around with me everywhere I went.”
During one visit with her lawyers, they noted that her scribbled stacks of ripped magazine pages and pieces of newsprint could be the makings of a great cookbook. The idea intrigued her, but she wanted to do more. She wanted to tell her life story, using food as a lens. “I wanted to be able to indirectly tell people about trans lives,” she says, “and my whole experience around parenting, neglect, and abuse.” At that moment Cooking in Heels was born.
As a young child growing up in Brooklyn, Doroshow had watched cooking shows religiously. Her favorite on-air chef was Julia Child. Whenever she spent time at her grandparents’ Park Slope apartment, she’d observe them closely as they cooked, meticulously taking note of every step, from how to properly chop vegetables to how to season meat. Eventually, her grandfather had taught her everything he knew.
Doroshow recalls with a smile the day her father came home to a pan of spinach and cheese quiche; he’d scarfed down half the pie before his mother-in-law revealed its source. “Your child made that,” she quipped. Doroshow’s father did a double take from his child back to her grandmother. He was bewildered, but he also couldn’t deny how good the food was. From then on young Doroshow prepared dinner each night, honing her budding culinary skills. But her father harbored growing reservations at her evolution, chastising her budding femininity. Eventually, his reservations festered into aggression.
“He was upset because his child was becoming a woman,” Doroshow says. “Cooking taught me how to be a lady.”