Eat It edited by Nicole Baute and Brianna Goldberg
My rating: 4/5 stars
What’s the best way to poison one’s husband? What happens when the body itself becomes a source of food? Can a potato be political? EAT IT ’s contributors explore these questions and more with equal parts humour and gravitas, revealing that for many women food is about love but also power, biology, social obligation, experimentation, nourishment, pain and pleasure.
My husband says that my sister and I are obsessed with food. It’s true that any time we’re together, the conversation tends toward it, but, isn’t it normal, almost necessary, to talk about something you do three, (okay, seven,) times a day? I suppose it’s true that a vegan (her, not me) always has more to consider and plan. But are we really that weird for talking about recipes and restaurants and our mutual crush on Chef at Home?
Eat It made me feel a little more normal. Here’s a whole bunch of people just talking about food, and writing poems about food, and imagining menus and remembering childhood meals. Of course, it’s not only about food. As the subtitle suggests, there’s more at play, and for women there are usually extra helpings (sorry) of guilt and shame on the one hand, and love and acceptance on the other.
Let’s address the all-women thing: this book isn’t *for* women. Anyone who enjoys a good short story or poem or creative non-fiction will get something out of this. But I love that this book is written, edited, and published by women. I’m paraphrasing @snpsnpsnp (again!) when I say that feminism isn’t making stuff for women, it’s women making stuff, and so this right here is feminism in action!
The stories are grouped into sections that correspond to life stages. This made me wonder: what is it about relationship status and food? The ice cream for the single and broken hearted, the home cooked meal for the domesticated, pickles for the pregnant? Why are these images so enduring in our culture? I don’t have an answer after reading this book, but I do have a whole bunch of perspectives on food and life from some awesome writers.
Now, the stories: I have a few favourites to tell you about, but the whole collection is quite strong. There aren’t many big names; former Giller short lister Sarah Selecky is probably the biggest. The variety of forms and tones and voices is quite impressive for such a slim book. It really would have made a perfect stocking stuffer for my food-obsessed sister; I just wasn’t done reading yet.
- “Pot Luck of Nutritional Tips” by Sara Hennesy. You may have seen Sara on Video on Trial, which I shame-watched regularly back before I had to worry about my kids repeating everything they hear. Her monologue had me laughing and nodding (“Slather my lady junk in yogurt for all the right reasons? Done and done.”) and it’s a pretty good commentary on the ridiculousness of media messages about women and food.
- “A Lady’s Gotta Eat” is the story of one woman’s quest for the perfect hamburger and also maybe an orgasm? I don’t know, I was reading all sorts of stuff into this one.
- “Left Over” by editor Nicole Baute is a very short piece about loss and remembrance and it made me cry.
- “Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows” by Katie Daubs, for the title, and the first line, “Girls started dressing like sluts for Halloween in 1997,” because that was the first year I did it, too.
- Stories about breastfeeding! There are two, one poignant and one hilarious. This is very relevant for me as my two year old nursling shows no signs of stopping, and even I, pro-breastfeeding, quasi-attachment parent, am questioning whether it’s time to shut it down. The whole “if he can ask for it, he’s too old” thing is clearly baloney, but where’s the pithy saying for a 35 pound toddler who motorboats you and screams “I need it,” because this was not covered in What To Expect. Uh, your mileage may vary on this one.
A note on how to find this book: it’s a little tricky, as it’s likely to be stocked with literary journals, but I’m told the easiest way to is to order online here. I would lend you mine, but it’s going to my sister next.
(Psst, Cait: I made Isa Chandra’s vegan chocolate cookies last night and they were amazing. It’s the molasses, I think. We ate them all, sorry.)
Thank you to the editors for providing a review copy of this book!