Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food

September 16, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

…how do you explain to someone who is not a food lover that if you are the kind of person who likes all flavors except turnip and bergamot, you might also be the kind of person who really enjoys a plain banana when it is perfectly ripe, with a firm texture and no brown spots; that, in fact, you can hardly imagine a better breakfast because this one really does it for you, really satisfies?

This book changed my life.

Before I read Women Who Eat, edited by Leslie Miller, I had never before thought to eat french fries with mayonnaise. One look at this cover, and I was craving them like I’d never craved anything before. Even now, seven years after I first checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Central Library, ketchup just doesn’t cut it. I need mayonnaise, real mayonnaise, on crisp, almost crunchy, fries.

Women Who Eat is a series of essays and stories by women, for women, on food. Some of the authors’ names were familiar to me, especially that of Amanda Hesser, author of Cooking for Mr. Latte, New York Times food reporter and recipient of the Literary Food Writing Award. Her contribution is about the pleasures of simple food and how it can be a haven in an overly complicated world. The essay switches between describing Hesser’s life and describing the food she’s eating, a perfect example of the aim of every story in this anthology.

Hesser’s entry, though delightful, was not the most memorable one for me. I had been searching for the first story about a woman who inadvertantly insults a Sicilian chef, for seven years, having remembered the story but not its source. Terez Rose’s story, “Lessons from Gabon”, was familiar too, the story that taught me how to judge an oven’s temperature without a thermometer.

For sheer originality, though, Alisa Gordaneer’s “After Birth” wins. I read this story about a woman who feels compelled to eat the placenta she’s expelled after the birth of her daughter with the same horrified fascination as I had the first time I read it. It sounds like a gross-out fest, but Gordaneer does an amazing job imbuing the placenta with metaphorical significance while struggling with her vegetarianism and her own disgust at her body’s craving.

Deep-fried pancakes -- something these women might enjoy ;)

Disgust aside, this book is mainly about women who rejoice in food, who love manipulating it, eating it, talking about it, and enjoying the memories  eggs benedict with salmon or a perfect martini can evoke. These are the kinds of women who can eat without guilt, who know that mayonnaise on a perfect french fry is one of life’s simplest pleasures, who know the secret to making perfect pie crust, and who stop at Carvel to soothe their nerves before appointments with oncologists.

If you’re like (or aspire to be like) these women, then this is definitely a book worth buying. If, on the other hand, your idea of the perfect dinner is a small tossed salad and bottled water, you might want to head to another section of the bookstore before the sheer amount of vicarious calories described in this book sends you into shock.

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Entry filed under: Non-fiction. Tags: , , , , .

The Mysterious Benedict Society An unfinished book

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