Friday, July 25, 2008

hunger

I feel exhausted in this completely pleasant way, the exhaustion that comes with physical exertion and being outside in the sun and then eating a good dinner of leftover armenian stuffed cabbage. It's kind of awesome. I had the last four days off, and I managed to run a ridiculous amount of errands, ride my bike all over the place, and spend too much money. But one of the many things I did was go the LGBT booksale at Gerber/Hart, which I haven't been to in far too long. I went with the intention of looking for some of the Dykes to Watch Out For comics that I'm missing, but instead I ended up getting a lot of other books, many of which I've read but don't own. My favorite find, though, was Trash by Dorothy Allison, a collection of short stories about being queer and Southern and feminist and poor.
Sometimes I forget how freaking awesome Dorothy Allison is. She writes specifically about growing up as poor white trash in this incredibly bitter, truthful, insightful way that I still don't see too often. But this book, of short stories, is one that I've wanted to re-read for a while and so I was thrilled to see it there. I went home and immediately read my favorite story, A Lesbian Appetite, which mixes food and sex in a way that is so visceral and violent and sensual. It's specifically about the food that poor white trash Southerners eat and how terrible and wonderful it is at the same time. You can taste what she's writing about: the bacon fat, the bubbling gravy, the biscuits, the pan-fried green tomatoes. And in between the reminisces about her mother's cooking, she talks about her lovers and the food that they either ate together or didn't, and the sex they had and how that ties together. There's a scene that I love where the health-food girlfriend is making her slice and salt eggplant, and the narrator starts rubbing eggplant slices all over her to salt it with her sweat, and they have sex and then fry the eggplant up with garlic and tomatoes and eat it together. It just... It makes me want to eat and have sex and lick grease off of my fingers. Pretty amazing.
But what really gets me is this food nostalgia that she writes about. The food that she ate as a child and young woman is, in many ways, still reflected in negative ways in her present-day body. She has numerous health problems caused by her former diet; in fact, one section of the story details how, after a seventh-grade teacher informs her class that the children of the poor are lacking in intelligence because they are deprived of vitamin D in childhood and it keeps their brains from developing properly, she starts obsessively eating dairy to try and catch up, to make her brain strong so she can get out of where she is. Twenty years later, a doctor tells her she has a slight dairy allergy that has caused her to have an ongoing stomach problem, and she just laughs. But despite all of this, she daydreams and dream-dreams about the food of her childhood, about baking biscuits and cooking beans with onions and pork fat and the sweat on her mother's neck when she prepares these things and it's all just this huge sensory glut of taste and scent and smell. I remember being vegan and home for Thanksgiving and how hard that was, and I think about all the vegetarians I know who still eat turkey that one day of the year, and I think about the power of comfort food. It's so wired into our heads, what we do and don't want to eat and why.

2 comments:

Louise Tripp said...

And you say you're not a writer. Maybe it's just the passion about the Allison book coming out, but the way you describe it makes me want to read it. Awesome.

ammie said...

Wow, thank you! I've never really wanted to be a writer (except when I was small and that was the only profession I could think of that involved books (I was a little oblivious about professions)) (double parenthesis!), but I like writing and especially writing about writing. So thanks :) Wanna borrow the book? When I see you in a few weeks?