Friday, July 28, 2017

Food as Comfort, Social Status, or a Weapon

Laura Shapiro looks at six women and how what they ate, or didn’t eat, shaped their lives and the lives of those around them. She begins with Dorothy Wordsworth. While she was the caretaker and companion of her brother, her meals were nutritious. When she slid in to dementia after having been displaced by his wife as the main female in Wordsworth's life, she ate constantly.

Rosa Lewis rose from being a servant to becoming the foremost chef of her age. Her ticket to high society was food. Eva Braun, was more into champagne than nutritious food. Although Hitler was a vegetarian, he binged on champagne and sugar.

Eleanor Roosevelt used food as a weapon. Angered by her husband’s affair with Lucy Mercer, she served some of the worst meals ever encountered in the White House. Barbara Pym’s novels are filled with the type of food nice English ladies served to their clerics. People may think the food was bland, but Pym presents it as a good background to the society of the day.

Helen Gurley brown appreciated food, only as it related to the man in her life. I suspect that could be said for the other women, but Brown indulged her man while being practically anorexic herself.

This is a fascinating book. I hadn’t realized how much we can learn about people, not only women, from how they approach food. The book doesn’t psychoanalyze these women, but some themes are evident such as Eleanor Roosevelt using food as pay back. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in how women express themselves through food.


I received this book from Viking Penguin for this review.