Sunday, July 01, 2007



Food is a basic necessity of man, not just a mere necessity but a desire, and, probably, there is no greater love than the love of food.

I am an avid Foodie, and not only do I love and relish eating good food, but I am fond of all aspects of food – reading, writing, watching about food. So when I chanced upon an appetizing anthology, of writings on Food, in my library I was indeed enticed. Dear Reader, and Fellow Foodie, let me tell you about it.

Title: FOOD An Oxford Anthology


Published by: Oxford University Press (1994)

ISBN 0-19-212327-0

The brief introduction elucidates that “The chief objects of this anthology are to satisfy curiosity (about what and how people ate, what they felt about food, how they celebrated with it, and how it varied from country to country and region to region), and to provide both pleasure and literary reflection.” The anthology comprises pieces of prose and poetry which explore attitudes, emotional and social resonances connected with food.

The anthology comprises six parts titled – People, Foodstuffs and Cooking, Eating at Home and Abroad, Lavishness, Austerity, and Food and Emotions – and each past contains a number of interesting sections on a variety of topics ranging from Food and Character, Eating Habits, Recipes, Parties and Ceremonial Food to explorations between Food and various emotions like Dreams, fantasy, Distress, Happiness, Sensuality, Love, and Sex.

“Food is a profound subject and one, incidentally, about which no writer lies,” writes Iris Murdoch (p 20) in the featured extract of The Sea, The Sea, in the chapter on Eating Habits, and continues, “I wonder whence I derived my felicitous gastronomic intelligence.” Appetizing descriptions of food experienced by travelers all over the world, including on board ships, are featured in the section on Eating at Home and Abroad. The pieces on India (reminiscent of the Raj including pieces by VS Naipaul and EM Forster) make entertaining reading as do the recipes in poetry form.

The meat of the book is the section titled “Lavishness” comprising writings on Ceremonial Food, Parties, Greed, Excess – and lest you get carried away and indulge yourself too much there immediately follows the chapter on “Austerity” which extols the virtues of Simple Food, Diets and Dieting and goes on to kill your appetite with nauseating stomach-churning prose and poems on Unpleasant Food.

I enjoyed the chapter on Food and Emotions. Here is a poem on Food and Happiness “TO A POOR OLD WOMAN” (p 388):

munching a plum on

the street a paper bag

of them in her hand

They taste good to her

They taste good

to her. They taste

good to her.

And what can I say on the concluding section of the anthology titled “Food, Sensuality, Love, and Sex”? Well, Dear Reader, why don’t you read it for yourself?

The dust jacket, with a decorative illustration of a vegetable market on the cover, introduces the Editor, Brigid Allen, as a cookery writer and historian educated at Oxford and London Universities and indeed she has compiled an appetizing, droll and enjoyable collection of writing on Food. A good book on food – nourishing reading for foodies and bibliophiles alike.


No comments: