A book worm and foodie, studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow, writing about food, books and travel while aspiring to be a writer.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Are we what we eat? A new kind of 'research' into personal food writing.

I'm always worried that when I get to September I'm going to feel like I wasted Summer. Those four months of non-study time are always set up in my head as time that I'm going to DO something. However, I have yet again been too lazy/busy to organise any kind of internship, and while I am working nearly full time at the moment, I want to make sure at least some of my spare time is occupied in doing something that will be useful to me when I return to studying.

After nearly a solid month of rejecting socialising, normal eating habits and even ignoring my own family when they came to stay in order to sit in my kitchen and pour over sticky notes, my obsessive studying paid off and I earned exam results I was extremely happy with. For me, ever the over-achiever who is oddly competitive with myself, that means the pressure is on for my final year, where the one big difference will be the dissertation. Now that dissertation advisors have been allocated and proposals approved, I feel 'safe' enough to begin what I'm hoping will turn into my summer project and double as a lighthearted strain of dissertation research. My dissertation, roughly, is going to investigate how writing about food becomes writing about the self. Having had a varying personal relationship with food, transforming myself from struggling with a borderline eating disorder into the ardent food lover I now am (albeit still with some body issues), the way people relate to something which, at the end of the day, simply keeps us alive has always fascinated me. Especially in today's world, where social media and popular culture pressure us to look certain ways and be in ultimate control of our bodies, while at the same time plastering Facebook feeds with videos of ridiculous cheese or chocolate covered indulgence foods, only to then make us feel bad with unattainable Instagram posts of avocado flowers and chia bowls. While I don't yet have specific texts or themes to focus on, I thought that starting with a personal study would be a valuable and enjoyable place to start getting in the right frame of mind, and I plan on using my blog as a vehicle to do so.

I want to know why, some days, we can look at ourselves in the mirror and as a result of what we see, evaluate everything that passes our lips not in terms of deliciousness and nutrition, but by measure of calories and self-loathing. At the same time, I personally find that when in life I have a lot on my plate, cooking and putting food on my actual plate becomes a kind of solace and escapism from everyday pressures. Furthermore, I believe that food is something that it is possible to have a deep rooted personal relationship with: some dishes or tastes can remind you of particular people or transport you back to a moment in time. Even the ceremony of eating can carry so much higher meaning, be that sitting down at a table with your family or relaxing in front of the T.V with a bowl of pasta, grabbing a rushed and unloved sandwich or taking the time to plan a meal. Chefs and restauranteurs view food as an expression of the self, and I think the same stands in my kitchen at home. So, my plan is that alongside relevant reading to see how literature presents the food-human relationship, I want to explore how my own food writing is about more than just knowing where to get the best burger or being able to cook a recipe. How and why does nourishment become about more than getting from day to day without starving? I would like to think that there is a reason, other than my greed, why I think about what I'm going to make for dinner as soon as I wake up. 

While I'm not sure exactly what form this 'research' is going to take, I think I will still blog about the food I cook and eat in the main. For readers who do just want to know what I'm eating to either recreate it or go to that restaurant, don't worry, there will still be plenty of that. However, I'm going to try and dig a bit deeper, looking into my personal regard for food and why I started writing about it in the first place. Whether that takes the form of explaining the origins of my favourite foods in more detail or just making my writing a bit more reflective, we will see. I'm aiming to simply start considering why food means so much to me and has become such an oddly large part of the identity I ascribe myself. 'Food lover' means more to me that just enjoying the taste of things, and that is what I want to investigate. My thinking is that the format of my blog will provide adequate pressure to keep going, and hopefully some of you will find my summer project to be interesting reading. I am not expecting to come up with any ground breaking revelations about humankind, but even just actively engaging with the subject of food and the self will hopefully be useful.

I would love to hear from anyone who has a personal experience or opinion about what I'm going to try and do. Any theories on why you love or hate certain foods, or even what the ceremony of eating is to you would be really interesting, so please feel free to share them with me. I'm not setting a deadline for my next post, as I want to really think about how best to approach this new vein of writing, but any suggestions or questions people would find it interesting if I addressed would be appreciated. For now though, I am going to go and eat a fish finger sandwich for lunch, which I know will make me feel just like a child. 

Lindsay x 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Book Review: I Love Dick, and a recipe for Avocado Baked Eggs

That the last time I wrote this blog was back in November, is telling of the fact that I find writing to be something that's hard to get back into once stopped for a while. Throughout the year I have written many essays, but once you settle into an academic tone where you use words like 'elucidate' and focus on things like Shakespeare's use of Ovid in his drama, coming back to writing in a colloquial, approachable and entertaining way is always harder than I think.
This is, perhaps, the reason why when I stop blogging for a while I find it an increasingly daunting prospect, and the realm of restaurant reviews and recipes that I used to write with ease seems almost impregnable. However, while my third year at university was the hardest and most rewarding time of my life thus far (I have already read over fifty texts this year and it's only June), it is now scarily over, leaving the time that used to be filled with revision and reading confusingly empty. I have found the readjustment to life without studying geekily difficult and summer seems to have become a limbo-time, where I don't get to do my one 'me' thing. While I can’t complain about the lack of essay-stress, or more time to do things with my boyfriend, I feel like I need something to fill the space and give me purpose. So I thought there would never be a better time to throw myself back into writing what I used to enjoy so much, to both keep my hand in and fill my time when I'm not working with something more rewarding than watching Netflix, as well as reclaiming something that is just mine, aside from the series of fantasy books I am indulging in. I am returned, with a slightly updated blog and probably a slightly different take on things.

I was struggling to come up with ideas as to what I should write about for my first re-entry. A simple restaurant review didn't seem 'special' enough to announce my return to blogging, so instead I wanted to write about a book which I recently read that had great impact on me (see, I really CAN’T get away from those bloody essays). That book is I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus. Now I can hear the sniggers from those of you that haven't read the book, and maybe a knowing chuckle from those of you who have, but I Love Dick is not a work to be laughed at. Written in 1997, I Love Dick was one of the books on my reading list for American Literature since 1900, set by the formidably great tutor Jane Goldman. The book is a powerful and confusing melt of fiction and fact, with real life ‘characters’ and a plot that really happened, but Kraus refuses to define her text and therefore the emotions she depicts within it as either made up or a one-off case study. 

A must-read for my feminist bookworm pals, (and everyone else to be honest) Kraus doesn’t reduce herself to fill the role of a typical female character, overcome with lust and at the mercy of the man, ‘Dick’, with whom she is infatuated. Instead, Kraus harnesses her female emotion and makes it a force to be reckoned with. Turning the regular gender-roles in fiction on their head, particularly in confessional fiction in which men are seen as ‘revolutionary’ for divulging their emotion yet women are seen as desperate and pitiful, she writes a series of letters to Dick. She plays him, unwittingly, in a game, and the reader sees him transformed from subject to object, as ‘Dear Dick’ becomes ‘Dear Diary’.  Kraus reduces the male object of her affection into a means for her to express herself, as so many men do in their treatment of female characters. Given the real-life basis of the ‘plot’, Kraus delivers the final blow to Dick by publishing her ‘novel’, therefore defining Dick exactly how she wants as we see him become an artistic entity, governed by the author. 

Whilst this is a very brief summary of what I think to be Kraus’ aim, the actual content of the book is brilliantly funny, sad and revolutionary. The brutality of the lengths she has to go to in order to assert her power within her own life and art, reducing another person as she goes to get dominance, shows just how difficult it can be for women to get the inherent respect in literature that is more often than not a given for men. She states at one point, ‘I'm moved in writing to be irrepressible. Writing to you seems like some holy cause, cause there's not enough female irrepressibility written down. I've fused my silence and repression with the entire female gender's silence and repression. I think the sheer fact of women talking, being, paradoxical, inexplicable, flip, self-destructive but above all else public is the most revolutionary thing in the world’. I would say that anyone who is interested in female irrepressibility, in both life and literature, should definitely read I Love Dick. I recently met Chris, and knowing that the short, softly spoken woman standing in front of me was so transformative and strong was inspirational and life affirming. Kraus shows everyone, of either gender, that the boundaries in life and art are easy to transgress, and the product of her doing so is amazing.

~~~

Academic book-spiel over, I thought I would include a simple, easy recipe to finish off. For me, food, reading and self-love are inextricably linked, as anyone who knows me will probably be all too aware. So this is a recipe for my avocado baked eggs, which are healthy but indulgent and, most importantly, delicious. 

Ingredients (serves one)

·      2 eggs
·      1 avocado
·      Salt/pepper
·      Dukkah seasoning (a sprinkle)
·       Tsp butter

Method

·      Preheat your oven to 180C. In either a small ovenproof dish, or two ramekins, place the knob of butter and melt in the oven for a minute until fully melted.
·      Cut up your avocado into strips. This can be done as messily as you like, there are no prizes for neatness here and I definitely don't expect any ridiculous avocado roses. Then, crack the eggs into your dish, and arrange the avocado in the raw egg white. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dukkah, an Egyptian blend of spices, seeds and nuts (which you can buy in Tesco) to create a delicious smoky flavour.
·      Place the dish in the oven for around ten minutes or until the egg white has solidified. Eat straight away, with a side of toast.



This recipe is irresistibly easy and delicious, not to mention very instagramable. By cooking the avocado you create a smoky flavour, which is almost meat-like and very different from the raw taste. Combined with the eggs and the spices, this makes for a surprisingly quick and satisfying lunch. You can customise the recipe by adding some smoked salmon, wilted spinach or, to make it really indulgent, double cream, however the original is plenty flavoursome. 



Lindsay x