Christina: The copy I have of this book is used and someone has written in the margins, around where Suleri is describing the pre-dawn feasts of Ramadan, that “food is significant.” At first this struck me as a particularly worthless thing to bother writing down, especially in a chapter about food, but in light of Suleri’s question--“What is it, after all, between food and the body?”—it seems somehow an appropriate attempt to synthesize Suleri’s vast and almost inapproachable weaving of memoir and metaphor in her own exploration of this question. “Food is significant” for Suleri not just in the context of fasting for Ramadan, but also in the dream of hiding her dead mother’s foot bone under her tongue or in thinking of conversations between sisters as meals—the multitude of ways are almost dizzying.

Michael writes that Suleri “tries to understand the passage of time” by “reducing that vast concept, which almost defies comprehension, to smaller, more easily appreciable units.” One of these units is food:

Food certainly gave us a way not simply of ordering a week or a day but of living inside histoy, measuring everything we remembered against a chronology of cooks. Just as Papa had his own yardstick—a word he loved---with which to measure history and would talk about the Ayub era, or the second martial law, or the Bhutto regime, so my sisters and I would place ourselves in time by remembering and naming cooks. ‘In the Qayuum days,’ we’d say, to give a distinctive flavor to a particular anecdote, or ‘in the Allah Ditta era.’ [p. 34]

Vinny: Susie brings up the theme of disembodiment, reminding me instantly of a passage in Suleri's Meatless Days in which she describes "kapura", or what she believes to be "sweetbreads... cooked with kidneys" (22). Recollecting a moment when her sister Tillat asks if she knows "what kapura are", Sara admits that "to be so probed around of the issue of [her] own nativity" irked her. But Tillat, with her "superior knowledge", corrects her: "Not sweetbread... they're testicles, that's what kapura really are."

Suleri, unable to accept this revelation, investigates further in hopes of reconciling not only the truth about kapura, but also her personal desire -- her need -- to "strip a food of its sauce and put it back into its bodily belongings". For Suleri, the idea that "a kapura, as naked meat, equals a testicle", underscores the tensions of her own self-disembodiment from Pakistani culture and her native history, calling into question all that Suleri thinks to be true. Suleri, in an attempt to salvage the remains of her original understanding of kapura, rummages "for the sweet realm of nomenclature", and asks some companions, "couldn't kapura on a lazy occasion also accomodate something like sweetbreads, which is just a nice way of saying that pancreas is not a pleasant word to eat?" Uninterested in "this finesse", someone responds, "Balls, darling, balls".


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Last modified 21 April 2011