Sam van Zweden




Revisiting JSF’s meat book

I’m revisiting Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I loved this book the first time around, and remember it for being a wonderfully personal take on the ethics of meat eating.

Next week, I’m doing a panel at The Wheeler Centre called ‘Green Cleaver‘ – I’ll be talking with Sam Cooney, Richard Cornish and Tammi Jonas about the role of meat in our lives and how we can do it better.

This, I suppose, in the wake of having written about why we struggle to embrace offal; and why the stories we tell about food are important.

I’m still working – always, forever – on the larger manuscript about food’s significance in our lives. In my research for that project, I hadn’t thought to revisit Jonathan Safran Foer’s book – it’s about food, but I didn’t remember it being relevant to what I’m writing.

Until now. In preparation for the panel event on Tuesday, I’m dipping back into JSF. This paragraph encapsulates so much of what I’m trying to do in my work, it’s hard to believe I’d forgotten it:

Perhaps [my grandmother’s] other stories were too difficult to tell. Or perhaps she chose her story for herself, wanting to be identified by her providing rather than her surviving. Or perhaps her surviving is contained within her providing: the story of her relationship to food holds all of the other stories that could be told about her. Food, for her, is not food. It is terror, dignity, gratitude, vengeance, joyfulness, humiliation, religion, history, and, of course, love. As if the fruits she always offered us were picked from the destroyed branches of our family tree.

It’s succinct, and hard-hitting, and I’m finding it so energising. Deeply sad, very important, and energising.

We eat the world

Image via Flickr CC / darwinbell
Image via Flickr CC / darwinbell

“Psychologists say that the action of eating, of taking in food is simply enchanting – because it’s the way we can take up the world inside ourselves, how what is around us becomes part of us. We eat the world.”

— Antije Krog.

Putting Things Into Perspective

I’m currently working on a scrapbook for my Concept Development class, where I’m looking at the research I’ve done for my book. It’s not the most imaginative idea, but I’m having a lot of fun making this thing.

I have to say, it’s kind of heartening and terrifying at the same time. It’s really great to see what I’ve done towards my book, to pull it all together in one place, it actually validates that all this pottering around I’ve been doing is useful research. It’s stuff that’s informing my idea and strengthening my story.

It’s terrifying though, looking at this lame little scrapbook… While my idea’s becoming rounded and more solid as I go, I also have to think, “How the hell do I make a book from this!?”.

I’m glad I’ve been given this assignment though. Scrapbooking’s fun.

How do you organise your research?

Writing Research Brought Me This:

I’ve been writing a lot this morning, making headway on a piece I’ve been pottering around with for weeks. A deadline is looming, so I’ve knuckled down.

I’ve done a shuffle of the story to give it a snappy opening line, because they’re so important. New opening line:
“Hugh stares in horror at seven shopping bags full of soup and beans.”

This is subject to subsequent edits, but it’s much more engaging than previous beginnings.

HOWEVER, I’m posting today to show you this messed up thing that my research brought to me. I’ve been researching agoraphobia today, and that’s been fine. Then later I started researching canned foods, and a friend sent me this link. I think the silk worm pupae and the fish mouths get me the worst… Though the whole canned chicken is pretty vomitous.


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