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Live, Eat and Wonder How It Is to be Merry

Perhaps it is one of the greatest mysteries in this world that, where there exists the capacity or the resource to obtain or create something, that potential is often times under-used and under-appreciated. A very striking example, one may perhaps find, is the example in the way that food is handled or viewed in more developed countries; these countries have more than enough resources to eat well and, even, to eat more than their share but yet it seems as though people do not feel any joy or any satisfaction in what they have.

These developed countries have all kinds of food, from all corners of the world, at their fingertips and yet they seem not to find anything worthy of eating. They have all types of food, that grow in all seasons and that thrive in different climates around the world, and yet they cannot seem to find anything to nourish them. They have food, prepared in a myriad of ways and in complicated combinations, and yet it seems that there is no taste that is worth savoring. Perhaps, in the midst of all this abundance, tastebuds and people have simply come to take for granted that which great parts of the world are dying for.

In developed countries, there is no shortage of the things that one can buy, in fact, it may seem that there actually is an over-abundance of what one can purchase. As Arun of “Fasting, Feasting” experiences while shopping with Mrs. Patton who “insisted on loading their cart with enough broccoli and bean sprouts, radishes and celery to feed the family for a month” (Desai 184), there seems to be no limit or even a thought as to the limits that one can buy. Continuously, throughout his stay with the Patton family, Arun discovers the excess with which they buy.

He sees how “the freezer is full to the top with chops” (Desai 203) and how, when shopping, Mrs. Patton buys so much that “there is scarcely room in the cart for another package” (Desai 197). But still, despite all these groceries, all this food, the Patton family’s meals are often below satisfactory. They reject their food so easily (Mrs. Patton casually throwing bean sprouts in the waste basket) or so unreasonably (Melanie rejecting scrambled eggs – calling them poison) or so unconventionally (Melanie, again, and her bulimia).

Amidst all this plenty of fine food, there seems to be something very wrong with how the Patton family deals with their food and with their meals. Even the boys in “Geeks” who live in a land of plenty seem to find an astonishing lack of good food to eat (“There didn’t seem to be any edible food in the refrigerator, apart from a slightly discolored hunk of cheddar cheese. ”(Katz 17)). Perhaps, because they ate their food because they had to and viewed it as something that was only taken in because they’d otherwise die, “meals usually consisted of a daily fastfood stop at lunchtime; everything else was more or less on the fly” (Katz 17).

Living in this land of plenty, why then the apparent indifference to food? It seems as though there is not even an ounce of gratefulness for the accessibility and the ease with which food is presented in these developed countries. Maybe it is because the sight of so much food and so many choices fosters a false sense of safety so as to make people think that it is easy to actually produce what they see in the supermarket. With the way that grocery items are presented in supermarkets, there is a false sense of plenty that is presented. Take for example Arun’s experience at the grocery store:

“Together they wheeled the cart around and avoided walking past the open freezers where the meat lay steaming in pink packages of rawness, the tank where helpless lobsters, their claws rubber- banded together, rose on ascending bubbles and then sank again, tragically, the trays where the pale flesh of fish curled in opaque twists upon the polystyrene, and made their way instead to the shelves piled with pasta, beans and lentils, all harmlessly dry and odour-free, the racks of nuts and spices where whatever surprises might be were bottled and boxed with kindergarten attractiveness.

Mrs. Patton’s eyes gleamed as they approached the vegetables, all shining and wet and sprinkled perpetually with a soft mist spread upon them, bringing out colours and presenting shapes impossible in the outside world. To Arun they seemed as unreal in their bright perfection as plastic representations”. (Desai 183) Such abundance and perfection of food rarely occurs naturally, and yet, here in this supermarket, one gets all the assurance that no famine, no hunger, shall ever strike.

This ease with which food is acquired easily makes the consumption of food all the more trivial. It makes it seem as though the production of food is as easy as making a quick stop to the supermarket – discounting seasons of works of the farmers or cattle-growers – and it makes it seem as though the simple act of eating or consuming food is a one-stop journey. Simply put, because the consumers in developed countries are not so burdened by production, neither are they so gratified by consumption.

This kind of mentality also finds its way through to how people not only eat their food but also to how they relate their lives to it. For example, we see the “geeks” and how little notice they seem to give to their eating habits, preferring, instead, to relegate the act of eating into a chore that must be accomplished just because. We can see how little thought they give to nourishing themselves and so we see how they are “starving” themselves through eating badly, unhealthily and irregularly.

We also find this a similar situation with Desai’s Melanie whose love-hate relationship with herself has also forced her to have a hateful relationship with food. Melanie uses food to punish herself by taking in all manner of good-tasting but unhealthy food, which she eventually vomits out anyway. With all the good food that Melanie’s mother tries to provide her, she still chooses to starve herself and punish her own body.

Keeping all these situations in mind, we see how the relationship of food with the developed country is more complicated than one would assume. In the face of such plenty, people, not knowing how to deal with it, still continue to choose such famine and such hunger. Works Cited Desai, Anita. Fasting, Feasting. USA: Mariner Books, 2000. Katz, Jon. Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho. USA: Random House, 2000.

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