(De)Serving size

by Yule Heibel on June 12, 2003

Apropos of the denial poser (see comments section, too), a news (?gossip) item courtesy of the Vancouver Sun about Bill Clinton and a possible dalliance with the comparably much younger billionaire socialite Belinda Stronach. She’s no wallflower, and no little intern, either. He may have bitten off more than he can chew this time. I think this item’s appearance on a front page is interesting, if not sinister, given Hillary Clinton’s recent successes.


On the subject of hungering and feeding: a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Caroline Knapp‘s Appetites: Why Women Want, which I’ll guess is better than years of therapy. This week I have tried (thwarted often by many interruptions) to start reading Margaret Visser’s 1986 best-seller, Much Depends on Dinner, a book as riveting as, if utterly different from, Knapp’s. Visser attends to her topic with such a hugely broad intellectual appetite that you find yourself amazed to be seated at her groaning board. While the book is about a simple meal — corn on the cob; chicken with rice; salad with oil & lemon dressing; ice cream — each item is a jumping off point for broader considerations. And while the meal might be boring in its simplicity, Visser has an agenda in regard to boredom, too:

“Boredom is the twentieth century’s version of social miasma; we bear in addition, of course, our specialty in natural miasma, which is pollution. Boredom arises from the loss of meaning, which in turn comes in part from a failure of religio or connectedness with one another and with our past. This book is a modest plea for the realization that absolutely nothing is intrinsically boring, least of all the everyday, ordinary things. These, today, are after all what even we are prepared to admit we have in common. We have recently discovered in ourselves a determination to consider nothing to be beneath consideration, and a willingness to question passionately matters which used to be thought too basic for words. I think the reason for this is that we are fighting back with an altogether healthy urge to recapture ancient but pitifully neglected, thoroughly human responses such as participatory attention, receptivity, and appreciation. We have learned well the lessons about the stupidities of superstition, of misplaced, because ignorant, wonder. It is time now to think about whether we have leaped from the trivial to the vacant. Boredom is an irritable condition, and an exceedingly dangerous one when it is accompanied by enormous destructive power.”

I’ll never again think about dinner in quite the same way. And after reading Knapp’s book, I’ll never think about appetite in quite the same way. I’ll go on a limb and say that anorexia might be a miasma of hunger, which explains why so many of us had so many rules about what and when we could (and mostly couldn’t) eat, what where and how little. Miasma is notoriously resistant, though, to rules from outside; in the end, you save yourself. Try substituting “anorexia” for “boredom” in Visser’s last sentence, above.

Her title comes from Byron’s Don Juan: “Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.”

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