„Greedy Women“

Jeanette Winterson schreibt über ein Buch von Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855–1936), A Guide For The Greedy By A Greedy Woman, das 1896 erschien und Frauen dazu ermunterte, gierig zu sein. Essen zu genießen, anstatt von viktorianischen Winzportionen zu leben. Könnte heute glatt neu veröffentlicht werden.

„Written in the 1890s as a series of magazine essays and later made into a book, this greedy guide was a direct challenge to late-Victorian notions of femininity and appetite. Middle and upper-class women were taught from girlhood that femininity depended on modesty and restraint – and what could be more restraining than a corset? Have you ever tried eating in a full-length lace-up corset? You might as well wire your jaw shut.

A man could guzzle and gobble, drink and womanise. A woman was expected to be delicate and dainty in her appetites both sexual and gourmand. But the greedy guide encourages women to enjoy coffee, cigarettes, cognac, foie gras, kippers, geese, gravy and sauces; Epicurean enjoyments that would certainly need a looser-laced corset. (…)

ERP was radical in her belief that women should enjoy cooking. She was writing for a class of women who could afford a cook – not nearly as expensive in real terms as it would be today – but for whom it was a matter of class politics and snobbery not to cook DIY. To campaign for eating as the natural result of cooking repairs a badly damaged link in the female psyche – one that goes on needing to be repaired.

Now, while celebrity chefs do their best to seduce us into cooking, the pinging microwave and the ready-meal chops up the sensual connection between preparation, anticipation, and the well-earned leisure of sitting down to a lovely meal you have made. Which is why reading ERP on food is absurd and uplifting; she returns to cooking and eating the one ingredient that is more expensive than truffles or caviar: time. We have foodstuffs everywhere, more than at any other moment in history, yet no time to cook well or to eat well.

Time – even tiny amounts of it, can be enjoyed in food preparation. The sandwich is ERP’s fast-food – and her descriptions of wrapped paper packages and snow-chilled Alsace transform the office lunch into an encounter with the infinite. “Between slices of good bread place thick uncompromising pieces of beef or mutton… lettuce, celery, watercress, radishes, not one may you not test to your own higher happiness… and your art may be measured by your success in proving the onion to be the poetic soul of the sandwich.”

Sandwiches have souls. Who knew?“

(Danke an Anne Schüßler für den Hinweis.)