Thursday, February 15, 2007

Identity through food

Through The Interpreter of maladies we are lead into multiple Indian lives through multiple stories. Each story touched on different issues that we have and have yet to discuss in class. When I first read the book I found myself becoming easily lost as I jumped from story to story, trying to shed the sympathy that I’d gained for the last character so that I could give it to the next, but then I found a connection that is shared by each story. We touched on the importance of food and what it represented for immigrant communities while reading about how Grace threw up her food in the interpreter. I found the same importance of food in The Interpreter of maladies.

Throughout each story food is used as a comfort. Food is used to express happiness, discontentment, sadness, and virtually every other emotion throughout this novel. We begin with the story of Shukumar and Shoba. “He liked that Shoba was different. It astonished him, her capacity to think ahead. When she used to do the shopping, the pantry was always stocked with extra bottles of olive and corn oil, depending on whether they were cooking Italian or Indian. There were endless boxes of pasta in all shapes and colors, zipped sacks of basmati rice, whole sides of lambs and goats from the Muslim butchers at Haymarket, chopped up and frozen in endless plastic bags….He watched in disbelief as she bought more food…brown paper bags of artichokes, plums, gingerroot, and yams, and dropped them on their scales…”pg.7 Shukumar and Shoba even break up over “shrimp malai”

After the story of Shukumar and Shoba A woman named Lilia tells us of the magnificent feasts that his mother would prepare when Mr. Pirzada came to dine. When trouble breaks out in Pakistan and Mr. Pirzada does not know the fate of his daughters the Lilia consumes chocolate as she offers a prayer for the man’s family. We even learn that during the twelve days of war her mother refuses to serve anything other than hard boiled eggs and rice. Food has now taken on the sorrow of the experience. Food takes on a different role in every story and this book and it's use of food has helped me to even better understand the gravity of what Grace did when she threw up the food at the dinner table.

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