Between the body and the world: food, cookbooks and not-eating

Jen WEBB, Vanessa Harbour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food is one of the fundamentals in the human experience. It is an important point of connection with others and a symbol of our ‘stylisation of life’ (Bourdieu 1984: 411, Certeau et al. 1998: 86, 165). It is one of the key markers of our being in the social and the symbolic world; and is also our mode of being in the physical world. As Antjie Krog observes, ‘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’ (1998: 217). Much of the time, most of us in the privileged west can give ourselves over to that enchantment. We can take access to food, and the process of eating, pretty much for granted, and as such can employ it as a marker of our being. But what happens when the relation between self and food breaks down: what does this do to the relationship between self and society, self and the world? This paper is a combination of creative personal narratives and critical commentary by two writers whose experience involves a ‘problem’ with food. For one of us, it was a period of rejecting food (an eating disorder); for the other, it is a continuing condition of being unable to eat (a medical disorder). In fragments of prose we revisit instances of this broken relationship with food, and interleave these with a discussion about alternative ways of ‘taking the world inside ourselves’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Issue numberOctober
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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