Book Recommendation: When Women Are Hungry

We are headed for autumn and this traditionally is the time for new beginnings, such as starting a new hobby: learning a language, attempting an exotic sport, making all kinds of other promises that in my case will roughly last until the end of September.

I just finished reading Lara Williams’ novel Supper Club, which introduces another type of interesting hobby: a women-only club where food is properly indulged, space is properly occupied, and as a result the physical bodies, too, will grow and expand.

The book is very foodie-y, but in a fabulously outrageous way. The protagonist enjoys cooking for her various boyfriends and is clearly an excellent chef, but it is the meetings of the Supper Club where food stops being admired and savoured in a sophisticated manner – no, it’s when the women attack the meat on their plates, throw the bones over their shoulders as they go along, undress from the waist up and make a big mess with sauces, risottos and dessert soufflés that they often end up eating with their bare hands.

As a consequence some of them gain weight, all of them become more outspoken and start claiming more space. The club is not about eating. To become a member of Supper Club each candidate must answer the question “What are you afraid of?” and have their reply recorded. The women have been cheated on by their husbands, raped by their university professor, experienced loss, gone through sex change.

“I felt the weight of myself press into the carpet. I thought about how I was carrying only that weight, how I was responsible for no weight other than my own. All I had to carry through life was myself. I wished someone had told me that sooner.”

While Supper Club at times appears a millennial mixture of everything that is du jour, I liked the bacchanal, inappropriate and messy descriptions of the Club meetings. The undercurrent plot lines regarding the other characters were sometimes a bit patchy, and  the emphasis was clearly on the main character’s awakening. This is how her lunch meeting with her once-lover is described in the end of the book: 

With my mouth full, I began to speak.
– “You must be really embarrassed,” I said. “You must be really embarrassed you just explained feminism to me.”
When I laughed, a little bit of chicken flew out of my mouth and landed on the table. I wiped it away with my finger. When he tried to tell me about some renovations he was having done to his home office, I said: “Oh, I don’t think I’m interested in hearing about that.”
I carried on talking. I spoke all of my unspoken thoughts and ideas. I spoke any notion that popped into my head. When I didn’t think he was properly listening to me, I repeated myself. When he interrupted, I said “I’ve not finished yet.”
When he told me something I already knew, I said “Thank you, but I obviously already know that.” 

I recommend this book warmly. It’s funny, dark and includes some good cooking tips as well (how to make kimchi and how to separate your soufflé dough from the mould before baking in the oven, for example). For anyone who likes to read about food and complicated relationships. 

 

 

 

 

 

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