I’ve been sick this week. Miserably, hopelessly sick. Call it a stomach infection, or the plague, or “just a bug.” I call it hell on earth (yes, I know I’m being dramatic). When you’re sick enough that your partner drags you to the hospital so someone practiced in disease-care can pronounce you “Not dying! At least, not yet,” you tend to reevaluate your life choices. Of course, reevaluating life choices is awfully hard to do when you can’t form a coherent thought because the pain medicine they injected you with is mucking up your brain.
Then you sleep for a few days and wake up hopeful again. Hopeful about the world, about yourself, about other people. It’s amazing what thirteen solid hours of sleep can do for a person’s mood. What is decidedly awful about getting over a stomach infection is that you can’t eat anything. And by “anything,” I mean anything good. No juicy tomatoes, no spicy lentil soup, no perfectly ripe berries or savory stuffed peppers. What you can eat is summed up in one word: BRAT. Which is how I feel while being forced to exist on bananas, rice, applesauce and toast – bratty. Try pasta too soon, and you’ll regret it the rest of the night. So, since I’ve been deprived of tasty food since Monday, I’ve taken up the next best thing – reading about food. I love to read cookbooks, but I also enjoy memoirs, getting to know people who speak the language of food. Ellen Kanner is one of those people. Feeding the Hungry Ghost is a peek inside her mind, her food, and her love for the world.
She says “Honey” too much, and tends to get tangled up in tangents. She inserts recipes here and there, scattered next to a memory of traveling, or staying home. She talks about God sometimes, but whose God? We’re not always sure, and neither is she. She moves through the seasons gently, sing-songing dialogue between her and you, her and food, you and life. It’s brilliantly frustrating and addicting, just like a conversation with a human tends to be. We all get lost in tangents, and sometimes we talk about God. Food is inserted into our lives right along with traveling, or staying home. We’re not always sure, and we feel the hungry ghost creep about, begging to be fed. Fed with what? Food, sure. But also love, and connection, and faith, and the happy privilege of sharing meals with each other. Feeding the Hungry Ghost is about feeling and sharing, and being alive. It’s wonderful and haunting and you should read it. I’m nibbling on my toast and sad banana, but I feel less bratty, and my own hungry ghost is dozing off.