Guardian Girl

Split peas and a broken heart

Posted in Fashion, Food by guardiangirl on February 24, 2010

Last night I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s piece on food and meat eating. I finished it with a lump in my throat, glad at least that dinner was vegetarian.

His thoughts on the significance of meals stabbed me in the clogged-up arteries.

As the months have passed during this project, the outfits and recipes have become part of my daily life, no longer anything remarkable. Most of my friends and many of my colleagues know what I’m doing and have long settled into their chosen level of amusement, bemusement or indifference, either leaving me to it or helping me pose for photos and eat pans of spaghetti for ten. The paper is bought first thing each Saturday morning, pages are turned, dresses belted, pans stirred, photos matched, captions written. The more familar my routine becomes, the less I question it and the more rarely I bother to scratch the surface of what I’m doing.

But on a personal level, it goes much deeper.

Taking food out of its context can sap much of the joy from eating it. Some of the pleasure of chopping, stirring, spooning and swallowing transcends circumstance, but for me any emotional meanings attached to the dishes I’m creating have often dissolved by the time the food reaches the plate.

Of course there have been many evenings like last Saturday, spent around the table with friends, happily slurping mangoey steak juices and talking about affairs of the heart. But for every one of those times there’s been a night like yesterday, spent alone in the kitchen in front of a daunting mound of ingredients, slicing veg mechanically and stirring in soured cream when I would’ve been quite happy with a simple, healthy salad for one.

It doesn’t matter how delicious a noodle soup is or how finely cut a cardigan – it’s the meaning we attach to it that makes the cooking and the wearing worthwhile. You can spend hours a day making your home look like an interiors shoot, copying catwalk looks and cooking River Cottage recipes, but it won’t buy you the love of a family or the glamour of a beautiful model, no matter what you read in the Saturday supplements. We all know this, so why does the belief that these things can be bought into endure so relentlessly?

This sounds more melancholy than I feel, but the matter continues to get under my skin.

Now I’m back to my running schedule I hope the rich recipes will become a treat again, rather than a dispiriting obligation. Now I’m living with friends I hope there will be lots of communal bread breaking around shared pans of food. Now I’ve got a sensible budget sorted I hope the odd new bit of clothing will feel like a wise investment and not a waste of cash.

As always, many of the problems I’ve run into doing this project have been a result of taking the whole thing to such an extreme level, and that commitment is a necessary part of the project as far as I’m concerned. But it still raises the question of what happens to the meaning of food – and clothes, and interior design and the rest – if it comes straight out of a magazine. Can you really buy into a stylist’s look or a chef’s favourite dish? You can put on the clothes and prepare the food, but what happens to the layer of meaning underneath?

Legume noodle soup

Legume noodle soup

Gloom and brooding soup

Gloom and brooding soup






  • Comparing oneself to a plus-size model turns out to be far more depressing than comparing oneself to a stick. No excuses.
  • The noodle soup turned into a pan of pasta with sauce because I had lots of linguine to use up. But it was absolutely delicious.
  • I have high hopes for a regained sense of control and a renewed appreciation for cream-based recipes now my foot is unbroken and I’m able to exercise again.
  • If my hopes are dashed, I have a pact with myself to become the less snappily titled Health and Fitness Magazine Girl for a while and conduct a study on the efficacy of a different brand of manipulative claptrap designed to undermine your intuition and create false need in order to sell products. Sorry, I mean magazine.
  • Today I’m supposed to buy two pairs of trainers to replace my old Converse, one of which I can’t find and one of which goes beyond my budget after having bought the ingredients for yesterday’s dinner.

2 Responses

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  1. fattydumpling said, on February 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    This is a really interesting thing that you’re doing here, following the advice of the Guardian’s Weekend to see whether the aspiring outcome can be achieved. I haven’t read it, but I see what you mean about meaning. Why do it all? By reading that thing, maybe people are looking for a form of escapism. And by emulating that thing, they are trying to attain it. Or perhaps they want their house to look pretty ;P

    And I think that you look fabulous in that black dress! Slap on a smile, and you’ll be a looker ^^ Maybe you’ll achieve the outcomes of Guardian’s Weekend if you want to achieve them?

    Anyways, great blog.

  2. Eezla said, on February 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    I do so enjoy this blog – if it’s not extremely funny, it’s insightful. Keep it up!

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