During the month of June Leiden Book Clubbers read Eat Up! Ruby Tandoh’s radical manifesto on food, appetite and eating what you want. Tandoh is a regular columnist, former model and runner up on the fourth series of Great British Bake Off. She worships at the alter of cook and writer Nigel Slater and regularly speaks on issues such as mental health and disordered eating.
This rather brilliant book came to my attention via British author and journalist Dolly Alderton’s podcast Love Stories, in which she questions guests on their defining love stories. I was so taken with Ruby’s views on both love and food (I really recommend giving it a listen) that I decided to add her third book to our reading list.
On what compelled her to write Eat Up! Tandoh told the Guardian ‘there are so many food books out there – but I couldn’t find any that dealt in an accessible way with cultures of eating and our relationship with food. The books in this area were either really academic or food memoirs; there wasn’t really a middle ground. In a sense I’m writing this book for my younger self and anyone coming up through their teens now who wants to enter adulthood with a good relationship with food.’
Before reading Eat Up! I had engaged very little with food writing. The most I had managed was to cook a few basic recipes from a cook book for children, the least was looking at pictures of food and asking my partner Jesse to make it for me. But that has all changed now. While I no longer fall within Tandoh’s intended age demographic for her book, this book nevertheless changed my perspective on food and eating. Tandoh’s prose is descriptive yet accessible, her ideas well formed, her advice practical. And her recipes sound delicious (I haven’t actually made any. Yet).
Tandoh deftly handles topics as far reaching as the intersection of food with culture, family, class, race, gender and sexuality. Her discussion of hunger and appetite was particularly relatable: ‘And, of course, you know in your heart that a bowl of porridge will better sate your morning hunger than the Mars Bar your appetite is veering towards. But just as often as they diverge, this physical hunger and psychological, sensory appetite merge into one.’ As was her musings on the notion you are what you eat: ‘food writers, bloggers and presenters cleverly make pasta from courgettes, rice from cauliflower, meat from carrot, all in an attempt to avoid the “heaviness” of meat and carbs, and so to keep their bodies light and lithe.’
My copy of Eat Up! is littered with with post-its marking the many passages that caught my attention including those above. No matter your relationship with food, I feel almost certain that you will find at least one delicious morsel of food for thought within this book. I give Eat Up! Ten out ten, would read (and eat) again
In July we are reading ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier