If you know me, you know that I love books. If you’ve ever met me, you don’t need Aristotelian logic to deduce I love food.
I’ve been modifying my diets, both books and food. And thinking how the two correlate. With food and with books, we ingest, digest, and eliminate waste. In some magical way, the stuff we take in becomes part of who we are. Those good bits feed our cells and nourish us. Become part of our DNA. It’s a mystery that last night it was salad, and today it is Carol. And Hey, Boo!, some of the most magnificent words in To Kill a Mockingbird, is also part of who I am.
Hands down, my current favorite food is grapefruit. When I figured out the the best way to eat a grapefruit is to peel it like an orange and eat it section by section, breakfast has become a sensual delight. I like taking my time, peeling back the membrane, removing the seeds, examining the intricate design of one section, soaking in the deep pinkish red, smelling the sweet-sharp citrus, pulling apart a segment, plopping it in my mouth, letting it sit on my tongue, and savoring the flavor before I chew and swallow. There’s the teensiest amount of effort that I willingly expend for the joy of eating the grapefruit. I’m reading less like a fast food meal scarfed in the car and more like a grapefruit, section by beautiful section. Most nourishing reading takes some work, but it rewards the reader with delightful morsels to taste, enjoy, digest.
Since I’ve been ruminating on this topic, one question I ask myself when I pick up a books is, “If this book were a food, which would it be?” This week I finished Barbara Tuchman’s book of essays, Practicing History. A lot of fiber in that book, a lot to chew. Definitely meat, perhaps a pot roast. Now I’m smack in the middle of Anthony Trollope’s novel He Knew He Was Right. Something with vinegar, that’s easy to swallow. A kosher dill pickle! The book about hormones was easy: multivitamin. This morning I sobbed for a half hour while I listened to the final chapter of Eric Metaxus’ Bonhoeffer. This book is worthy of a yearly re-read. The sweetness of Bonhoeffer’s sacrificial love played with the bitter taste of the Third Reich. It would be impossible to assign one food to this book. It was Babette’s Feast.
I’m reading more slowly, chewing more carefully, gulping less air. La vita è bella.