The Chapter "Meatless Days" in Meatless Days
Yishane Lee '91 (English 137, 1990)
The chapter "Meatless Days," which is the only chapter which does not deal explicitly with just one person, begins with Suleri's revelation that the Pakistani dish her mother had told her were sweetbreads (pancreas) are really testicles. This discovery launches her on passages resplendent with ruminations about food and its significance. Stories about her surreptitious childhood scavenging of cauliflower eaten directly from plants in their garden, being burned by hot sauce, and the marvelous feasts preceding and following the Ramzan fasts, mix in with stories about her siblings' eating habits, her sister's visit to New Haven, and the meaning of days without meat. With the latter Suleri prods the reader back into a public realm, characterizing a country deprived of meat for two days each week after Pakistan was founded in 1947 and comparing it to liquor laws: "What you are denied you want more," she says. Yet the food, ultimately, "has to do with nothing less than the imaginative extravagance of food and all the transmogrifications of which it is capable" (p. 34), including a somewhat unexpected passage near the very end of the chapter.
In an image akin to the Victorian sage's symbolical grotesque, Suleri details a dream she has of her mother after she dies, in which she lovingly caresses her mother, represented by slabs of meat in a meat truck, and takes a knuckle of flesh under her tongue, secreting away a part of her mother in herself. The reader, stunned by the dream, sees how Suleri ties in not only comical family feasts and the politics of withholding food but also a profoundly intimate love for her mother.
Last modified 18 May 2001