A weekly series that celebrates everyone’s favorite part of the author reading: the Q&A. This week, Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins, ponders the emotional attachments of writing about food.
Maris Kreizman: Let’s talk more about food in this book. You show all the variations it can be: food is love, food is appeasement, food is comfort, food is shame, food is death, food is a place to hide. What is the dividing line? How is food part of our struggle in life?
Jami Attenberg: It’s hard to say, because it’s very personal to me and so I can’t say what it is for everyone. Like I’ve said before, food is your livelihood — you can’t escape it, it is there every single day. If you consider food a vice, which some people do, versus if you consider cigarettes, or drugs, or booze a vice, they’re very different problems. If you want to quit smoking, you never have to smoke again. If you want to quit drinking, you never have to drink again. But if you have a food issue, everyday you have to deal with it.
I try to write about food in a very pleasurable kind of way, because I really do love food. I have talked to people who have said, "I felt so uncomfortable that I was hungry at the end [of this book]." And I say, "It’s okay to be hungry." I think that might be a point ... that it is okay to be hungry. That it is okay to desire food. But there is that line between passion and excess.
Photo and transcription by Rebecca Hoffman