I sit writing this blog post in the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 111th and Amsterdam. As someone with a notorious sweet tooth, I know that working here would be absolute torture. Before reading the memoir Feast by Hannah Howard, I would have had a difficult time imagining someone with an obsession with food being able to work in food service. Yet Howard’s story manages to flesh out this life; a life dictated by an obsession with food rooted in an all-consuming eating disorder. Ironically, her experience that seems to have such a natural meeting point (as seen after reading the memoir) was a point of criticism of her book by publishers. Howard said the relationship between the two (obsession and service) was inevitable; when you’re deprived of something, you want more of it.
As students, my fellow scholars and I were stunned knowing such an eventful memoir happened between the ages of 18 and 26. When asked if she knew her experience in the moment was worthy of story-telling, Howard said it was unfathomable. Her years of struggle with an eating disorder were something she couldn’t bear telling her closest friends, let alone the world. This comment sparked interest among the group. In an age where every personal thing is shared on social media, expectations for the perfect body image have sky-rocketed. Stories of personal struggle with disorders as well as friend and familial struggle with disorders were shared by both adults and students. We know the standards are impossible, but it makes us want to achieve it even more. I cried telling the story of a close friend who struggled with an eating disorder and still bears the scars. I know she’s healing, but I’ll never know if she’s fully healed. I’ll never ask.
And I, one of many who has struggled with body image. Being so terrified to gain weight that I had nightmares of my fingers bloating. When I did gain weight, my clothes would fit me better. I looked better. And yet I would let my stomach grumble, so my waistband would loosen again.
Our talk with Hannah Howard as well as with the female group made me realize the extent to which people are haunted by food and their own bodies. I left with a lot of food for thought (pun intended). The next day was the start of Thanksgiving Break, the start of the biggest feast of the year.
Camille Marchini '22