If Gol Guppas Were Not Made in Jest, Were They Then Made in Earnest?

Catherine Young '05.5, English 171, Sages, Satirists, and New Journalists Brown University, 2003

Sara Suleri, in her book Meatless Days uses her experiences with food to examine many other aspects of her life. Annie Dillard, in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek uses nature in a similar way and at times has similar reactions to Suleri. Their different viewpoints and approaches sometimes overlap, where they use similar styles to discuss very different subject matter. The following passages exemplify some similarities and differences in their two styles.

The culinary humor of kidneys and testicles stewing in one another's juices is, on the other hand, very fine: I wish I had had the imagination to intuit all the unwonted jokes people tell when they start cooking food. I should have remembered all those nervously comic edges, and the pangs, that constitute most poignancies of nourishment. [27]

The whole creation is one lunatic fringe. If creation had been left up to me, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the imagination or courage to do more than shape a single, reasonably sized atom, smooth as a snowball, and let it go at that. No claims of any and all revelations could be so far-fetched as a single giraffe. [146]

In these passages, both authors talk about the shortcomings of their imagination in terms of their respective subjects. In the following passages, Suleri looks at creation of food and Dillard looks at the creation of the Universe.

Gol guppas are a strange food: I have never located an equivalent to them or their culinary situation. They are an outdoor food, a passing whim, and no one would dream of recreating their frivolity inside her own kitchen. A gol guppa is a small hollow oval of the lightest pastry that is dipped into a fiery liquid sauce made of tamarind and cayenne and lemon and cold water. It is evidently a food invented as a joke, in a moment of good humor. [39]

In the Koran, Allah asks, "The heaven and the earth and all in between, thinkest thou I made them in jest?" It's a good question. What do we think of the created universe, spanning an unthinkable void with an unthinkable profusion of forms? Or what do we think of nothingness, those sickening reaches of time in either direction? If the giant water bug was not made in jest, was it then made in earnest? [9]

While Suleri looks at creation in terms of food, Dillard looks in terms of nature. These examples show an inherent difference in their subject matter but also demonstrate how the two authors approach the subject matters in a similar way.


What inherent differences exist in writing about food as opposed to nature? What do these two categories have in common and how do they differ?

How do Dillard and Suleri approach their topics differently? What is each author's relationship to her subject?

How does Suleri's use of comedy differentiate her writing from that of Dillard?

Which author creates a stronger relationship to her reader? How and why?

Main Screen Pakistan Sara Suleri Meatless Days Leading Questions

Last modified 4 May 2005