Time and Chronology in "Meatless Days"

Marlene Sloger, American Civilization, MA Student, 2002, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, Autumn 1997

In Meatless Days, Sara Suleri uses frequent references to food and the act of eating. These examples range from descriptive:

Dried dates change shape when they are soaked in milk, and carrots rich and strange turn magically sweet when deftly covered with green nutty shavings and smatterings of silver.[5]

to food as a dangerous threat:

The heat shriveled the baby, giving his face an example of slow and bewildered shock, which was compounded by the fact that for the next year there was very little the child could eat. Water boiled ten times over would still retain virulence enough to send his body into derangements, and goat's milk, cow's milk, everything liquid seemed to convey malevolence to his miniscule gut. We used to scour the city for aging jars of imported baby-food; these, at least, he would eat, though with a look of profound mistrust--but even so, he spent most of the next ear with his body in violent rebellion against the idea of food. It gave his eyes a gravity they never lost. [28]

In describing "meatless days," she writes:

The country was made in 1947, and shortly thereafter the government decided that two days out of each week would be designated as meatless days, in order to conserve the national supply of goats and cattle. Every Tuesday and Wednesay the butchers' shops would stay firmly closed, without a single carcass dangling from the huge metal hooks that lined the canopies under which the butchers squatted, selling meat, and without the open drains at the side of their narrow street ever running with a trace of blood.[31]

She goes on to describe how meatless days are actually not meatless for many people. Her references to food in the beginning of the book are too numerous to mention: from comparing the condition of pregnancy to the circumstances of cooking (36), to lamenting one's eating too much or not enough (35). In fact, she at one point writes:

"What is it, after all between food and the body?" I asked one day in an exasperation of pain, and never got an answer in reply. [37[

I would ask, instead, what is it between food and mind? Why does Suleri use so many images of food or the act of eating? Does she use food to symbolize one specific idea, or are the images so varied that the reader cannot detect an underlying theme? How should we understand her use of food both as a theme of the book and as part of her writing style?

Main Screen Pakistan Sara Suleri Meatless Days Leading Questions

Last modified 24 April 2002