Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Ravenous

This book ended up being very different from what I was expecting. I was expecting a book about addiction and recovery, eating disorders, and similar. I was expecting a memoir, and most of this book is not a memoir. Instead, it's a recounting of a year that Macy spent travelling around to find out where her favorite foods come from, like bread, and organic produce, and chocolate. It's really more a story of looking for locally sourced, organic, and artisnal foods, but this isn't really a book about food politics either. I'm at something of a loss to say what this book is, because at the end of it, it seems like there isn't much there. The "freedom" that Macy's title alludes to comes from doing yoga and committing to portion control. The language of the book made me question just how "free" this awakening had made the author. She writes about food with a sense of near-lust. Obsession seemed more accurate.

I think the thing that bothered me most throughout the book is that there's little acknowledgement on the part of the author about how closely her food and yoga choices are tied into class privilege. There's a sense throughout the book that her "self-discovery" is broadly available. Macy is eating expensive and fine foods. She travels to farms, ranches, and food production facilities. Macy consults with leading yoga masters. She can wake up at 4 in the morning to do extensive yoga poses, a luxury well beyond many with long days at physically demanding jobs. While there is one chapter in which Macy recounts her experience volunteering at a soup kitchen, and how the experience fostered her gratitude, there's a real tone of pity and disgust for the sorts of foods that many people eat. Most of us can't spend a year on a journey of self-discovery, some recognition of that would have made a difference.

Dayna Macy, Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom (Hay House, 2011) ISBN: 1401926916 

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