Friday, August 3, 2012

Food Choices

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Aditi Bhargava

Page 1


What do the starving people of a third world country like Ethiopia have

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in common with the elite society of the West? The need for food. The only difference is

that while Ethiopia still views food as “a means to biological survival (par.1), the

account executives, lawyers and professionals of the western world regard the food they

consume as being indicative of their status in society. Food and its quality and quantity

appear to have a bearing upon every aspect of their lives. This is the theme of the

sarcasm laced humorous essay “Food Worship” by Barbara Ehrenreich published in

17. Catering distinctly to an audience that is well-versed in North American culture,

the author employs figurative language such as tropes and humor, compound - complex

sentence structures and unique juxtaposition of common aspects of everyday life to state

her arguments and make this essay effective. At the same time, however, her assumption

of a specific audience and the larger issue of “the gluttony of a few and the chronic

hunger of the world’s many” (par. 10), are not addressed throughout the piece and leaves

the reader much to speculate about.

One of the most effective techniques used by the author to

arouse the reader’s interest is sarcasm. In paragraph two she writes, “I am thinking of

substituting food emporiums for museums on my children’s Sunday outings.” By using

this hyperbolic statement on the importance of food and stating that food has “gained a

foothold in academia”(par.), the author has clearly ridiculed the trends in western

society. She describes each individual as having “hunger of deep and savage

proportions” (par. 5), and expresses shock at how gluttony is no longer considered an

excess, being justified by “wild aerobic fallings and desperate five-mile runs”( par.5).

Innovative and startling metaphors such as “Exercise is the yuppie version

of bulimia” ( par. 5); pita bread and salad bars have “sedimented” down to Burger King

(par. ); and the reference to a possible “gastrointestinal revolution” (par. 6) keep the

reader amused and curious of what the author is trying to highlight. She also establishes

her credentials to comment on this new fad by admitting “to having occasionally dined�

on other people’s expense accounts” (par. ) while characterizing these “other people” as

“upwardly mobile” (par. ) and “upscale people” (par.4). Here, Ehrenreich forges an

instant bond with the reader as she makes it apparent that she is not a member of this

overindulgent brigade that is apathetic to the rest of the world.

Unusual comparisons have been made by Ehrenreich to support her

contention that the priority given to food has increased over the years. Hard hitting

analogies such as “exercise is to eating in the eighties as contraception was to sex in the

sixties” ( par. 6), the entirely new meaning given to exercise (burning the weight of extra

calories rather than maintaining fitness); and that the food a person thinks is in

vogue can be used as a yardstick for measuring the potential of a possible life partner,

successfully emphasize this point. The comparison of our diet to that of the tiny

shrew in itself describes the obsession that people have for food and how it has come to

be an expression of man’s decadence.

The compound-complex sentences present many facts and ideas in a

running manner to support conclusions. A cause and effect argument is sometimes

presented in a reverse sequence with more telling effect; for example, in paragraph four

“Upscale people are fixated with food because they are now able to eat so much of it

without getting fat, and the reason they do not get fat is that they maintain a profligate

level of calorie expenditure”( par. 4). The correlation of profligate expenditure of

calories with exercise comes in the last part of the next sentence where “the run at

dawn”, the “midmorning aerobics class” and “racing on a stationary bicycle” are laid out

in a running fashion. Though the style is effective, the sentence structure is complex and

appears difficult to comprehend at first. However, the style makes the conclusion pithy.

Punctuation has been used in many paragraphs to expand a concept or idea, and even

simply for effect�for example the use of hyphens in “and--as food history, food

criticism, etc.�gain a foothold in academia”(par. ). Similarly commas and colons have

also been used to skillfully emphasize sections of prose throughout the passage.

There still exist issues in this essay which have not been discussed to their

full potential. The message that Ehrenreich may be trying to convey to her

audience is that more needs to be done to aid the food-deprived areas of the world

as we have the ability to do so. But talking about Ethiopia in the introductory

sentence and mentioning India in the last paragraph does not emphasize this point

enough. She also assumes her readers have grown up with the Western culture; terms

like “jazzercise” or the mention of Jane Fonda’s videotapes have no effect on a

reader who has no prior knowledge of these trends and icons. The narration of

incidents, trends and anecdotal bits are effective to the extent of making the reader

aware of the current state of affairs, but this article may suffice to be a humorous

exposition on the eating habits of the ‘newly arrived’ in Western society.

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