Wednesday, 5 March 2014

When Fat Women Fear Famine

"When Fat Women Fear Famine"
When fat women fear famine,
they arrange their canned goods
Stacking soups after sauerkraut
Butter beans before beets.

When fat women fear famine,
they stock their freezers
with sides of beef and butchered lamb.
Packages gleam white as snow banks.
The red ink states:
stew bones
lamb chops
knuckle roast.
It splatters across each pristine surface.

When fat women fear famine,
their kitchens spew forth
stewpot after frying pan after casserole
of long-remembered recipes for
and 101 ways to prepare ground beef.
Their families flee from the flood of foodstuff.

When fat women fear famine,
not even children are safe.
Their babies are coddled like three-minute eggs.
Their toddlers are wrapped like the breading
on fat, juicy sausages to protect against
the first cold winds of October.
As they grow, fussed over
like the Holiday turkey.
They are watched like the pot
that never boils.

These women are vigilant
against the threat of wanting.
They are full-fleshed warriors
waging war against an enemy
they cannot see
they cannot hear
they bear the battle scars.
They know the pain of the gnawing heart,
the ache of the hollow bone.

Brenda J. Moossy.
The poem uses the food to symbolise the blood shed within the Middle East often leading people to flee. However, another concept is being presented to the readers; the eating habits of the Middle East are revealed. Through all of the strife, food plays a central role in creating humour and a lively atmosphere whilst incorporating the atrocities that take place within the Middle Eastern society. The poem highlights a way in which women occupy themselves and try to maintain stress on familial importance through hyperbolic meal gatherings during a time of upheaval and loss. This type of woman presented within the poem also bears resemblance to the Mediterranean maternal figure within Western media. For example within the Dolmio (Italian cuisine food range) television adverts, the Italian mother figure is always preparing a meal to which the whole family rushes to sit together and enjoy. It adheres to the stereotype on Italian and in general Mediterranean eating habits and familial set-up, which mirrors the Middle Eastern image portrayed in Moossy's poem.
    The stanzaic structure emphasises an irregularity in the lifestyle of Middle Easterners, with the constant threat of upheaval and bloodshed. The five stanzas are not comprised of an equal number of lines, again moving away from the notions of regularity and simplicity that comes with uniform stanzas, and rather continues with the theme of war.
    The alliteration within the poem creates a tone that is reminiscent of a nursery rhyme, adding a light hearted and infantile quality to the poem which is juxtaposed with the underlying theme of war. The poem expresses a need to continue with normal everyday life through food yet also brings attention to the fact that children must live in a war torn environment, knowing nothing better. "Their babies are coddled like three-minute eggs" (25) Moossy writes, this simile addresses the maternal instincts that kick in not just in general but in a mother who has to constantly fear refugee status and violent deaths.
    Moossy incorporates Western culinary references within the Middle Eastern setting: "As they grow, fussed over/ like the Holiday turkey" (29-30), simultaneously uniting the two cultures through mass dinner habits and expressing the disparity between the living situation between East and West. The Middle Eastern mother is depicted as having to over protect her child, whilst the Western familial set up enjoys "Holiday[s]" (Moossy, 30).

The maternal habits entailing over feeding, with particular relevance to the Middle Eastern culture, are parodied through the popular internet memes:

Moossy, Brenda. "When Fat Women Fear Famine", The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, Ed. Nathalie Handal. New York: Interlink Books. 2001. Print.

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