‘It Was Actually Wonderful to See What Fertile Ground the Dining Table Was for Discussion and Debate’: Food, Gender, and Culture in the Novels of Anita Desai
This chapter examines the relationship between eating and identity in Desai’s novels Clear Light of Day, In Custody, Bye-Bye Blackbird, and Fasting, Feasting, with some attention also to Cry, the Peacock, Voices in the City, Baumgartner’s Bombay, and Journey to Ithaca and her essays ‘A Coat of Many Colours’, ‘A Secret Connivance’, and ‘The Rage for the Raj’. It draws upon Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s ‘How to Read a “Culturally Different” Book’ and Rebecca Walkowitz’s Born Translated to explore questions of universality, cultural specificity, and translation, with especial reference to food. Also discussed are E.M. Forster’s essay ‘Pan’ and Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. A particular focus of this chapter is how gendered divisions of culinary labour impact upon the meanings of food and eating.