Meal Analysis Project

Rough Draft Meal Analysis Essay

To quote Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” If we were to simply define ‘eating,’ the definition would be something along the lines of “the process of consuming food to sustain one’s health.”  As it has been put many times before in class, it is literally eat or die. The process of eating has come to mean so much more than simply survival; eating a meal has come to have a symbolic meaning associated with it as well.  Yet this process seems to be taken for granted seeing as though food is literally handed to us now whereas before we didn’t know when our next meal might be. Our food choices are often influenced by not just taste but by past experiences and emotions. In the short story “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver, the importance of food in our lives is viewed in a more subtle indirect light.  Carver explores the aspect of eating/not being able to eat in times of serious grief. Throughout our lives, we will always associate certain meals with different events, memories, even people.  Associations like this can sometimes be the only comfort in times of melancholy. There is no doubt that food plays a major part in our lives. Eating food is a social activity that connects us to our families, friends, and strangers even.

The most common connection with food is that between family.  As humans we are social creatures and rely heavily on our time spent socializing with friends and family. Meal times, whether they be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, happen to be some of the most frequent times where socialization occurs. This is why mealtimes are important to many cultures and families worldwide. Dinner is a time where we can  all reflect upon our day, maybe share our plans for the rest of the week, but more importantly just listen to each other. Even if we did not have much to share, it was still nice to be able to sit down, take a load off, and share a moment of serenity. To quote Carver’s short story: “They [Ann and Howard] ate rolls and drank coffee. Ann was suddenly hungry, and the rolls were warm and sweet. She ate three of them, which pleased the baker. Then he began to talk. They listened carefully. Although they were tired and in anguish, they listened to what the baker had to say.”  Here is a family who just lost their child and has been harassed by rude phone calls from a man whom they assumed to be the baker, and now they are sitting down and having a meal with the same man.  While their son Scotty was in the hospital, the family had completely forgotten about the birthday cake they had ordered for his birthday and were reminded about it through  anonymous phone calls asking if they  “forgot about Scotty.”  The cinnamon roll scene is a very powerful scene because the mother had come down to the baker with the mindset that she wanted this baker dead.  Then she so quickly came to peace with this man after sitting down for a few cinnamon rolls with him and her husband. The grieving family and the baker have no emotional connection whatsoever yet they were able to bond over something so miniscule as cinnamon, bread, and frosting. So you could ask yourself what is so powerful about eating with someone?  The only connection they had was the brief time period where Ann ordered Scotty’s birthday cake.  Eating brings us together because it is something that we all have in common, it is an ‘activity’ that we all have to participate in to survive. During times of grief, eating is always taken for granted and the baker, being experienced with grief, knew that food was the most comforting thing he could offer this grieving family.

Grief is something we will all experience in our lives at one time or another. While on the topic of bereavement, certain meals can reconnect us with lost loved ones; such as my peer Edwin’s arroz con corn beef.  This meal dearly reminds him of his late Abuela, who used to cook it for him. Now to carry her spirit on, him and his mother prepare the dish together on his Abuela’s death anniversary.  For him this meal is special and in times of mourning it brings him back to a happier time when his loved one was still alive. “Food was our language, so this meal holds that value to me to this day.  It’s a way for me to dig back down into the memories that aren’t always in the front of my mind and remember all the little details about her.”  A simple meal has the ability to connect us with loved ones we have lost. Just as food can bring together those without emotional connections, it has an even stronger bond between those with emotional connections.  A favorite meal is not just a favorite meal because of the taste, it is because of all the associations with it. To bring Carver into this, it could be argued that in “A Small, Good Thing” there is a theme of connection. An abstract idea that could be brought in is the idea that the parents, Ann and Howard seemed to be very distant and disconnected when they were in the hospital together with Scotty.  They never really conversed with each other, and the extent of their conversations was Howard telling Ann that it was okay to go home, and that eating something would make her feel better.  But then at the end of the short story during the cinnamon roll scene, it was as if they were able to reconnect again.  Howard “helped Ann with her coat,” and together they were able to breathe for a minute and unload the weight of Scotty’s death off their chests.  In a sense the baker “unloaded” too as he talked about his aguish over all these years.

Eating alone does not exactly have the same effect as does eating with family or friends. For example, we all eat meals here at college (if we didn’t we would die) but it is not the same as sitting down with your family or your friends back home. It has been a month here at UNE and by now each of us has made a friend group that we regularly go to Decary or another meal place with, and yet it still isn’t the same experience as back home but maybe one day it will be. College has began to make us all realize the importance and values of a ‘sit-down’ meal. To quote a peer of mine, Jade: “Being in college and so far away, it saddens me when Sunday burrito night rolls around, I’m in decay eating a grilled cheese sandwich.” No meal at Decary will come close to a home-cooked meal, let alone the slightest bit comparable to one’s favorite home cooked meal. It is arguable that you could have your favorite meal one night in decary or a even a restaurant but it wouldn’t be the same because it is the people that surround you during the meal and not necessarily the meal itself.  For example, the idea of the birthday cake for Scotty could be brought in.  Ann ordered the cake for Scotty’s birthday before his tragic accident but just because Scotty passed doesn’t stop the fact that now there is now a fresh birthday cake waiting to be picked up. Life goes on despite tragedy. However, say that Ann and Howard decided to take the cake after all. If they were to eat this cake it would be nowhere close to the experience if they were to eat it with Scotty and he was still alive.  While Ann and Howard were in the hospital with Scotty, “occasionally one of them would leave the room to go downstairs to the cafeteria to drink coffee and then, as  if suddenly remembering and feeling guilty, get up from the table and hurry back to the room.” However notice how they would never leave together, they would only go one at a time. Some may not like to admit it, but humans are social creatures by nature and we often  thrive off our interactions with others. So of course going downstairs alone for a coffee would make them worse especially during a time of worrying because in a time such as that the last thing you would want is to be alone.  This is another reason as to why the cinnamon roll scene is such a pivotal point of the short story. It is the first time where they are together and eating.

In a world where it is literally eat or die, there is really not much of a choice. However, eating does not only have to be done for survival. There are many reasons to eat rather than just because you are hungry. Food is a unifying concept world wide. It has the ability to not only bring together families and friends but people with which you have no emotional connections to as well as shown in Carver’s short story “A Small, Good Thing.”

Final Draft Meal Analysis Essay

Devon Maloney

Professor Jesse Miller

English 110 G

07 October, 2016

Meal Analysis Essay

To quote Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” If we were to simply define ‘eating,’ the definition would be something along the lines of “the process of consuming food to sustain one’s health.” As it has been put many times before in class, it is literally eat or die. The process of eating has come to mean so much more than simply survival; eating a meal has come to have a symbolic meaning associated with it as well. Yet this process seems to be taken for granted seeing as though food is literally handed to us now whereas before we didn’t know when our next meal might be. Our food choices are often influenced by not just taste but by past experiences and emotions. In the short story “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver, the importance of food in our lives is viewed in a more subtle, indirect light. Carver explores the aspect of eating/not being able to eat in times of serious grief. Throughout our lives, we will always associate certain meals with different events, memories, even people. Associations like this can sometimes be the only comfort in times of melancholy. There is no doubt that food plays a major part in our lives. As explored in my peers, Jade and Edwin’s essays (as well as Carver’s short story), the process of both eating and preparing food is a bonding factor. It has the power to bring the grieving closer together, give comfort, and to bring back fond memories of one’s past.

The most common connection with food is between family members. As humans we are social creatures and rely heavily on our time spent socializing with friends and family. Meal times, whether they be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, happen to be some of the most frequent times where socialization occurs. This is why mealtimes are important to many cultures and families worldwide. Dinner is a time where we can all reflect upon our day, maybe share our plans for the rest of the week, but more importantly just listen to each other. Even if we did not have much to share, it was still nice to be able to sit down, take a load off, and share a moment of serenity. To quote Carver’s short story: “They [Ann and Howard] ate rolls and drank coffee. Ann was suddenly hungry, and the rolls were warm and sweet. She ate three of them, which pleased the baker. Then he began to talk. They listened carefully. Although they were tired and in anguish, they listened to what the baker had to say.” Here is a family who just lost their child and has been harassed by rude phone calls from a man whom they assumed to be the baker, and now they are sitting down and having a meal with the same man.

While Ann and Howard’s son Scotty was in the hospital, the family had completely forgotten about the birthday cake they had ordered for his birthday and were reminded about it through anonymous phone calls asking if they “forgot about Scotty.” The cinnamon roll scene is a very powerful scene because the mother had come down to the baker with the mindset that she wanted this baker dead. Initially this baker was made out to be the ‘bad guy’ of this short story, but she so quickly came to peace with this man after sitting down for a few cinnamon rolls with him and her husband. The grieving family and the baker have no emotional connection whatsoever yet they were able to bond over something so miniscule as cinnamon, bread, and frosting. So you could ask yourself what is so powerful about eating with someone? The only connection they had was the brief time period where Ann ordered Scotty’s birthday cake. Eating brings us together because it is something that we all have in common, it is an ‘activity’ that we all have to participate in to survive. During times of grief, eating is always taken for granted and the baker, being experienced with grief, knew that food was the most comforting thing he could offer this grieving family.

Grief is something we will all experience in our lives at one time or another. While on the topic of bereavement, certain meals can reconnect us with lost loved ones; such as my peer Edwin’s arroz con corn beef.  This meal dearly reminds him of his late Abuela, who used to cook it for him. Now to carry her spirit on, him and his mother prepare the dish together on his Abuela’s death anniversary.  For him this meal is special and in times of mourning it brings him back to a happier time when his loved one was still alive. Although Edwin and his Abuela were quite close, they had the unfortunate dilemma of a language barrier so “Food was [their] language.” This meal continues to “hold value to [him] to this day.  It’s a way for [him] to dig back down into the memories that aren’t always in the front of [his] mind and remember all the little details about her.” A simple meal has the ability to connect us with loved ones we have lost. Just as food can bring together those without emotional connections, it has an even stronger bond between those with emotional connections. A favorite meal is not just a favorite meal because of the taste, it is because of all the associations with it.

To bring Carver into this, it could be argued that in “A Small, Good Thing” there is a theme of connection. An abstract idea that could be brought in is the idea that the parents, Ann and Howard seemed to be very distant and disconnected when they were in the hospital together with waiting for Scotty to wake up. They never really conversed with each other, and the extent of their conversations was Howard telling Ann that it was okay to go home, and that eating something would make her feel better.  But then at the end of the short story during the cinnamon roll scene, it was as if they were able to reconnect again.  Howard “helped Ann with her coat,” and together they were able to breathe for a minute and unload the weight of Scotty’s death off their chests.  In a sense the baker “unloaded” too as he talked about his anguish over all these years. Being family-less all of these years, the baker has become accustomed in a way to being lonely unlike Ann and Howard (or even Edwin without his Abuela).

On the reverse side, grief can also bring people closer together. This can be seen after in Edwin’s paper where he states that he and his mother now have something new to bond over, and this is the making of arroz con corn beef. Although his mother’s arroz con corn beef is not quite as good as his Abuela’s, he still enjoys the process of its preparation because it reminds the both of them of the good times they spent with their Abuela. In a sense the grief of Scotty’s passing is what was able to bring Howard and Ann closer together because now they must rely on each other to help the other through the grieving process. The common idea between Carver’s short story and Edwin’s favorite meal essay is that each have gone through the loss of mutual loved ones, but somehow it has made them closer to other members of the family.

Eating alone does not exactly have the same effect as does eating with family or friends. For example, we all eat meals here at college but it is not the same as sitting down with your family or your friends back home. It has been a month here at UNE and by now each of us has made a friend group that we regularly go to Decary or another meal place with, and yet it still isn’t the same experience as back home but maybe one day it will be. College has begun to make us all realize the importance and values of a ‘sit-down’ meal. My peer Jade endorses the idea and believes that “being in college and so far away, it saddens [her] when Sunday burrito night rolls around, [she’s] in Decary eating a grilled cheese sandwich.” Jade discusses how no meal at Decary will come close to a home-cooked meal, let alone the slightest bit comparable to one’s favorite home cooked meal. It is arguable that you could have your favorite meal one night in Decary or even a restaurant, and it wouldn’t be the same because it is the people that surround you during the meal and not necessarily the meal itself.

Here, the concept of the birthday cake for Scotty could be brought in. Ann ordered the cake for Scotty’s birthday before his tragic accident, but just because Scotty passed, doesn’t stop the fact that now there is now a fresh birthday cake waiting to be picked up. Life goes on despite tragedy. However, say that Ann and Howard decided to take the cake after all. If they were to eat this cake it would be nowhere close to the experience if they were to eat it with Scotty and he was still alive. This could be connected back to Jade’s essay, making burritos on a Sunday night just would not be the same without her family. While Ann and Howard were in the hospital with Scotty, “occasionally one of them would leave the room to go downstairs to the cafeteria to drink coffee and then, as if suddenly remembering and feeling guilty, get up from the table and hurry back to the room.” However, notice how they would never leave together, they would only go one at a time. Some may not like to admit it, but humans are social creatures by nature and we often thrive off our interactions with others. So of course going downstairs alone for a coffee would make them worse especially during a time of worrying because in a time such as that the last thing you would want is to be alone. This is yet another reason as to why the cinnamon roll scene is such a pivotal point of the short story. It is the first time after Scotty’s passing where they are together and eating.

In a world where it is literally eat or die, there is really not much of a choice of the matter. However, eating does not only have to be done for survival. There are many reasons to eat rather than just because you are hungry. One could eat to comfort themselves in a time of grief, or perhaps to bond with another in a social situation. Food is a unifying concept worldwide that is often times taken for granted. Language barriers may separate cultures but food can unite them more than any document ever could. Food has the ability to not only bring together families and friends but people with which you have no emotional connections to as well. So the next time you sit down with your family or friends with a meal, remember to enjoy the moment and even ponder the idea of what exactly that meal means to you.

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