I know I’ve read a great book when I’m still thinking about it months after I’ve turned the final pages. Carrie Rubin’sEating Bull is one of those books. It is a tightly crafted thriller, told from the point of view of three characters: Jeremy, an overweight, bullied teen whose favorite friend is food; Sue, the pubic health nurse on a mission to sue to food industry for their reckless manipulation of consumers; and, finally, Darwin, the mystery serial killer who is targeting the obese. It’s a mix of mystery whodunit, horror story, and public health crisis all rolled into one.
Many of the characters are suffering some past emotional trauma which is pulled into their eating habits. This backdrop makes these characters seem all the more human and vulnerable. I thought Carrie did a masterful job of telling a horrific story, alongside the complexities of food.
While eating is foremost about survival, it is so much more than that in the modern era of food convenience and choices. Food relates to our health, quality of life, eating habits, social gatherings, and family. Socio-economic factors play a role, too, and often hinder access to healthy food or enough food. Food is not an equal opportunity for all.
After reading Carrie’s book, I pondered this complex issue of food and how it related to my life. More recently, I have attempted a few clean eating challenges offered by my boot camp, because we know exercise isn’t enough and especially as we age. Sigh. On a positive note, I’ve spent most of my life not worrying about calories and meal choices and their impact on my health. Now that I’m getting older, it’s not so easy. So, I took on these clean eating challenges, which meant eating mostly real food, either from the ground or from an animal. While I’d like to be vegetarian, so far I’m not. Nothing processed, nothing out of a box, and very little sugar or salt.
In these efforts to control my eating choices, I could relate to Carrie’s characters in her book. My meal choices of lean protein and vegetables were quite similar to those of Sue. As we are made aware of her restrictive choices, it feels as if Sue, too, is noting them for herself. I also identified with Jeremy’s hunger for more, even when I wasn’t hungry. It’s emotional eating and I never felt this so strongly as I did when everything I loved was removed, especially carbs! I missed snacking. It was tough.
Jeremy’s mother Connie also has her share of challenges of feeding her family healthy options with limited time and resources, not to mention with different needs in mind. Would her son and father eat the same foods, for example? This is a constant struggle with my household and cafeteria-style planning and eating. When I did the clean eating challenge (for six weeks) it meant cooking separate meals for my family, which made it extra challenging. While there may be solutions for all these problems, it doesn’t make them any easier.
What’s more, there’s a public health scenario looming in the story: suing the food industry. I, for one, did not think this was that far-fetched. While it may never happen, I hope Carrie’s book encourages a careful look at their practices.
For example, no matter how much willpower I have, I can’t just have one stop at the Famous Amos cookie box. I just can’t!! One reach turns into three. I lost count of the number of cookies.
And then I saw this video about how America is getting hooked on processed food. You must watch this eye-opening video. Have you ever heard of “Vanishing Caloric Density”? It’s no wonder I love cheese puffs so much!
Talk about reckless manipulation of consumers. Carrie weaves all these complex issues with a serial killer on the loose. All the while, the issues don’t get lost in the story or take over, but add layers of intrigue for a compelling, entertaining read.
I left Shelly alone in my apartment. She was listless and cold to the touch. I had no choice. I needed to get back to my job and I left her lying on the couch with a blanket wrapped around her. This is how I thought I would find her when I returned.
Instead she’s up and about, dressed in my clothes. At least, I think they were my clothes. She was wearing red, shiny leggings and a yellow sequined bodice with dangling tassels. I recognized it as my disco get up of a Halloween costume from two years ago.
We’re approximately the same size and height, so it’s not entirely unforeseen that she would look to my closet for a wardrobe option. But choosing this costume was a mystery. She was prettier than me, and undoubtedly, looked better in my clothes than I did. She was thin-waisted with an attractive bosom that she flaunted, usually revealing a hint of cleavage. I mention this because she was always on some kind of diet. A girl’s got to keep her figure.
Not today, apparently. She had her head in the refrigerator, rummaging around and lifting bottles of condiments, sniffing leftover food. Bottles and packages lined the counter top.
Her disco costume in the haloed light and the bevy of food items before her muddled my equilibrium. She was supposed to be on the couch, sick with a fever. A dim haze glowed around her with my eyes trying to adjust, still fuzzy from the outside light.
“What is this? God, girl. You need to clean your fridge. I thought I was bad,” she was eyeing what looked like old taco meat from at least three nights ago. She took a bite and began adding ingredients from the items on the counter.
“Looks like you’re helping me out with that,” I inched closer, vinegar wafting in my direction.
She opened a jar of spaghetti sauce and added he remainder to the taco meat and stirred. She took a bite and shook her head. “Needs more. More salt.”
Next, she opened a jar of green olives and let them slosh down her throat. With olive juices running down her neck, she tilted the jar even further. She washed that down with can of beef bouillon. While drinking her soup, she cracked the lid of can of sardines.
Sardines, since when did I have these in my cupboard?
The sardines slithered in her mouth, tossing them back. She looked down at her bowl of the taco meat-spaghetti concoction and dove in with a big spoon. Between bites, she haphazardly added soy sauce, garlic sauce with hot chiles, ramen noodles, and lastly, yellow mustard.
“Salty enough for you?” My stomach churned violently, “What are you, pregnant?” I turned away, as she gulped bite after bite without chewing. She reached for a jar of pickles.
“There’s no chance of that,” she said, her mouth full. “So, you still want to go to dinner?”
“Let me just go throw up first,” the retching imminent now.
“Yeah, sure. Whatever you need to do to get ready. You mind passing me those pickles over there?”