Radio Readers BookByte: Food as a Weapon

Sep 25, 2017

In the novel, the narrator describes how she, as a child, would bring oranges surreptitiously into the house because the very smell of them would trigger her mother's migraines, thus buying the child hours of freedom after her mother took heavy narcotics and lay in bed.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Hello, Radio Readers – I am Jason Harper, food and fiction connoisseur (as well as solely self-proclaimed chef and author) coming to you from Hays, Kansas. Today, I’ll be talking about High Plains Public Radio Reader's Fall 2017 theme – Food and Story, delivering part three of my four-part Book Byte about Five Quarters of the Orange, a novel by Joanne Harris.

Today, my focus is that the characters in Five Quarters of the Orange use food as a weapon.

In the novel, the narrator describes how she, as a child, would bring oranges surreptitiously into the house because the very smell of them would trigger her mother's migraines, thus buying the child hours of freedom after her mother took heavy narcotics and lay in bed. Unbeknownst to her, these frequent headaches and that "medicine" she took led to a crippling opiate addiction.

Food can be, at certain times and under some circumstances, used as a weapon by children, as a power instrument. For instance: You might want them to eat an apple or a banana, or even an avocado, just anything that would be better than the bag of chips he's cuddling with in front of the TV, but he stubbornly refuses, so you acquiesce. This kind of control/power war happens in too many families too often throughout a typical day, and the chips are weapons in the battle.

Yet food can be used as a weapon by parents, too. In extreme cases, it could become a form of abuse without the parents even realizing that this is what they are doing, possibly developing from a parent feeling out of control of other areas in their life, but at home controlling food and their family is much more manageable. 

Overall, the characters in Five Quarters of the Orange do have some realization that what they are doing is wrong, yet there seems to be little remorse for the resultant events that transpired – which makes for a riveting page-turner of a book – sprinkled with a dash or two of guilty pleasure. At least while we read this we're not parked in front of the television with a bag of chips!