Outskirts online journal

Enza Gandolfo

Further information

About the author

Enza Gandolfo is a Melbourne writer. She has had a number of short stories published in literary journals. Enza is currently working on a novel based on her grandmother's life - a woman whose voice journeying from the depths of her belly was always heeded

Publication details

Volume 2, November 1996

Food and Flesh

Praised be to Allah who made me stout and stuffed cushions in every nook and corner; neither did He neglect to lard my skin with fat that is as fragrant as the spice bush...Listen skinny one, to what thc poet says of the woman fat like myself. Look as she rises how she leaves a souvenir of herself on the place she has quitted, thc imprint of her buttocks. Look at her hips as she walks. They are unbearably lascivious. They are like two otters playing seesaw.

Arabian Nights, 10th century A.D.

Melons, red flesh and black seeds, the water juice, sticky pouring over my chin. The family gathers for feeding -summer afternoon under a fig tree, concrete and grape vines. Granita made fresh with lemons from the garden, sugar in spoonfuls, the stirring of ice until the texture is smooth, a silken flow of syrup.

Strawberries and oranges, hot apple pies baked fresh on Sunday morning after church. Hot apple pies with ice cream - rich buttery ice cream. Ice cream seventy flavours in a line and caramel cones - vanilla, blueberry, hazelnut, chocolate and chocolate chip. Licking lips and too many choices.

A surfer, thick sun bleached hair orders a double and devours it in a dozen mouthfuls, picks up his board and runs into the surf. My mother says, in broken English, he should wait, a spetari un oura, an hour after eating to go into the water. My hands move over those tight muscled shoulders, my breasts lean against the rock hard chest, his skin salty and bronzed burns my hands.

One day when I'm thin, men like that will chase me!

The first time I remember eating ice cream I was two - it melted before I could eat it - Manga presto, eat quickly, someone said, eat quickly or it'll disappear.

I am the Ruben reflection in the mirror, thick thighs bouncing, drooping lunar breasts, flesh of belly that quivers and swells, sand dunes in the wind.

Monstrous reflection standing over and above the slender figures of petite models in glossy magazines. Flat shapes, boyish childlike elves easy to bend, easy to break - reflection in the mirror - wondering, hoping, shutting my eyes tight, wishing one day to be like that - thin, tiny.

Where would the flesh go?

The flesh in rolls, the flesh hanging, the flesh that surrounds and encompasses.

Where would the flesh go?

I feel a nervous tinkling of spine, too fragile, too delicate, too flimsy, too easy to break.

Where would the flesh go?

You were born a big baby, ten pounds hair long enough to curl - the first child, the first grandchild, we sang, we danced, we laid food on tables long into the night. It is only years later I discover the pain of that childbirth, the lives threatened hers and mine

- they had to operate so you could both live says father

- the thought is never uttered - to big to be born, to big even at the beginning.

My grandmother, the matriarch, sitting over the brood kept a chocolate box in the linen cupboard. A white chocolate box tied with red ribbon, and shinning black cat teasing through the gap in the towels. Chocolate - cream and caramel that oozes down lips with the first bite, the taste of chocolate left on my tongue, a box of chocolate treats for small grandchildren, special gifts no one can resist.

A cho vouie piu bene? My grandmother asks. You, I love you most of all. My grandmother, worshipped by her sons, a booming voice echoing in passageways, the timber floor creaking under her feet.

My secret place, my warm I'll always be safe place, my grandmother's wide lap with the scent of rosewater and the smell of expresso coffee freshly brewed.

Fagible says my mother, eats everything not fussy like her brother.

Mindless eating fork to plate to mouth to plate, chew and scoop and chew and scoop,

from plate to mouth from plate to mouth.

A family at dinner - children and adults words held back at the throat.

I can't say what needs to be said…………then about to……..? hesitating, dying to, wanting to, wishing I could speak…………hesitating - filling the mouth to give reprieve, needing to speak, anxious about speaking - fill the mouth more pasta, more rice, more eggplant cooked in olive oil.

Don't make him angry.

Don't spoil his dinner.

Don 't annoy him.

Scoop and chew and scoop and chew………

There's some more eat it up.

Scoop and chew and scoop and chew……….

It's your favourite have another serve, just one more I made it

for you.

One day I'm going to eat so much food I'll explode, I will blood

and guts scattered like car parts in a wrecker's yard.

Plates of food appear on tables covered by lace clothes, my

mother cooks for days, the sweat on her brow loosens her temper,

she erupts from time to time. We keep our distance, then sneak

in fingers dipped in bowls - lick, licking the sweet custard. They arrive in groups, family groups, a pilgrimage of food, trays bought are gifts laden with sugar and pastry.

Taste mine, tasta oh mio, tasta oh mio, have some..............

Never take it the first time they offer, says my mother, it's rude. Wait until your asked again and again, then have a piece, only one piece.

At night I reach out in the darkness, thieving steps down hallway, carefully opening and closing of doors, slicing and eating from the corners - They won't notice it's missing.

Never go out like that says my mother, she picks up the girdle, holds it out to me.

A band of elastic tight across belly, the softness gone, hard, wooden, the belly waits to explode.

I dream of another body under covers in a single bed and pray to the Virgin Mary her bleeding heart in her hand, on the wall above. When I'm old enough I run away from the childhood home to India, in search of other gods.

Away from home the body shrinks becomes smaller, a gradual diminishing of its own accord, the flesh and fat disappear. It happens in the walking through the holy Krishna temples, on the journey to Annapurna, on the beaches of the southern coast, among the smells of cardamom, turmeric and clove cigarettes. I have no past here in this land cluttered with brown skinned bodies, speckled with backpackers, no one notices or mentions the change of shape and size they have no yesterday's body to compare.

Black and navy discarded for rainbow colours, a rich blend of simmering cloth - blue, red, yellow. Lashings of sunshine, warm ocean waters, muscles relaxed, skin supple with ancient oils.

The layers peel away

The armour falls by the wayside

In the first full length mirror in two years, in a Sydney hotel the reflection is of a foreign Indian body - thin lines, curves gone. The reflection smiles twists, turns a blaze of colour, dresses, undresses itself. This thinner woman has more men, is more promiscuous, cannot say no, does not know whether this is what she wants or not, does not know this body that they touch. A Mannequin, she stands still open arms to the side while they rub and push against skin pulled tight over bones.

Your the smallest you sit in the front he says and a twist of neck, a look at the others, the tall, thin women around me. Can he mean me am I the smallest?

In the shop windows the slight angular body is not mine. Stick figure, vulnerable,

too many breaking points

I seek comfort in trays and platters

and the flesh returns

Handfuls, soft pliable, rolls, mounds

The flesh returns

Slowly at first as I swear I won't let it - but like an invisible

hand the sculptor builds on the edges. The lines - sharp and jagged

are softened, curved, the hollow belly blossoms, expands, there

is a sense of returning home.

Tight clothes are folded and placed in the back of the wardrobe.

I can't have any sorry I'm on a diet,

they don't say it but I can hear it - about time

food on display is politely refused.

The containing of hunger a penance for ravenous excesses

but the senses left unsatisfied are a lustful lover pacing in the

night.

There is the pleasure of unrestrained eating.

There are the bangs of guilt in the morning.

If all the mirrors disappear, the scales and sizes on the clothing

on the racks in clothing shops and all the photos in magazines

of models and if you and I stopped talking of shape and size and

there were no such thing would I know that I am bigger than you

and that I shouldn't be and if I didn't know and there was no

difference would our bodies fall into a rhythm and melt into a

common shape?
The love of eating has a bitter tang

There are moments of panic, of suicidal thoughts the ongoing play of thin people's retorts, discipline, will power, control!

Well I have none!

I pay the bills, visit friends, remember birthdays but

I can't remember not to eat! I can't remember,

I can't control

gorge, gobble, scoop and swallow - the hollowness inside sighs with - the sensual pleasure of satisfaction.

There are moments of joy, dishes laid with delicacies, long nights of love making the swell of burning flesh. There are moments of pain and pangs of guilt. The hate of flesh, the hiding under covers swearing never, never to go out.

You have a wonderful shape, the artist says. I remind her I am not an artist's model.

I am the ample icon of flesh, rolling wave of flesh. I am the decadence of taking pleasure to its limit. I am the unrestrained feeding of fantasy.

And it frightens you!

I am a reminder of your insatiable hungers seething under the surface- bubbling, boiling, squirming.

And it frightens you!

For no matter how rich or powerful you are I am always bigger than you, I cannot be missed, can not be stepped over cannot be ignored bloated, rounded, overgrown.

I know I should control it

You know it shouldn't matter I know it shouldn't matter

You know I should control it

The elastic girdle now cut and shredded, the belly free is a water balloon. Voluptuous buttocks, shake and push against cloth, your eyes mesmerised, your hands and fingers tingle with the imagined sensation reaching to touch but not touching, thighs, oh such thighs a generous pool of flesh, loose and free, laughing, seducing flesh. A pleasure paradise that taunts you.

The questions, the pondering, the inevitable prodding but I do know, I do know that my grandmother larger even than I am was cherished, loved; that my grandfather's lust died only with his death; that her voice journeying from the depths of belly was always heeded. That her body quivered and bounced and I loved its curves and crevasses like no other.

I do know that the rolls of flesh, lush, trembling flesh are a pleasure paradise for those brave enough to risk being lost in its folds.


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