RAVENOUS by Dayna Macy
Hay House, 2011, 256 pages, 978-1401926915, Hardcover, $24.95
My recent interest in creative non-fiction has led me to have a greater appreciation for the memoir. I’m particularly drawn to memoirs with a specific focus, as with Ravenous. In this book, Dayna Macy allows the reader to share in her ongoing relationship with food.
It has not been an easy relationship, that’s for certain. The majority of the memoir details her struggle to understand and tame her eating habits. She realizes that some of her overeating stems from her emotions, and she battles her tendency to give in with fasting, yoga, and self-exploration. But this book also describes the joy she experiences from sharing her interest in food with others, and in learning more about the processes that go into making her favorite items.
I found Macy’s journey to be fascinating, and I was struck by her willingness to leave her home in order to experience the making of bread, the creation of sausage, and the truth of the slaughterhouse. Her writing captures these moments in ways that can be quite affecting. It is also laced with the sensory description you would expect in a memoir about food. In several cases, I wanted to try the author’s favorite delicacies, even when I knew I wouldn’t like them. For instance, I have a strong aversion to olives, yet reading Macy’s delicious descriptions made me want to give them one more try.
A melancholy tone pervades Macy’s story, however, and I would caution potential readers not to expect a happy, glowing ending. While she does resolve her struggle to some degree, it is more an understanding that the process of overcoming her issues will continue, and not a concrete success against them. Some may find this ending frustrating, but I felt it reflected reality better than if she had found a definitive answer to her personal questions. Finding balance in any aspect of one’s life is a continuous journey filled with obstacles, and I believe that Macy was able to capture this idea in Ravenous.
This book also allows the reader to travel through Macy’s emotional highs and lows as they pertain to her personal relationships. Her musings on her father were, at times, painful, and it is clear that her mother was often a source of contention in her life. Her children, however, bring her immense happiness. It is interesting to watch them from the author’s perspective, knowing that she has tried to make their experience of food and family a positive and enlightening one.
Finally, a fun aspect of Ravenous is the inclusion of recipes after every chapter. I haven’t tried any of them myself, but they certainly look fantastic.