Chew on This

I had read the book "Appetites" by Caroline Knapp a number of years ago, and picked it up tonight after I knocked it off the bookshelf while trying to dust. On page 3 was this quote:

Cottage cheese, of course, is the food God developed specifically to turture women, to make them keen with yearning. Picture it on a plate, lumpy and bland atop a limp lettuce leaf and half a canned peach. Consider the taste and feel of it: wet, bitter little curds. Now compare it to the real thing: a think oozing slab of brie, or a dense and silky smear of cream cheese. Cottage cheese is one of our culture's most visible symbols of self-denial; marketed honestly, it would appear in dairy cases with warning labels: this substance is self-punitive; ingest with caution.

Though I don't always agree with Knapp, I think this paragraph is particularly poignant of the ways that food is used in our culture as a symbol of morality, of how strong and how good you are.

If I walked into my old office during their diet psychosis, with only a bowl of cottage cheese for lunch, no one would say, "That's it?" They would say, "Oh, you're being so good." Many of my co-workers were nurses. Yet still they were held hostage by this same mentality.

I still wait for the day when food is food and that is that.

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Harriet said...

Amen, sister!

Anonymous said...

I never really thought of that but you are absolutely right. One simple little food is so symbolic for the "good" eaters - the dieting nation. The ironic part for me (as with so many other e/d people) is that even that became forbidden. I actually *like* cottage cheese. Love it. But it became as forbidden as ice cream to me when in the depths of the e/d. It was too indulgent. Anything I liked was indulgent.

Thank you for pointing out this oddly powerful symbol. It's quite an intriguing thought.

Gena said...

I too love cottage cheese, and like to have it as a light dessert with pineapple.

But you're so right that it has become a symbol of "good eating" and "willpower" over all those bad/denied/forbidden foods out there.

KC Elaine said...

100% behind you. funny, or more like sad and tragic, how we use food.

carrie said...

I mean, I don't think there's something inherent about cottage cheese that makes it the quintessential diet food. I actually like cottage cheese, too, although it's not my absolute favorite. The food held up to some standard of proto-godliness could by anything. It's the point that there is such a food.

IrishUp said...

I love cottage cheese. The full fat kind. With salt and pepper. And preferably Doritos to dip in it.
Now, eating crap you hate - NOT because it's polite and your mother-in-law's feelings would be hurt and Easter dinner is only once a year *sigh* -
THAT'S what I call disordered eating.

carrie said...


I like cottage cheese (again, the full fat kind :) with some fruit cocktail and some grape nuts or granola. It's a fantastic quick breakfast that really stays with you. You could probably add some slivered almonds or walnuts for some extra satiety.

My college roommate liked it with a hefty amount of parmesean cheese and some Mrs. Dash italian seasoning.

And now I really want some cottage cheese. Ironic that this post would lead to that.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Carrie. Did you know that Caroline Knapp died a few years ago? She had lung cancer. So sad. She endured a lot.

carrie said...


Yes, I did hear that. She was a fantastic writer. It's very sad.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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