There’s something in the blueberries
that my body needs.
It might be the blue
citric blue in its
vitamin skin. It might
be the tray of pebbles
on a shelf in my ‘fridge.
There’s something blue
that’s missing from my body. Even a doctor advises
that something’s in the berries. blue.
It could be spurred by personal anxieties or simply a quirky habit, but when I feel penny-pinched I lock down on my grocery consumption. I don’t realise it until I start losing weight, get sick or people comment on my bad skin (I’m prone to horrendous staph infections when my immunity is low). It doesn’t help that my body must contend with a cocktail of medications consumed to neutralise a chronic kidney condition (glomerulonephritis). Eating a diet that is nutritionally inadequate and unadventurous exacerbates everything. In all the years I have been responsible for feeding myself, I still haven’t learned.
It has been suggested that anorexics and the chronically obese obsess over food. That is, obsession characterizes our patterns of denial and excess. But surely some of us express obsessions at other points along the spectrum? I write regularly about food. As a recurring subject matter it explores a variety of themes such as provision, inner-states, comfort, class standing and social identity. Right now, I am thinking about a coffee (a black Americano, because cow’s milk doesn’t agree with me), what I’ll consume for lunch (warmed up butternut soup) and what I should eat before this evening’s 3-hour training session (high protein – probably scrambled eggs with spinach). If this is not a degree of food obsession, what is?
In the days when I was ‘more vegetarian’, a young man said to me, “Are you anorexic vegetarian or vegetarian vegetarian?” At the time I thought it was such an interesting and astute comment. Most women have a fascinating relationship with food irrespective of culture and social bracket. Of course, men also have a relationship with food (for starters, they eat it), but conventionally it is not framed as notably psycho-emotional. This is not the whole truth, for as we see more and more in our modern age, men also have complicated relationships with food.
In “Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking” (Kate Colquhoun, Bloomsbury: 2007) there is mention of young people – she mentions young bachelors in particular – who live alone in bedsits and rented accommodation during the early and mid-twentieth century. For the first time, they were disengaged from a community network in which their food would have been prepared. Their isolation was made complete by the canned and pre-portioned packaged foodstuffs made possible by the Industrial Revolution. At moments in my rented existence, like on Saturday when I portioned up butternut soup and pasta bake for the freezer, I think about this chapter.
Pantry staples of my childhood such as canned pilchards or peanut butter seem a million miles away from blueberries, or berries of any sort. The mere suggestion that blueberries might be a viable everyday item takes some reconsideration. The further suggestion that they might be a necessary vitamin source during a cold, grey London winter sounds like saying chocolate will help with PMS (which it does). My logical brain objects: I take a multivitamin and paracetamol is available for pain.
Yet, ‘that missing something’ like the ‘x-factor’ is elusive. Blueberries might indeed possess a quantifiable nutritional and vitamin content. On my ‘fridge shelf they do look like little pebbles in a plastic tray that await plopping into porridge and goat’s milk yoghurt. Perhaps their very presence satisfies the ‘missing something.’ I shall give this experiment in blue at least a month.
Any contributions of blueberries for the poet will be gratefully received.
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012