What kind of relationship do you have with food? It was a big question posed by Woman’s Hour (Radio 4, 6 May, 10am), which rendered a suitably wide variety of listener responses.
In a little under an hour, presenter Jane Garvey listened to how Jane from Amersham was so uninterested in what’s on her plate that she couldn’t be bothered to eat in restaurants and serves up one dish only - an ad-hoc blend of vegetables, pasta and chicken nicknamed ‘peasant’s surprise’. There was 86-year-old Jackie, who remembered rationing in the war and remained so aware of how grateful we should be for three square meals that all the guilt wrapped up in food in 2019 left her flummoxed. Marilyn, meanwhile, was so heartbreakingly caught up in a 30-year battle with bulimia that a croissant left her spiralling into anxiety.
The full spectrum of emotion and experience was here. From guilt, to boredom, to terror to obsession - our relationship with food can cover it all. Even where we don’t think we have a relationship, we do. Even where that relationship amounts to shaking our head at plastic packaging or the abundance of choice in supermarkets.
But is that relationship even more complex for women? It was the (largely) unspoken thread underlying each conversation after all but one which, perhaps understandably, Garvey didn’t tackle head on. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. What does is open and honest discussion like this about how we interact with the food on our plate and how that can affect every part of our lives.