Set The Scene
Publishing Year: 2019
Publishing Country: United States of America
Other titles I’ve covered published this year: We Have Always Been Here
While Canada was having a Federal Election, President Trump was being impeached, Notre Dame was burning (and raising millions of dollars for restoration), and a hurricane devastated the Bahamas and the southern US.
Not all political news was bad, as a record number of women ran for seats in the US government. The longest US government shutdown in history occurred, and because of White House chefs being furloughed, Trump served McDonalds’ burgers to a sports team who were coming to celebrate a national championship.
Across the world, there were floods of images from the bombings in Syria, attacks in Sri Lanka, and Kenya from extremist militant groups. The largest mass shooting in New Zealand’s history, with 51 dead and 40 injured, led to a swift banning of semi-automatics in the country.
In the media, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper made a stir in A Star Is Born, and the first-ever picture of a black hole was taken by a team at the National Science Foundation.
About the Author
A debut novel from Laura Williams, who had previously received a lot of attention for her collection of short stories.
A coming-of-age story for the young feminist woman. A story of finding people who help you grow and using your newfound voice. The story flips between Roberta’s departure to university that started her love of cooking and her late 20s-relationship with her best friend and roommate Stevie as they enter adulthood.
As young adults in corporate jobs, the pair feel stifled. Roberta wants to begin experimenting with cooking, and Stevie wants to make connections with other young, hungry women. In their efforts, they put on spectacles and living art for a group of disenfranchised women.
Like most projects that receive time and effort do, the dinner parties grew, and eventually get out of hand, resulting in garish break-ins to indulge in capitalistic pleasures. Rather than being a definitive win for the group, many drop off or fall out, but the acts captivate the internet and ignite supper clubs globally.
My Take Aways
Food & Figure
The first time I read this book I didn’t expect it to hit me so hard. Like many young women, I struggle with eating and my relationship with food was fraught with forced diet culture and pulled me away from my love of cooking. I was asked to stop baking with all my spare time by my mother in high school because she didn’t want the baked goods around.
Being pretty and thin was something regularly talked about, and my sister who was larger (which we later discovered was related to a medical issue) was shamed openly at the table all the time. Looking back, I wish I had advocated for her more.
Roberta uses food as a way to control herself and break up her days. When her depression hits all-time highs, cooking brings her back to feeling grounded. By creating more emotional connections with the food I make and serve to others, I’ve been able to create healthier habits for myself.
Young female friendships that I went through were fraught with unhealthy habits. Some from societal pressures, some from my suspected neurodivergence. Either way, I look at my parents and the adult females I know and very few of them have solid and healthy friendships. Roberta’s relationship with Stevie is a refreshing perspective on the troubles we face with each other.
With a lack of community that can share the burden of our social needs, two women settle into matrimonial household routines with each other. Their desire for expanding community and sharing their personal gifts launches the supper club, and as they become okay with freeing themselves and taking up space, they learn to respect each other and themselves more.
The lack of portrayal of complex female relationships is rarely shown in modern media. When you grow up in isolation from strong female connections, you lose sight of creating a support network for yourself and relationships feel transactional. Watching women struggle with internal desires, self-healing journeys, and supporting their friends helped me examine my friendships and look for people who show they love you back.
A lot of the female friendships in this book struggles to break away from competition and jealousy. In their supper clubs, the women do not care what they look like and are not trying to police their bodies or the way they might look to others. When supporting each other in the clubs, they have beautiful breakthrough moments that could be had every day without the augmentation of alcohol or drugs, if we just looked at people for who they are and appreciated them for being.
Food & Capitalism
This book topic didn’t stand out for me the first two times that I read the book. But after the recent conversations surrounding food sovereignty, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of the lifecycle of commercially grown food.
This book often gets compared to Fight Club, and I feel that the people doing that really don’t understand the point of Fight Club or this book. they’re opposite sides of the same coin, the effects of toxic masculinity and humans’ innate desire to express ourselves.
While men in Fight Club want to inflict violence on others, these women are healing from the actions of male violence and the patriarchy.
The men in Fight Club are looking for an outlet to express their pain, the women of the supper club are looking for an escape, a space to mentally reprogram where they honour their bodies’ desires and don’t suppress their thoughts.
The men in Fight Club look to blow something up to make a statement, the women in the supper club hang fabrics and make art displays, and huge messes with food, that they dumpster-dived for. Supper Club is not losing yourself to the senseless violence of the patriarchy, it’s about analyzing why we do everything and looking for ways to truly honour your values and create a new community.
Relationships With Older Men
There’s a whole lot I could say on this topic but I really implore older men to please leave young women alone. Let them be kids and explore relationships with people on their own level. It doesn’t matter if you think she’s mature. It’s a surface-level trauma response and she is not an actual adult. I’m talking about anyone 23+ trying to date 17-18-year-olds.
Roberta’s relationship with Arnold is painful in some ways to watch as I reflect on my early adulthood relationship with a man 10 years older. My parents loved him and the life he provided, and when I complained I was told it was a good life on offer and I should take the abuse.
These men play cruel games and use young women to suit their needs. Women who have yet to find their voice and power, who don’t know what a healthy relationship should look like.
I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be with any man who is older, but they should be with a man who will treat them with respect and dignity, and we need to do better at telling old men that this continued behaviour is unacceptable. To see another very toxic relationship where a woman needlessly martyrs herself in a Star is Born, and more recently, Mrs. America, speaks to the ways women participate and self-destruct under the patriarchy. Hopefully, media like this allows women to think critically about their own situations.
What to Read Next
If you’re looking for more advice or books with a similar topics, may I suggest you read Bad Feminist next? If you’re looking for more facts on women policing their bodies and breaking free from internalized marketing, I suggest you read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolfe.
Or, you may also want to take a break with a light zombie apocalypse.