More about Gary Allen:
Once, at a booksigning, someone asked if there was a market for books about food—other than cookbooks, that is. Needless to say, I had no witty answer at the time, so I merely said, "Of course there is," but the question haunted me.
If the answer was "no," then why do I feel the need to write about food?
Clearly, it was part of a bigger question: what is it that we really need? What do members of any species really need? Simply to survive and to reproduce. In order to survive long enough to reproduce, we need to breathe, to eat and sleep. Everything else that we do is done to ensure that those needs are met. How do writers deal with these basic needs? It’s fairly obvious that reproduction is well-covered — obsessively well-covered — as a writing topic. Breathing could, conceivably, be an interesting topic—but I confess that an exciting angle hasn’t occurred to me yet. Sleep, aside from dreams, doesn’t offer much material with which a writer can work (OK, Washington Irving did manage to do something with it, but sleep wasn’t really the point of "Rip Van Winkle," was it?).
What all this boils down to is: there is really only one subject left that’s worth writing about—eating.
M.F.K. Fisher said as much in her introduction to The Gastronomical Me, in language that — thank goodness! — was warmer, less clinical, than mine. Instead of "eat, sleep and reproduce" she chose the more graceful "food and security and love." When asked why she wrote about food (instead of more, supposedly, serious subjects), she replied:
"There is food in the bowl, and more often than not, because of what honesty I have, there is nourishment in the heart, to feed the wilder, more insistent hungers. We must eat. If, in the face of that dread fact, we can find other nourishment, and tolerance and compassion for it, we'll be no less full of human dignity.
There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. And that is my answer when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love?"