Title: Eating With My Mouth Open
Author: Sam van Zweden
Publisher: NewSouth Publishing
Published: February 2021
Eating With My Mouth Open is a deeply personal intersection of food writing and memoir, touching on taboo subjects such as eating disorders, fat acceptance, and generational relationships with food.
Eating is such an integral part of our existence; we eat to survive, we eat to socialise, and as van Zweden explains, we eat to appeal to society. The first half of the book focuses on this performative nature and how society’s need to police each other’s food consumption can lead to instances of disordered eating. When we consider the myriad of food pictures on social media and the ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos online, the idea of performativity surrounding food consumption becomes obvious.
She takes this further by discussing the demonisation of certain foods, and the societal expectations for women to take up less space and ultimately eat less and be less in accordance with gender constructs.
“We are encouraged to question whether we are treating our bodies, our planet and each other well… What to eat is morally loaded.” (page 37)
It is hard to put into words how much I adored this book. Reading van Zweden’s experiences with disordered eating, as well as her parental relationships and her musings about how society treats fat bodies, was like holding up a mirror to my own experiences. It was validating yet deeply affecting, and I feel as though many women will be able to relate to the themes within this book.
Eating With My Mouth Open is the perfect combination of personal essay, food writing, and scientific research. Van Zweden’s description of food is not only mouth-watering but elicits a sense of nostalgia. Readers are given a deep insight into her personal connection to food through accounts of her time spent with her father in the kitchen, and the ways in which food strengthens the ‘tenuous’ connection to her Dutch heritage.
Van Zweden is a fresh new voice in nonfiction, her work offering commentary on the next wave of body positivity and providing a personal spin on the subject. This book is relatable, well-researched, and clear in its intentions; it will be one I recommend for years to come.