“And they would go across the Square to the cool depth of the drugstore, stand before the onyx splendor of the fountain, under the revolving wooden fans, and drink chill gaseous beverages, limeade so cold it made the head ache, or foaming ice-cream soda, which returned sharp delicious belches down his tender nostrils.” –Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel (1929)
Asylum inmates of yesteryear were none too crazy about the food served them
What did the insane eat? In Bram Stoker’s Dracula we find the lunatic Renfield dining on flies and spiders. Ken Kesey describes attendants bringing “identical trays of muddy-looking food” to asylum patients in his One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And in her memoir of her time in a psychiatric ward, Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen recalls “cutting old tough beef with a plastic knife, then scooping it onto a plastic fork.”
“A travelling incarceration. Immobile inside the train, seeing immobile things slip by. What is happening? Nothing is moving inside or outside the train.
“The unchanging traveller is pigeonholed, numbered, and regulated in the grid of the railway car, which is a perfect actualization of the rational utopia. Control and food move from pigeonhole to pigeonhole: ‘Tickets, please …’ ‘Sandwiches? Beer? Coffee? …’ Only the restrooms offer an escape from the closed system. They are a lovers’ phantasm, a way out for the ill, an escapade for children (‘Wee-wee!’) — a little space of irrationality, like love affairs and sewers in the Utopias of earlier times.”–Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1980)
The turn of the last century saw the dining room go from a haven in a heartless world to a fueling station for factory work
To read part 1, click here.
One summer day in 1894 Walter Post took out a line of credit.
The Northern Pacific railroad clerk wanted to spruce up the six-room house he shared with his young wife, Ulilla (neé Carl and known fondly as “Lillie”). To Schuneman and Evans, the department store extending him the loan, he pledged repayment in 60 days’ time.
“I was let off near a supermarket. It was dark. I was standing comfortably enough, looking at the neon lights, but I needed a direction, the hint of some discernible habit, a movement of some kind. A place to stand but at the same time to appear busy. I have no memories, only vague symbols of separations: an overturned kitchen table, a ripped bed sheet, a broken battleship abandoned at the bottom of a bathtub. I went into the supermarket. The aisles were crowded with evening shoppers. There was Muzak. I slid into the warm colors and the clicks of the cash registers. I tried to remember near the frozen foods, I am trying to remember, what it was I had to remember, but I had forgotten what I had gone in for, what it is exactly I have to go out for. I pushed the car down the length of one aisle and halfway up another. I picked up a can of beans. I must have picked up a can of beans because I can remember putting a can of beans back on the shelf and picking up another, a bottle of beans. I put the bottle of beans near cans of chop suey and vegetables and Pet milk. Then, finally, I managed to hold two cans of tuna fish. Something was evoked. A meal.” –Rudolph Wurlitzer, Nog (1968)