Hunger Games: Feast and Famine

[Content Note: Starvation, Disordered Eating, Obesity Epidemic Bullshitery]

Hunger Games Recap: In Chapter 2, Katniss volunteers to be the girl tribute from District 12 in place of her little sister Prim. The boy tribute is picked -- Peeta Mellark -- and it is revealed that Katniss owes Peeta a debt because he once fed her, at physical cost to himself, when she was starving.

The Hunger Games, Chapter 2

You may miss it, what with all the fighting and dying, but The Hunger Games is a series about food.

Hunger. Hunting. Fire. The basic things that compel us as people: the need to eat, the drive to find food, the desire to make it as digestible as possible. Rare is the chapter that doesn't mention these things, and the concepts of food, of eating, and of the privileges involved are woven deeply into the series. Katniss herself was named after food, a detail that will be revealed in Chapter 4:

   In late summer, I was washing up in a pond when I noticed the plants growing around me. Tall with leaves like arrowheads. Blossoms with three white petals. I knelt down in the water, my fingers digging into the soft mud, and I pulled up handfuls of the roots. Small, bluish tubers that don’t look like much but boiled or baked are as good as any potato. “Katniss,” I said aloud. It’s the plant I was named for. And I heard my father’s voice joking, “As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.” I spent hours stirring up the pond bed with my toes and a stick, gathering the tubers that floated to the top. That night, we feasted on fish and katniss roots until we were all, for the first time in months, full.

Peeta is the son of a baker, his name a homophone with "pita". He is "the boy with the bread", a silent friend who risked the wrath of his abusive mother in order to give bread to Katniss when she was slowly starving to death. He is introduced here in Chapter 2:

   The boy never even glanced my way, but I was watching him. Because of the bread, because of the red weal that stood out on his cheekbone. What had she hit him with? My parents never hit us. I couldn’t even imagine it. The boy took one look back to the bakery as if checking that the coast was clear, then, his attention back on the pig, he threw a loaf of bread in my direction. The second quickly followed, and he sloshed back to the bakery, closing the kitchen door tightly behind him. [...]
   To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Peeta Mellark, and the bread that gave me hope, and the dandelion that reminded me that I was not doomed.

Katniss does not just hunt food in order to provide for her family; she provides food for the entire town. She sells squirrels to the baker, and her meats go into the community stew pot at the local market. She gathers fruits and vegetables in order to sell them door to door. When Katniss volunteers for her sister, the mayor of the District recognizes her: not just because she is the friend of his daughter or the child of a tragically dead miner, but first and foremost because she brings food to his table:

   “Lovely!” says Effie Trinket. “But I believe there’s a small matter of introducing the reaping winner and then asking for volunteers, and if one does come forth then we, um…” she trails off, unsure herself.
   “What does it matter?” says the mayor. He’s looking at me with a pained expression on his face. He doesn’t know me really, but there’s a faint recognition there. I am the girl who brings the strawberries.

I do believe there is hardly a chapter in this series that does not deal closely with food. Chapter 1 opens with Katniss eating the fruits of her sister's labor -- the goat cheese -- before heading out into the forest to hunt meat for their table. When the two tributes are whisked off to the Capitol, one of the first things Katniss notices is the rich variety of food, and Effie 'compliments' the two tributes for not being so starving that they forget their table manners.

Once in the Capitol, Katniss continues to be overwhelmed by the food on display, and she struggles with trying to fill herself in anticipation of the Hunger Games without becoming so full that she loses her fighting edge. Meanwhile, Peeta wins the hearts of the Capitol audience by complimenting their food and discussing his favorite dishes -- later, when Katniss and Peeta are playing romance-reality-television for the viewing audience at home, Haymitch tugs on the Capitol's heartstrings by delivering that same favorite dish into their waiting hands. Katniss, playing the good nurse, feeds Peeta with her own hands -- later, she will drug him in the same way, in one of the more controversial scenes of the book.

Food is central to the world-building of the book. The districts are divided by their produce, which in many cases include food -- it is by noting what food shortages are occurring that Katniss can piece together the extent of the rebellion. Those the Capitol deems criminals have their tongues removed as a brand marking them for life; their punishment robs them of the ability to taste food, even while they are condemned to serve it to their captors. Food also provides pivotal plot events, such as in Catching Fire when Gale is captured and flogged for selling game to the authorities. And in Mockingjay, one of our first introductions to the constricting life within the mysterious District 13 is the revelation that food is so closely regulated that eating more than one's allotted share is a criminal offense.

Most of all, the food in The Hunger Games is used to illustrate privilege. When Katniss first meets Cinna, he takes her to a room where rich food is on display, slowly spoiling in the open air and ready to be thrown uneaten into the trash at the day's end:

   I try to imagine assembling this meal myself back home. Chickens are too expensive, but I could make do with a wild turkey. I’d need to shoot a second turkey to trade for an orange. Goat’s milk would have to substitute for cream. We can grow peas in the garden. I’d have to get wild onions from the woods. I don’t recognize the grain, our own tessera ration cooks down to an unattractive brown mush. Fancy rolls would mean another trade with the baker, perhaps for two or three squirrels. As for the pudding, I can’t even guess what’s in it. Days of hunting and gathering for this one meal and even then it would be a poor substitution for the Capitol version.
   What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?
   I look up and find Cinna’s eyes trained on mine. “How despicable we must seem to you,” he says.

The food in the series isn't mere food porn for the sake of the reader. The food in The Hunger Games is used to illustrate the difference between the privileged and the marginalized in this world. The people in the Districts are kept weak and submissive through hunger and starvation; the people in the Capitol are given more food than they know what to do with. Back at Katniss' home, it is not unusual for whole families to starve to death -- only Peeta intervened to save Katniss and her family -- but in the Capitol, the citizens widely practice social bulimia in order to eat as much variety as possible when attending parties.

The lives of the people in the Districts revolve around the pursuit of food, and its terrible scarcity. Katniss can provide for her family through illegal hunting, but girls who are not skilled with a bow must sell their bodies to the authorities in order to survive. When Peeta is being interviewed about his unrequited love back home, the interviewer points out that once he returns a victor -- once he has a regular supply of food from the Capitol as his wages -- he can marry any girl he wants. The interviewer, Caesar Flickerman, is trying to be romantic, but the reader knows the reality: Peeta will be desirable if only because his wife will have the 'privilege' of not starving to death; anything else he brings to the table in the form of positive personal attributes is metaphorical gravy. Later, Katniss will note that Haymitch, as a victor, could have had "his choice of any woman in the district", and her words are not an exaggeration. The citizens of the District are so deeply starving that a marriage in exchange for steady food is the ultimate match, above all other considerations.

Over and over, we see that food in the Districts is used to separate the very-marginalized from the less-marginalized. Katniss and the mayor's daughter may be friends, and the two girls may face some of the same daily privations and lack of privileges, but Katniss has her name in the reaping 20 times and Madge only has her name in there 5 times. The tessera -- a "meager year's supply of grain and oil for one person" -- comes at the price of entering one's name in yet another time, and that extra entrance is permanent, long after that hungry year has come and gone. Children who are hungry are therefore much more likely to be selected for the Hunger Games.

Within the Hunger Games, food is still not an equalizer of class and privilege. The privileged children -- the ones from the Districts favored by the Capitol -- seize control of the Cornucopia, literally the Horn of Plenty from which spills more food than the children can eat in an entire Game. The marginalized children are denied access to this resource, and must scavenge for food and water in the surrounding terrain. Katniss, who is not a close-range fighter, is fortunate that both her Games provide water and meaty game; were she in an entirely different environment, such as a desert, she might well starve. Indeed, Katniss' survival strategies revolve entirely around food: in the first Game, she heads for the hills to trap game before coming back to blow up the food supplies of the others. In the second Game, she picks an elderly woman from District 4 for her team in part because she can fashion fish hooks with which to catch dinner.

In America, right now, 16.7 million children live in "food insecure" households. Possibly the angriest I have been this year was during a special episode of "Chopped" that featured school cafeteria workers. While the cooks offered heartbreaking tales of how they cook extra-big meals on Monday because -- for many of their children -- it's their first meal since last Friday, the celebrity guest judge -- a spokesperson for the White House "childhood obesity" program -- chastened the cooks for their portion sizes being too big. Didn't they know that hungry children are attractive children? What were they thinking?

That man, that Celebrity Guest Judge, was a citizen of the Capitol. Hungry children don't exist in his world, and when children die, it is a curiosity to him, not a tragedy. We're not as a country quite at the point where we televise their deaths for the amusement of all, but that distinction isn't much of a compliment since unseen deaths are still deaths. The Cafeteria Cooks, on the other hand, were people who lived and worked in the Districts. Maybe they still had some privilege of their own -- maybe they were Madges and Mayors instead of Prims and Ms. Everdeens -- but they knew marginalization because they saw it close-up and personally, and they saw the ravages and the causalities. These cooks understood that, for far too many people, hunger is a reality and food is not a pretty luxury to be dressed up and dolled up and teased into shape before then scraping it into the trash because, after all, it was only decorative.*

A good dystopia, in my view, holds up a mirror to our own society. It picks a theme -- or maybe two or three -- and runs with that theme, weaving it intricately into the story without overwhelming the reader with the underlying message. I do believe that "hunger" is a theme of The Hunger Games, and not just because it's in the title. And I think that message is absolutely relevant in a country where 16.7 million children go to bed hungry, where that fact was not mentioned (to my knowledge) by either presidential candidate (one of whom is on record saying he doesn't think people are entitled to food), and where a government policy to get children to eat less (and therefore be more attractive!) has more funding and national attention than ones designed to help children eat more -- and therefore not die.

Congratulations on being born in America.** May the odds be ever in your favor.

* Pretty food not is a bad thing in itself, but the juxtaposition of "hungry children" with "decorative meals not to be eaten" without the Celebrity Guest Judge having even a moment of contemplation about his words was enraging to me. Context matters.

** For you readers who were not born in America, here's hoping that this point about food insecurity does not apply to your country

Update: The comment thread below has had several posts removed. Not because the posts were bad or wrong, but because this is an aggressively safe space for Fat People and Fat Acceptance, and I would rather have a twitchy delete-finger than risk triggering our board readers. Please remember that a Fat Acceptance safe space means:

1. Avoiding seriously using the words "obesity epidemic" as though this is a Real Thing, or otherwise treating fatness like an undesirable, unhealthy, or plague-like state of being.

2. Avoiding imbuing foods or food groups with objective qualities like "healthy" or "unhealthy". If you want to talk about "healthy" foods as in what the Celebrity Guest Judge considers "healthy", maintain those scare quotes and remember that health is subjective.

3. Avoiding explanations of how fat people can lose weight and/or arguments against set point theory. Remember that there is no weight loss solution that works for everyone, and that many people here find weight loss talk highly triggering.

4. Avoiding generalizations of fat people and/or fat children and their supposedly collective actions, habits, tendencies, or lifestyles. This is a basic policy on this board, and I especially ask that it be respected here.


Wingedwyrm said...

I think that one of the problems that's blocking progress is the idea that obesity is the result of eating too-much as opposed to "the wrong things" and also the idea that "wrong" in this case is a matter of personal choice.

"You shouldn't serve such portions...". No, you should serve bigger portions to poor kids who might not have had an adequate meal in the previous weekend. However, we, as a nation, should damn well have provided a bigger supply of healthy foods for you to make bigger meals with!

There is an issue in the US of children being less healthy and growing up less healthy with shorter lifespans due to obesity. This is, however, not a seperate issue from starvation, nor is it even the other side of the coin. It is a result of the fact that the "right" foods are often more expensive in money and/or time and that we have food-deserts where the "right" foods just aren't available in the first place.

So, there is some minor level of advocacy for the Chopped Guest Judge Devil here, but only minor in that he's obviously not seeing the full scope of the problem.

Silver Adept said...

@Amaryllis -

That's a neat way of looking at all three of them, and it makes for some interesting triumvirate comparisons - f'rex, straightforward, stubborn Katniss represents survival in the style of "find enough things to kill and eat, or die. She's a tank, and her greatest strength is barreling through obstacles in her way.

Peeta is survival in the style of "live long enough for the harvest, store enough for the winter and for replanting, and trade for what you need in the interim". He's the glass cannon - protect him and he will do all sorts of long-range damage over the long term.

Haymitch becomes survival in the misdirection sense - "never show the enemy the entirety of your holdings, and always keep him guessing about your skills and intent." He always has a bottle of liquor on him somewhere (or one nearby), and he makes his public appearances as a drunkard. Without going too far into spoiler territory, Haymitch is not a drunkard, but a Drunken Master. He's the rogue character that cloaks himself and then backstabs for critical damage.

All the party needs is a healer.

I do like how each of them fits nicely into the economy and can survive without stepping on each other, but if one of them has trouble, they all have trouble.

Amaryllis said...

From the flashback, Peeta is definitely carrying more pedestrian bread than the fancy things. I would assume that the bakery mostly carries and sells hearty loaves made from...probably tessera grain or other such things.

District 12 is supposed to more-or-less correspond with Appalachia, right? So maybe Katniss represents the hunter/gatherer lifestyle of the indigenous people, which continued to be important to the earliest European settlers and their descendents. Hunting is still a significant source of food in the region, for that matter.

Peeta the baker represents the settled agricultural lifestyle, where bread is the staff of life, a synonym for food itself. Its absence-- a bad harvest, an extortionate tax by the government-- means real hunger, not just a lack of luxury.

And as for Haymitch... well, much of the time it made economic sense to turn corn into corn liquor: easier to store, easier to transport, more profitable to sell (especially if you could keep the government out of your businesss).

Isator Levi said...

It would be kind of odd to consider a mockingjay casually flying out of a burning building, even if it would be rather appropriate. ;)

Ana Mardoll said...


Any comment after this notice that isn't about The Hunger Games and/or food insecurity as a means of marginalization will be deleted without notice.

If you have questions about Fat Acceptance, take it to the Open Thread, please:

Kristy Griffin said...

Randomly -

There is a cookbook called "More With Less." It's published by the Mennonites. I don't know much about their faith, but they make a damn good cookbook. The main focus is on turning cheap, readily-available ingredients into tasty meals.

It doesn't deal with all issues of marginalization - many recipes take time and some require specialized kitchen tools - but by and large, it helped me a lot when I had very little money and a whole household to feed. If any current readers are in a similar situation, I cannot recommend it enough. (And seriously, try the cheesy lentil bake thing, even avowed carnivores and lentil/veggie-haters love it. It is so freaking good.)

Will Wildman said...

Maybe I missed something, but I got the impression that the footage of District 13 was burnt-out wreckage, not still-burning buildings. I don't have Catching Fire at hand; I will check when I can.

Rakka said...

I can't find the place where it's first referred to in Hunger Games, but in Catching Fire it's "smouldering remains of the Justice building" and in the next paragraph of "current" footage no mention is made of if there's still smoke and fire around even if the reporter is in protective suit. I remember that the first mention was a lot more blatantly "duh" though. Will need to skim read the first book.

A. said...

I trust fat people, including fat children, to eat what their bodies need and to stop when they're done.

I trust people to be capable of listening to their bodies, and to know when their bodies are saying, "I've had enough now, thanks," but unfortunately I don't think that always follows through into "and then they stop eating", especially when we're considering children. Not because I think fat kids have no self-control, but because children are often taught that their own perceptions and wants are less important than those of grown-ups, so they'd better just ignore their own feedback and do as they're told. I think food is one area in which this can apply.

Content note: abusive parenting
I say this because I grew up with a father who was prone to occasional outbursts of verbal (and, very rarely, mild levels of physical) abuse, and consequently spent much of my childhood learning how not to make him angry. One thing that almost always set off his anger was failing to clear your plate at mealtimes, because didn't we know how hard he worked to put food on our table and why were we so ungrateful? However, he didn't seem to have much of a concept of "child portions are not the same as adult portions". I was a small kid, being given enough food to run a body much bigger than mine, and being expected to finish it all no matter what my body was telling me about how full it was. So I had to learn to ignore my body's feedback.

At the time, I don't think I realised that there was anything that unusual about my dad's approach to the world. If you'd given me big portions at school, I would have tried my hardest to eat them all up, because I'd have assumed that I'd be in trouble if I didn't.
End content note

I'm not saying that this means that small portions are the Universal Answer, and I recognise how important it is to provide for kids who don't get as much to eat at home. But if you've also got kids who don't know any option other than "clear your plate no matter what your body says", large portions aren't the Universal Answer either. Reality's too complicated for Universal Answers, but I'd suggest that instead of leaving all the responsibility to the chefs, we ought to be teaching kids a little bit about how to (a) identify what healthy eating looks like for them (which includes both "it's okay to stop when you're full" and "it's okay to eat when you're hungry, and being fat does not make that less okay") and (b) implement that.

Samantha C said...

actually, nevermind, I think I got so far into the thread that I forgot what you actually said, Ana. I wouldn't mind that deleted but I can't do it myself. Sorry.

Samantha C said...

I admit - and I read the series after I got into FA so I don't think this is just something I was blind to - I read the food policing of D13 as a vital survival strategy, not as some moral imperative. They officially don't exist. They can't be spotted. They can't go up to hunt or gather (until Katniss whines at them, I really don't like third-book-Katniss), they are under penalty of losing what meager everything they still have if they don't live in complete seclusion. So if there's just barely enough food to go around, it makes perfect sense to make it a crime to say "well, I'm a little hungrier than usual today, I'll take seconds and Mary over at the end of the line won't have any".

Ana Mardoll said...

And I'm actually saddened that a post about how fat prejudice gets more media attention than food insecurity spawned a thread about all the ways in which fat people can stop being fat people. Because that was definitely the conversation I was trying to foster.

Ana Mardoll said...

I don't know why I have to explain yet again that running/exercise does not mean thinness and the loss of fat tissue for many fat people, and yet apparently here I am.

This whole thread is really making me regret ever typing a post with the word "food" in it.

Inquisitive Raven said...

Blast! Clicked "like" when I meant to click "reply." I wanted to point out that thinner not necessarily = lighter. It's a matter of body composition. Muscle is denser than fat, so just replacing X lbs of fat with an X lbs of muscle will make a person thinner.

Kristy Griffin said...

OMG, seriously? Healthy food costs the same as unhealthy???

1) as you pointed out, brown rice and wheat flour and whole-wheat or veggie-enriched pasta all costs more than the less-healthy counterparts. Fresh food costs more than processed. Sauces made of wholesome ingredients cost more than overprocessed ones that rely on salt and high-fructose corn syrup. Lean ground beef costs more than regular. Boneless skinless chicken breasts cost more than wings. Herbs and spices cost more than salt and grease. And organic costs more than everything.

2) Healthy food takes time to prepare. (Unless you buy premade healthy meals, which are REALLY expensive.) That means money, too - to be home to prepare these healthy meals, you likely have to cut back your hours at work or refrain from taking a second job. Or stay up late the night before to prepare them, which means risking that you'll be too tired and groggy to function at work the next day.

3) Frozen dinners and bags of McDonalds are lighter and easier to carry than a grocery-load of fresh healthy foods. Not a big deal if you have a car. Kind of important if you rely on your feet, the bus, or a less-expensive vehicle like a bike or scooter to get around.

4) Healthy food is quite simply not available in some areas. In many poor communities in America, the food choices available are fast-food or convenience-store food. To get to a nice, airy, well-stocked supermarket with its big friendly produce aisle, you have to leave your neighborhood and go to another part of town (where, btw, prices are higher b/c the clientele is richer.) Which costs both gas money and time, and that's IF you're lucky enough to have a car.

I do think that childhood obesity is worrisome, but as a symptom of the problem - not the problem itself. Limiting portion size and caloric intake treats the symptom, not the problem. Better: focus on getting them those calories and big portions, but in the form of something that provides actual nutrition. Best: start seriously rethinking how we deal with both poverty and food issues overall.

depizan said...

(where, btw, prices are higher b/c the clientele is richer.)

This may not always be true - I've actually seen supermarkets with higher prices in poor neighborhoods because they're targeting a trapped populous. Of course, since we are dealing with trapped or travel challenged populations, it doesn't really matter what the prices are at the supermarket three miles that way are when you may not be able to get there in the first place.

Makabit said...

Re: Fatties and the military, believe me, if they ever need to reinstate the universal draft, they'll have less trouble getting middle-class fatties in fighting fit than they did getting malnourished poor kids there in WWII. Seriously. Start running us twenty miles a day and we'll lean down. We promise. Mostly. Those who don't will need larger uniforms, but they'll also be fine, as long as 'hiding behind small objects' is not a military objective.

Of course, the poor fatties will have other problems.

KNicoll said...

I'd like to pop in with a recommendation for The Fat Nutritionist, who is my absolute favorite. (I will someday be able to write food theology without just giving up and saying "Oh, go read the Fat Nutritionist. I hope. I need to to finish this book.)

A. said...

Fair enough, and I'm sorry if I caused any headache by poor word choice in my first post.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thanks, and it's cool. You just had the bad luck to arrive at the same time as another comment that wasn't safe space appropriate, and I had to skim-and-snag very quickly, which is sometimes tricky and content can be lost on the first go-through. :)

(Maintaining safe spaces on the fly is TOUGH, ya'll. We may eventually need a moderating team at some point, rather than just plain me.)

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL, cross-posted. It looks like I did misunderstand you (which was what I'd been hoping all along, yay!), but I'll leave up my response since it's germane to the next person to ask about my "trust" positions. :)

Lady Viridis said...

Katniss mentions being able to grow peas in the garden, though, so clearly they have a garden and they're getting seeds from somewhere. And while a large garden might not be possible, it would certainly do a lot to supplement the meager rations they're given. Even without the gardens, though, you can grab acorns and such off the ground, or snare a rabbit in the backyard. There are rabbits and squirrels all over my extremely urban backyard; I find it really difficult to believe there wouldn't be equal numbers of them in the middle of the Appalachians. While I'm sure the Capitol would frown on this kind of thing overall; I'm not sure they could really do much to stop it, either, and the authorities in the beginning of the first book seem totally content to look the other way.

As far as preservation goes, there are lots of ways to keep food without refrigeration. Humans stored food for thousands of years without it; I'm sure the District 12 people can manage.

Anyway, I wasn't presenting it as a plot hole--like I said earlier, I'm okay with this situation as it serves the narrative interest, and I didn't even notice it myself--but I think it was a suspension-of-disbelief issue for my friend. She never did end up reading the books after the first one.

Boutet said...

Aha, I had forgotten the peas. So maybe they are gardening when they can but still starving? It's certainly possible. Moreso near the end of winter and early spring when nothing has grown enough yet to eat.

ancusohm said...


I've really liked the Twilight and Narnia deconstructions, and I look forward to the rest of your Hunger Games deconstructions. This is my first time posting on this site, so I'm going to try to do it without being an ass (but I know Intent Is Not Magic)

Okay. Clearly, Sam Kass is offensive and either an idiot or incredibly ignorant. I'm not trying to defend him, and I'm definitely not saying obesity is a national security threat. Also, I'm not defending the idea that you have to be very skinny to be attractive. I know that's a very unhealthy idea.

But... there is a problem with obesity in this country. The CDC estimates that the medical care costs of obesity in 2008 may exceed 140 billion dollars and that obesity contributes to many serious problems ( I know many people aren't able to afford enough food in general, so of course they can't afford healthy food. And I know many people just aren't able to exorcise, for a wide variety of reasons. I'm not trying to blame anyone for anything, and I'm not trying to shame anyone who is overweight or, for that matter, underweight (but, again, I know Intent Is Not Magic). But... I think it's possible to encourage some people to adopt healthier habits without hurting anyone (like the people who, for various, are not able to adopt those healthier habits).

There are countries that have lower rates of obesity than the US and also rates of anorexia and other eating disorders than the US, so... I think it's possible for a country to have more people at a healthier weight without causing people to have an unhealthy conception of weight and body image. I think it's possible to encourage people to have a healthier weight without shaming anyone.

ancusohm said...

Oh, I see now. My post wasn't appropriate for the safe space. My apologies

Ana Mardoll said...

It's cool. Like I said, thank you for being so polite. I just don't want to rehash Fat Acceptance 101 every time I do a post about food. The Fat Acceptance community position on, say, the CDC and obesity rates and so forth are pretty easily googleable at this point, and I don't mind pointing out resources like Kate Harding's excellent archive, but as for a full-blown discussion here each and every time, it gets tiring for the fat people on the board, self most definitely included. Thanks, and I do hope you'll stick around.

ancusohm said...

Hi. Uh... stupid question. But I tried to post a comment, and it showed up at the bottom of the other comments, but then I refreshed the page, and now I can't find my comment anywhere. Um, are there any ideas on why/how that happened?

Boutet said...

There is also the work load of the people. If I were working 12 hour shifts in a mine I sure as hell wouldn't be coming home afterwards with energy for gardening or hunting. Even Gale who is fairly well fed, strong and healthy doesn't do anything except work on his working days.
And all of those things have a start-up cost that many people couldn't afford. Prim only had a goat because they managed to buy a half-dead one after illegally poaching a valuable animal. I think most of their neighbors would never have the money buy a good food animal. I would also assume that they have to pay for the stud to impregnate the goat, so there are ongoing costs in keeping the animal. Even just starting a garden would be costly and difficult, especially if you have no experience or knowledge of gardening. If my family was starving and I found a food plant I would probably bring it home to feed them, not transplant it to my yard and then ignore it for however long it takes to spread or reseed. And that is assuming it doesn't die from my inexperienced care, or get eaten by animals. I don't think we're given a very clear description of the yards of the people either, so it's possible that they don't really have yards to speak of.
We, with the internet, libraries, easily accessible stores, can think of ways that people could produce food. But take away all of that, and take away our comfort, our full bellies, our access to knowledge, and I think we would struggle too. Especially if we also had our work load increased and our wages significantly decreased in the bargain.

Lady Viridis said...

My point was not that people wouldn't struggle, but more that, when food supplies are limited, people are *extremely creative* in finding things to eat. Probably the most extreme example I can think of is the infamous rotted shark dish from Iceland-- these sharks are extremely toxic fresh, so traditionally they were hunted and then essentially buried underground for a year or so, until the flesh had rotted and fermented enough that it was no longer toxic.

If people ate rotted shark to survive in Iceland when there are really limited options, people starving in the overall fertile and varied area of the Appalachians are going to find a lot more options than only eating the tessarae the Capitol hands out. I completely agree that people would be tired from work, but even tired people or children can collect acorns in their yard, or mushrooms in that pile of rotted wood out back. And while not everybody would have this knowledge, there's really no reason for those few who did not to share it, or for the knowledge to be lost over time, even if it was kept very quiet to avoid the authorities.

As far as the goat thing goes-- the payment might not necessarily be money, it might just be a trade of one of the kids when born given to the owner of the stud. The goat is definitely pregnant somehow, though, or there would be no milk.

We know that Katniss' dad had woodscraft, and her mom had herb lore. From the timeline of the books, I don't think either of them could have been alive before the Capitol's control, which means their parents and probably other members of the community had this knowledge and shared it. Considering there was some kind of apocalyptic disaster prior to the Capitol's taking over, there would actually be a higher likelihood of those people having survival knowledge, since anyone who was still around after the disaster would have either known about it beforehand or figured it out in order to survive.

Again, a lot of this is just speculation. I don't think it ruins the book or anything, but I did think it was an interesting line of thought about the world-building behind this story. The friend who mentioned it to me could argue it better; she's much more versed in this kind of thing.

Ana Mardoll said...

I KNOW, RIGHT? Between this sort of thing and the Romney Where-are-the-horses-and-bayonets stuff, you'd think that a significant number of Americans believe that our military still rolls things Civil War-style. I don't even.

Ana Mardoll said...

The "security threat" is that Fatties can't serve in the military [[HUGE HONKING FOOTNOTE HERE]], so therefore since we're a nation of Fatties, we're sitting ducks for the nearest land military to roll in and take over. Because Logic.

As for his grocery fail -- and my gods but that is some serious fail -- I'm assuming he probably shops at some Organic Awesomesauce store where the choices of Sexy Liberal Organic White Flour and Sexy Liberal Organic Wheat Flour have *both* been marked up $20 a pound or some suchness. See? THEY COST THE SAME, GUYS! *facepalm*

But, yeah, I think Mr. Kass is a lost cause when it comes to, you know, basic human decency.

Ana Mardoll said...

They do talk about breeding Prim's goat in Catching Fire, iirc, so there's that.

As for victory gardens... one, they're far from easy; two, there's no indication that they're legal (and it's in the Capitol's interest to have the people hungry); three, they may very well not have the necessary supplies and/or expertise (where would they get seeds and fertilizer and tools? There's no travel allowed, and trade is presented as heavily restricted); four, we have no sense that they have refrigeration and food storage capabilities; five...

I certainly don't see it as a plot hole. Possibly a suspension of disbelief issue, but it seemed reasonable to me.

Rakka said...

Having internet access does not make you more knowledgeable about finding and growing food than actual experience in the same does. Assumedly someone else beside Katniss' father knew about edible plants, yet nobody else had gotten to the daffodils first. Or maybe he was just that special and nobody else did think to try to eat stuff they'd find, even if they were starving worse than he was... people figured out stinging nettles of all things are edible, at some point in history. What I'm saying that people who are short of food will try out about anything in case it's edible. If it really was that bad then the place would be picked bare already. This is where serious suspension of disbelief is required at least for me.
It also makes me flinch how they always gut the game and toss the innards. That's the good stuff, along with bone marrow! Being hungry you wouldn't toss out prime stuff like liver and heart, or even less savoury parts like kidneys and lungs. (Also, drink the bloody rabbit. Rabbit fever can't kill you faster than dehydration.)

But what gets me that I simply can't figure out the need for D12 at all. They're using force fields and antigrav(?) gliders - surely coal is not the energy source for all that, especially given how small D12 is. I'd buy even wood, given that the population was 9/10ths-ited over a century ago and forests grow to be harvesteable in 40 years. But coal?

Will Wildman said...

The Capitol uses force-fields and hovercraft and all sorts of sci-fi tech all the time, but the districts are operating mostly with much lower tech. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that D12's coal is being used to fire the foundries and forges in D2/3/6. District 5 is said to produce 'power' - since there's no map, it's not clear where D5 is relative to the others, but possibly D12 mines coal for D5 to burn so D3 can build its computers - sure, they could run D3 on whatever things drive Capitol tech, but it's a lot safer to keep them at the bare minimum level of materials.

Ana Mardoll said...

Sorry, it was an exaggeration. He *did* criticize them -- multiple times -- for portion sizes that he deemed "too big", but the Hungry = Attractive was all me. He was parroting the District 13 stance that there is an Exact Formula and that All People need X Calories and no more, etc. etc.

depizan said...

I'm still tempted to serve him to hungry school children. He apparently wasn't listening to the cooks' explanation of why they served bigger portions.

Lady Viridis said...

This is something that worries me a bit about the calorie limits on meals some schools are setting. It seems to me you have to strike a delicate balance; you don't want the obese kids to be eating too much, but for the underfed kids, they may be depending on those meals to get as many calories as possible. Our family had free/reduced lunch for most of my time in middle and high school, and also received some kind of government program that provided free cheese, whole milk, peanut butter, and other staples. It was extremely helpful to us and whenever I hear certain politicians whining about "food stamps" and entitlements I pretty much want to punch them in the face, because as you say, some of those programs are the only food kids get in really poor families.

That said, my farmer friend likes to point out that the Hunger Games is perhaps a bit inaccurate with just how scarce food is, at least in District 12 where the authorities are more friendly. She pointed out that if Prim's goat is giving milk, that means it's also giving birth at least once a year to 1-2 baby goats. Those goats mean more milk/cheese, more money (if the goats are sold), or meat. There's also a fair amount that can be grown in a garden or foraged-- even without going beyond the fence, things like acorns are fairly plentiful in the Appalachians. Similarly, you can't tell me that snares could not be set in back yards for squirrels, rabbits, or birds. Given all these things, and how desperate people get when they're hungry, she found it a little unconvincing that the people of District 12 were as bad off as the story implies. I think she's probably right, but that the story is written to prove a distinct point, and it makes sense for Collins to ignore some of these details in service of the greater narrative.

depizan said...

a spokesperson for the White House "childhood obesity" program -- chastened the cooks for their portion sizes being too big. Didn't they know that hungry children are attractive children? What were they thinking?


Tell me that's an exaggeration. Because if they actually said such horrific things, it's very hard not to wish personal experience with hunger and privation on them. Or perhaps being the main course.

Ana Mardoll said...

you don't want the obese kids to be eating too much

I trust fat people, including fat children, to eat what their bodies need and to stop when they're done. And I certainly trust fat people to regulate their food intake far more than I trust any third party with that responsibility because fat prejudice is so common in our society.

Fat Acceptance means understanding that there isn't an arbitrary "too much" for a person just because that person happens to also be fat. Everyone has unique limits and needs, and it's not our job or place to regulate fat people's eating for them.

Boutet said...

Thank you for this comment! My brain derailed when I got to that part and I couldn't think of any clear or reasonable way to respond.

Frenchroast said...

I figured that there were probably rules against having snares or large gardens, and that while the officials would turn a blind eye to stuff going on outside the boundary lines, they couldn't let that stuff go on where they were ostensibly in charge. I didn't even think about the goat thing, though. I think you're right about some of the details being ignored in service of the narrative.

Frenchroast said...

You know, it never occurred to me that being an Avox doesn't just mean you can't talk. It means you also can't taste. I thought it was a horrific punishment before, and it's even worse now that you've pointed the no-tasting out to me.

Silver Adept said...

The food issues in the books definitely don't ever go away, although they do...change over the course of the novels. Food is definitely a weapon used by the Capitol to keep people in line. Katniss also knows that those who win the Games get a year's worth of feasting from the Capitol. Of course, those who lose get nothing, and it seems implied to me that the other districts end up with less because one district is getting more.

And, as we'll find out, not all districts are equally starved.

Scribblegoat said...

Food availability-wise, there's also the fact that (and here I shall ride a hobbyhorse of mine) the book is explicitly set in the mid-to-upper South. As a gardener in upstate South Carolina, a paltry few hundred miles from the setting for the film, I spent the entire D12 portion of the movie alternating between a striking "My God. That's home." and "Where's the kudzu? A century later there would be more kudzu."

I don't know how much research Collins did on food culture or how different she's intending it to be from the current ecology of the Appalachias, and the problems others have pointed out are indeed problematic (a milkable goat?), but I furnish the following as information for those interested and as an explanation of why the food shortages seemed very realistic to me:

It's hard to garden edibles here. This is partly because our soil is freaking heinous. It's clay; our onions are weird, our carrots misshapen. There's no lime in the soil of the mountainous portion of the Carolinas. If animals are hard to get, manure will be too, and you'll be eating what can be composted (and feeding the goat anything you can't stomach), so fertilizing spent soil (like mining-stripped soil) will be difficult as hell. And oh lord the bugs. I've had aphids completely murder pea vines on a second-floor deck.

The result of all this is that, even in ecologically-reasonably-restored-to-natural-levels spaces, an inexperienced gardener in the area Katniss and her family live in can kill mint (gardeners know what a feat this is!). And we have massive invasive-plant problems -- invasive vines are particularly problematic because they eat everything. Very little of kudzu, honeysuckle, Chinese wisteria, and the other vines that mow over our forests is edible, and what you get is seasonal -- and it's nearly impossible to use these plant resources fast enough to open up enough space for longer-providing natives to grow. Even if the problem of invasive plants complicating the local biodiversity were miraculously solved, a large part of the biodiversity in Appalachia is derived from low-growing woodland plants, which are notoriously difficult to grow unless you can literally replicate a woodland meadow in your backyard, which takes work that D12 residents couldn't do.

Nearer the coasts of the region you can grow rice and many other food/cash crops -- nice pitch-black soil there, kind of makes you want to roll around in it -- but ... that's D13 territory.

So all in all, the effort of gardening here would be really formidable in the absence of a good plant nursery and a handy expert with nothing better to do than educate you on well-growing local varieties and natural pesticides.

On the other hand, there's some fantastic stuff on Appalachian herbal medicine. Ms. Everdeen fans may be interested to know that during the Civil War, many women (including widows) made a cottage industry of wildcrafting or growing Appalachian herbs and selling them to military hospitals. However, very little of this is widely edible.

/end gardening ramble

TW: child abuse

On a vaguely related note, one of the things that really bothered me about the film was the *lack* of emphasis on the food. It would have taken ten seconds to show Katniss attempting to serve her sister a paltry makeshift breakfast before being served those elaborate meals on the train -- and it would have added a lot of illustrative depth to the relationship of Peeta and his mother to understand how rare bread is and how much he screwed up by burning it. Not that child abuse is ever okay, and even those who spank would probably be pretty much on board with "hitting kids in the face with welt-leaving implements is double-plus-ungood," but it would give the scene a heartbreaking depth to be given shots which allow us to viscerally grasp the food shortage-related background.

Rakka said...

Commercials are supposed to be repetitive. I'd imagine at some point someone would pay attention to those same buildings still standing after supposedly having been on fire for 70 years. This is not ignoring commercials - it's ignoring that reports about aviation show that these dirigible thingies sure burn a long time.

Aidan Bird said...

As someone with food intolerances, I find it ridiculously hard to buy the food I CAN eat, so I very much relate to your comment here. I also have very little kitchen hardware -- I have really one a few basic stuff, and so cooking is often hard to do.

This Kass guy must live in a different universe because I find prices to be HUGELY different when I go to buy food. Sometimes I end up with just some rice, apples, and plain beans because the gluten free section and the dairy/nut free sections are so ridiculously expensive. Why on earth are they marked up so much? Since I'm way below the poverty level, buying gluten/dairy/nut free is near impossible at times. So what do I end up eating? That's right, I end up struggling to find food for my dinners. I have friends who will go out of their way to bring me food because they are concerned I don't eat enough. They are probably right and I always kindly accept their gracious offerings, but I feel awful because I can't afford it myself. If it weren't for my kind friends - note, my family here isn't the ones helping at all, in fact they never get my intolerances right and I often have nothing to eat when I visit -- if it weren't for my friends, I wouldn't have some of the food I have in my pantry right now. I'm lucky in that regard. My friends are the Katniss of my world.

Content Note: Body policing

Sometimes it does feel like the hunger games in real life, but at the same time I recognize that I still have some privileges over people in other countries. But at the same time, compared to other Americans, I'm at the bottom of the totem pole here. Sometimes it just makes me want to cry, how insecure food can be at times.

And the worst part is when people come up to me and say: "You are so skinny! You need to gain pounds! " And yes, they always ask if I have a food disorder. Yes, food disorders are bad, but just because I'm super skinny doesn't mean I have one. Hearing this from everyone who thinks they have a right to police my body, just makes me want to kick them in the shins. Yes, my body is tiny. Yes, I am underweight. I have a high metabolism, and I'm poor. I know how to take care of myself, and I'm doing the best I can.

Why can't people just let people alone? Teach people to listen to their bodies and then let them take care of their own bodies. This body policing drives me nuts because it comes from all sides. It just never seems to end.

Kristy Griffin said...

"Healthy/unhealthy" - fair, and I'll try to remember that. (Fwiw, when i refer to food as healthy i'm mostly talking about things like freshness, presence of needed vitamins and minerals and other nutrients, lack of unnecessary chemicals, and containing fats and sweeteners that are more beneficial than harmful. I do think it's a decent formula, but as each body has different needs, deciding which foods fit that descriptor for you is a personal matter.)

Exercise: oh, preach. I love exercise, but I have come to terms with the fact that it's never gonna make me a supermodel. Yes, exercise can and has helped me lose SOME weight, but even back in my "glory days," when I worked out almost every day and was the healthiest I've ever been in my life... I was still considered medically obese. (Wait, I tell a lie. For one summer I think I was merely very overweight :P)

That is because I am a fat person. To the extent that diet and exercise lets me control my weight, it gives me the options of "more fat" or "less fat." "Not fat at all" is not on the table. My body is simply designed to be fat.

Rakka said...

To be fair to the lack of gardening or harvesting everything even dubiously edible... these are people who saw nothing strange about a place burning exactly the same way for decades through rain and snow, without any of the said ruins collapsing in flames. There must be something in the water supply.

Boutet said...

I think it's established in the book that the tv stuff is largely ignored by the districts. They watch it when it's required and ignore it as much as they can. People now could put all sorts of crap into commercials and I would never notice because I don't watch commercials. It wouldn't mean there's something wrong with me for not noticing, it would just mean I really didn't care about commercials enough to put any time or effort into them.

muscipula said...

it's also important to note that Kass' COOK FROM SCRATCH philosophy requires a lot of kitchen hardware. So, yeah, it's a fundamentally privileged position all 'round.

Yes yes yes. This reminds me of a book I saw many years ago in the bookshop, which promised a method for making vast amounts of nutritious food for not much money. But the method involved having several large chest freezers, filling them in one go with a month-plus supply of food - getting entire animal carcasses and doing DIY butchery, then preparing all the meals at once over the course of a few days. There was absolutely no recognition of the idea that I might not have the capital or space for the freezers (and the electricity to run them), or would have some difficulty in dragging a pig carcass up the stairs to my flat, or would have the time to do all the cooking according to the specified plan. I did not buy the book.

Anna said...

I am a non-first time, but still irregular, commenter and was one of the people whose posts you removed. I didn't post it under my usual name because I was talking about past experiences that I didn't feel comfortable mentioning under my own name. I apologise if my post caused you any offence or loss of spoons; I thought I was falling within Fat Acceptance guidelines but may have phrased myself poorly.

I'll try to keep this paragraph brief, and feel free to remove said paragraph if I'm still saying something that I shouldn't. What I was trying (clumsily) to say is: "Fat's not a problem. People telling kids 'you need to ignore your bodies and eat what and when we tell you to, because you're kids and can't be trusted to manage your own eating' is a problem. Sadly, this is a message many kids receive. Instead of the above message, which is Bad For Everyone, I would like to see kids receive HAES (Health At Every Size) messages."

On the subject of Hunger Games: I'm wondering if the unspecified disaster that occurred before the book affected naturally-occurring food sources, such that our assumptions about what the people of the Districts would be able to find and eat in the wild no longer apply in their post-apocalypse world?

Annafel said...

On the subject of where Kass gets groceries - my theory is that he pays little to no attention to comparative pricing at all. He just puts whatever he wants in his shopping cart and then pays for it, possibly not even paying much attention to the total cost. That's if he does his own shopping at all. And claiming that "healthy" and "unhealthy" food cost the same amount was just him talking out of his butt.

It is a good thing I have a ridiculous sleepy kitten in my lap, because otherwise I would be so angry.

Ana Mardoll said...

That book needed a "no doy" sticker. Something like "BREAKING NEWS: Being rich helps you save money!"

Isator Levi said...

The Distract 12 viability of hunting/gathering/cultivation thing:

If I recall correctly, aren't the houses of Gale and Katniss located fairly closely to the Meadow and the fence out (as well as to the building where the black market is conducted)?

I'm not sure how large or densely populated the District is supposed to be, but it may be that most people, even within the Seam, just don't live close enough to the gateway to the wilderness in order to discreetly slip out for viable lengths of time to engage in the necessary activity, and any given person's access to the Market is mostly limited to purchasing rather than providing product.

It might also be that much of the District doesn't have soil quality capable of supporting even a personal garden (although I'll freely admit it's not an area I know very well).

Considering the apparent rarity of a cat, I'd also wonder if there are that many urban wild animals left.

Perhaps they were depleted before the Dark Days. Maybe even the sudden drop off in available food helped precipitate that rebellion.

I know there are supposed to be mice, but would it be possible for there to be few enough of them that they can't really be lived off of, but still enough to spread disease and ruin food stores?

Silver Adept said...

@Aidan Bird -

That's one aspect that never really gets touched upon - since the Everdeen family has no men in it at the time of the narrative, we have no idea what kinds of wages are paid in the mines - it's certainly not enough to live upon, as tessera is a regular way of life for the District, but perhaps there is enough economy in money in the District to be able to afford bread occasionally. Which does nothing to help those with allergies. Presumably, the black market of the District is able to provide enough of the other staples so as to permit a life. You're right, though - if stuck in a survival situation, Katniss is who you want to be able to do basic survival. You want Peeta if you suddenly need a diplomatic corps to avoid being killed by someone else trying to survive in the same zone.

@Loquat - I tend to agree with Ana - there's always a chance the fence will be on, and the Peacekeepers are probably obligated to give you a beatdown if you do or say something that can't be covered up, bribed, or conveniently misheard. That said, since just about everybody participates in the black market economy, it becomes very hard for anyone to try and go loyalist without having several bad actions hung over their head that need to be accounted for. And it's not like District 12 has regular visits from luminaries or a long and prestigious record in the Games, so there's really no reason for anyone to go harshly on it here at the beginning. So long as nobody says anything stupid, spreads rumors, or actually starts a rebellion, Twelve will remain an afterthought in the minds of almost everyone with the power to make things truly awful for them.

Unfortunately, it's chapter two in a three book series. To say It Gets Worse is somewhat inevitable.

Isator Levi said...

I need to do some research about the state of my country...

Ana Mardoll said...

The way I see it, when Gale is beaten almost to death for poaching, the adults act like this is fairly normal. Apparently security has only been lax in the time since Katniss started paying attention, apparently at a fairly young age. The other Districts are also apparently very martial law.

Katniss also mentions that people watch what they say, or the penalties are severe. So I imagine that rules are pretty harsh and we just see that Katniss and Gale are given exceptions because the local officials are corrupt and like strawberries enough to make a couple of exceptions for two exceptionally discreet children.

I don't see them being chill about large numbers of people going in and out, but that's just my interpretation.

Loquat said...

Still, we're talking about a place where people regularly starve to death, and security has been less than 100% for several years. Penalties for poaching in the real world aren't exactly wrist-slaps, either, especially when you look at past eras - Henry II of England supposedly made poaching a capital crime - but people still do it anyway when that's the only way they see to keep their families alive.

Note also that Katniss's father was totally able to maintain the knowledge of how to hunt and gather, and it's unlikely he managed to rediscover all that on his own, so odds are people in D12 have had at least sporadic access to the woods for quite some time.

Loquat said...

Private gardens and small-game traps may very well be illegal inside the D12 borders, but with a rarely-on electric fence and authorities willing to overlook trips outside, it's astonishing that nobody seems to have had the bright idea of cultivating food out in the wilderness, and only two people go out to hunt or gather. The only threats we're told of are the occasional law enforcement flight, which we only see once, and predatory animals, which are perfectly edible and should by rights be hunted just as voraciously as the "nicer" animals like deer and turkeys. Sure, it sucks if you get caught, but if the odds are low and you're otherwise watching your family starve, why not?

Note also that kids apparently aren't expected to start working real jobs until 18, and it's unclear what exactly they're all learning in school for so long - even if the adults are all too tired from work to do anything else, there should be tons of poor kids dropping out to go hunt and gather in the woods.

Ana Mardoll said...

Incidentally, this propelled me to look up the guy's actual name: Sam Kass. Here's a nice quote from Sam Kass: "Obesity may be our nation’s greatest national security threat". Isn't that nice? (Fuck you, Sam Kass, for effectively conflating Fat People with terrorists, the other major "security threat" people hear about from Washington.)

He also says that 'healthy' food [[HUGE HONKING ASTERISK HERE]] "doesn't cost any more" than 'unhealthy' food, and he seems to believe that fat people are fat because we do nothing but drink Starbucks coffee all day. So, hey, he sounds both really klassy *and* deeply in-touch with the problems of food-insecure children. Exactly the kind of guy we want making policy decisions for school lunches!

Silver Adept said...

I think we're getting a bit carried away about the supposed uselessness of Peeta. From the flashback, Peeta is definitely carrying more pedestrian bread than the fancy things. I would assume that the bakery mostly carries and sells hearty loaves made from...probably tessera grain or other such things. (Bread, as it turns out, has a lot of thematic importance in the trilogy.) There is a small market for luxury goods (the mayor, for example), but the miller and baker are essential roles in history, so I think Peeta's family is more necessary than we think.

Aidan Bird said...

I can agree with your statements for the most part, but from what I gathered they were still selling the bread, so they still may be out of reach for those that simple cannot afford the bread they sell. (Or simply cannot eat it due to intolerances or allergies.)

Katniss obtains a wider variety of food that people are more able to eat and/or afford, so she does have the edge on Peeta when it comes to whether or not her food is more of a staple than a luxury.

Aidan Bird said...

I like that point about Katniss being a staple.

Peeta may have the eloquence, but it is Katniss's rawness and her energy and her determination that sparks the fire for the other books. Luxury is good and all at times, but the staples is where you find the energy to persevere.

At least that's how I always viewed them.

Hrmmm. In a way, Peeta is like a reward, while Katniss is the energy you need to reach that reward.

Ana Mardoll said...

Stepping out for a minute, but in addition to Organic Food Costs More, it's also important to note that Kass' COOK FROM SCRATCH philosophy requires a lot of kitchen hardware. So, yeah, it's a fundamentally privileged position all 'round.

Having said that, as a general thread note, I put "healthy/unhealthy" in scare quotes earlier for a reason. Individual bodies are different and pretty much no food is universally healthy/unhealthy for everyone. If you have a tomato allergy, tomatoes are not healthy FOR YOU. If you need sugar-drinks to aid in the digestion of certain medications, soda is healthy FOR YOU. Etc. So let's remember as we continue the Kass discussion that "healthy" food is a subjective term, and maintain those scare quotes please. :)

Boutet said...

YES to this. I went into a heavy exercise routine out of curiosity to see if I would somehow become slender. I went from larger, rounded, softer overweight into lumpy, muscled, blocky overweight. For myself I enjoyed the former far more than the latter! Now I just try to eat and exercise in a way that helps me feel good.
Either way I'll never find tall boots that fit my calves. Sigh.

Ice said...

What does it say about Katniss and Peeta that Peeta provides "luxury" food goods (high quality rolls, decorated cakes) to the community while Katniss provides basic hunted-and-gathered staples?

I've actually thought about this a length, and it seems to boil down to a matter of necessity. The fact that Peeta provides the "luxury" food items to District 12 essentially means that he is not needed. Which sounds mean, but think about it. How many people can afford Peeta's luxury food on a sustainable basis? It's not just the price of these luxury items, but also the nutritional value in these high quality rolls and fancy cakes.

Don't get me wrong, I like fancy cakes as much as the next person. But a fancy cake isn't going to do me any good if that is the only thing available to eat every day. It'll keep me going, I suppose, but I wouldn't feel great* about it.

Whereas Katniss's contributions are beneficial in two ways. One, they can actually help sustain the people of the district. Two, and more importantly, I think, is that it is affordable, relative to the fancy cakes.

I mean, I don't suppose the price (in actual money, or in trade) of these fancy cakes is very cheap. And considering the ingredients and work involved in making these cakes, they can only be sold for so cheap. Certainly not cheap enough (I would imagine) to make it a viable source of everyday dinner.

It's the difference between a used car with high-mileage that is affordable (for relative definitions of affordable) and used for the commute to and from work, versus the luxury convertible that is not only expensive (again, for relative definitions of expensive) but also not entirely sensible in all situations or climates.

In regards to the food that they can provide, the people of District 12, to a certain extent, need Katniss. They don't need Peeta.

*Because too much cake makes me feel nauseated. Sweet-overload, I guess

(edited for clarity)

Ana Mardoll said...

Moderator Notice

A Fat Acceptance safe space means:

1. Avoiding the words "obesity epidemic", or otherwise treating fatness like an undesirable, unhealthy, or plague-like state of being.

2. Avoiding imbuing foods or food groups with objective qualities like "healthy" or "unhealthy".

3. Avoiding explanations of how fat people can lose weight and/or arguments against set point theory..

4. Avoiding generalizations of fat people and their collective actions, habits, or lifestyles.

I really do not want to have to close the thread, but we've already got a lot of borderline triggery comments in here. Please be mindful before you post, folks. There are actual fat people on this board -- self included -- and we would like to have a nice thread about Hunger Games and how food and privilege are intertwined in our society and Katniss' society without having to do FA 101 all over again for the eleventy-billionth time. Thank you! :)

Ana Mardoll said...

A, I spamtrapped this comment, but after reading it again I'm going to let it through. I'm hoping that I'm misunderstanding this statement, but it seems like this comes up a lot in general when I say I "trust" people to do X so I might as well address it:

(Update: And I see now from your later comment that I did misunderstand your statement, so yay! I'm going to leave this up anyway, since someone else will probably ask before the night is through.)

I trust people to be capable of listening to their bodies, and to know when their bodies are saying, "I've had enough now, thanks," but unfortunately I don't think that always follows through into "and then they stop eating", especially when we're considering children.

Lots of people don't always follow through into "stop eating" mode, for a lot of reasons. That doesn't make it appropriate for adults to police the eating decisions of children. I trust people to manage their own bodies because I believe that I *should* trust people to manage their own bodies, not because I believe that all people are perfect. (That wouldn't be "trust". That would be something else. Misguided belief, maybe?)

The argument that people can eat intuitively but sometimes do not, doesn't actually have anything to do with my point, which is that it's not our place as third-parties to police anyone else's eating. I'm talking about a bodily right to privacy without food policing, whether the person in question is eating "right" (and by whose authority is this decision made, if not by the person in question?)

There is a given number of people out there who don't stop eating when they're full. Our ability to actually diagnose an actual individual for which that is true is pretty much non-existent. The siren song of fat-shaming culture is that we're all actually totes good at this, when we're not.

Ana Mardoll said...

Moderator Notice

To the very polite people who are posting here for the first time to explain to me why there really *is* an Obesity Epidemic and/or why third-parties really-probably-maybe do need to set eating guidelines for children Because Reasons: Your extremely polite posts have been removed because this is a Fat Acceptance safe space and your posts are unfortunately not appropriate here, though they were very polite. Thank you for being polite.

If you would like to learn more about Fat Acceptance and why I say the things I say, like "Health is not a moral imperative" and "The CDC has its head up its ass on this issue" and so forth, I very heartily encourage you to start here: And after you read up there, there are lots of wonderful active sites out there for Fat Acceptance education. This is not one of them, which is why your posts were removed, but that is not a reflection on you or the politeness of your posts.

To the rest of the thread: Just to be really clear, this is a Fat Acceptance safe space in part because the blog-mistress is fat and has to read your comments in order to moderate this space. Please try to keep that in mind moving forward, that while you may not mean ME, PERSONALLY when you talk about how fat people do/are/behave thusly, you are actually asserting a statement about a demographic that I identify with. And also: generalizations about demographic groups are not acceptable here.


Ice said...

Me too.

Peeta, as the luxury, is the "feel-good" option. Insofar as you can't have cake every day, but when you have cake, it's celebratory, and produces happy-feelings*.

Meanwhile, Katniss, just like the tuber that she is named for, is a staple. Just because something can help keep you alive, doesn't necessarily mean that you like that something, or enjoy it, or get happy-feelings from it.

It really illustrates (to me) that stark difference between luxury and necessity.

*generally speaking, of course. YMMV

depizan said...

I'm afraid even his shopping at Whole Foods (or the like) won't let him off the hook. Even organic brown rice and whole wheat four cost more than their white counterparts. My guess is the dude hasn't shopped in forever, if he ever did.

Then again, he seems at a loss as to how military defense works. (Hint: we do not, in fact, have a little row of soldier boys standing around the outline of our country to keep the scary people out. Also, just because someone doesn't qualify for arbitrary limits set by the military, doesn't mean they can't whack an invader over the head with a shovel, shoot them with a gun, or run them down with their SUV.)

In short, Mr. Kass, you fail at everything. Hope you're a good cook, because I'm not seeing anything else you've got going for you.

Ana Mardoll said...

Start running us twenty miles a day and we'll lean down. We promise. Mostly.

Exercise does not actually make all or even most of us fat people thinner. Nor does that weight loss necessarily stay off for good.

Frenchroast said...

I think you make great points all around. I didn't see that episode of Chopped, but it sounds like it would've made my blood boil, too. Last year, I taught at a school with a wide socio-economic range, and I know a lot of the kids with free/reduced breakfasts and lunches didn't have much waiting for them at home or over the weekend. Our system had weird week-long breaks in September and February, and I worried about those kids during those breaks. I tried to schedule French Cultural days (which involved students attempting to cook different French recipes or talking about something interesting they read/saw about France or a French-speaking country--their choice, so as to avoid the issue of not everyone being able to bring food) on the Friday before the break, to help those kids have some extra food going into a lean week (and because it's near impossible to get students to focus the day before a break).

The idea that a judge would fault those cafeteria workers for keeping in mind their students' needs rather than society's aesthetic wishes is anger-making. There should be nothing wrong with making more food available to those who need it--especially since, if the portions are too big for someone with the privilege of readily available food, you can choose not to eat it, and even offer it to someone else without that privilege.

Ana Mardoll said...

I like this, and I think you're right. Peeta is a luxury, whereas Katniss is a staple.

Which is interesting, because Katniss repeatedly makes the assertion that Peeta's eloquence and erudition is what reaches the crowds, in a way that she cannot with her rawness: People may need staples to live, but they come flocking to pay attention to the luxury.

I like the theory, anyway. :)

Ana Mardoll said...


I originally read it as Peter and language shifting too, until someone on Mark Reads pointed out that the simple wedding ceremony Peeta describes -- which has, I think, bread and fire -- mirrors Katniss' Girl on Fire and Peeta's Boy with Bread, and then someone ELSE made the "pita" connection. So I can't take original credit for the idea, but I love it and I do think that Collins planned it out that way. :)

Anna said...

RE: Peeta's name; I always mentally pronounced it the same as "Peter", and therefore hadn't made the bread-connection. In fact I'd been treating Peeta's name, and several others in the Hunger Games, as examples language subtly shifting over time - they sound the same, or almost the same, as names we have now (e.g. Haymitch/Hamish), but the spelling's changed. However, with Katniss being named after food, I'm now wondering if we're supposed to see significance in Peeta also having a food-name (and their food-names reflect how they provide food for their communities, too! Katniss is named for a food that grows wild, Peeta is named for a food that's produced by bakers)

Interestingly, their entire country is named after food: "Panem" is Latin for "bread", which IIRC gets highlighted in a later book as part of a "bread and circuses" comment. Essentially naming your country "bread" probably says some very significant things about the status of food within said country. Unfortunately it's late at night where I am and I've been up since before 6am, so I'm too tired to tease out exactly what those significant things are right now, but I'm hoping someone less tired and more insightful will come along soon.

Ana Mardoll said...

YES. She is AWESOME. I knew I was forgetting something when I was rec'ing Kate.

Also! For people who are interested in the food/nutrition/Kass angle of the article, there is a VERY GOOD POST HERE that went up today and is topical:

For folks wanting to talk Hunger Games, here's some "red meat" for you (LOL UR PUN): What does it say about Katniss and Peeta that Peeta provides "luxury" food goods (high quality rolls, decorated cakes) to the community while Katniss provides basic hunted-and-gathered staples?

depizan said...

Security threat? What? How? What? O_o

"Healthy" food doesn't cost more than "unhealthy" food? Uh... actually... has he been to a supermarket recently? Fresh fruits and veggies are pricy - and you have to be able to store them. And brown rice and whole wheat flour/foods do cost more than white. Also, you have to have time and energy to cook from scratch, which many poor people don't have. Also a place to cook.

Aw, fuck it, let's just serve him to the poor.

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