{Guest Post} We Eat Each Other by Maureen Foley

  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I actually started out as a food blogger, so anything food-related is bound to pique my interest. Maureen Foley's new book Women Float, has a foodie slant to it, and then some. Ok, I realize that post title may be misconstrued ... all the more reason to find out more about this intriguing book. Welcome to Guiltless Reading, Mo!

We Eat Each Other by Maureen Foley

Selling Red Hen Cannery jam
at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market
Photo by Isobel Schofield
Well, I just spent fifteen minutes searching my own bookshelves to find a poem in a teeny, tiny book I wrote, called Kelp. I published just enough copies to give to everyone in my graduate course a million years ago. Akilah Oliver was my teacher, at Naropa. The theme of that course was love and loss.

I wanted to quote that poem here. Why? Because I think it’s great to quote yourself whenever possible. As a writer, it’s one of the few great egotistical quirks we have. I can’t show you my house in the Hamptons or my new Rolex but I can show you a quote I wrote. Except when I can’t because all I have left is a single, bound-in-bubble wrap and vellum hard copy of a poem I wrote 13 years ago.

But maybe it doesn’t matter. I can tell you about the poem. It was inspired by poet Anne Waldman. Reading her writing at Naropa, she made these grand gestures and wore long scarves and her voice travelled up and down in a single word, and each line took on a great, shaking magnificence. She’d just published Marriage: A Sentence, and I ‘d read it for the course with Akilah and so maybe that was what drew out “We Eat.” In any case, it was an atypical poem for me because I used a lot of repetition, primarily of the line: “We eat each other...”

Jar of Red Hen Cannery jam for sale
Photo by Isobel Schofield

Then, I described whatever it is I wanted to eat, but was also suggestive sexually. This probably doesn’t sound like a great poem and maybe it wasn’t but it sure stirred up a crowd when I read it. Besides, it was just fun to read a list of food. As a farmer’s daughter, I grew up surrounded by avocado trees and food overshadowed every aspect of my childhood. Food was all love and I guess the loss part was that it always seemed so fleeting, the eating of food, then the making more of it and then eating that, too. Like hunting and gathering, my family searched and talked and discussed and cooked and shopped and chopped in the quest for a good lump to consume.

Lavender in an ice-cream bowl
Photo by Maureen Foley
Love and loss, like an empty plate from the best meal ever. Turns out, every writer is a one-trick pony and love and loss is all I got. For all my fiction, including my first published novella, Women Float, that’s the basic subtext. In Women Float, Win is a young woman who learns to swim and in the process reconnects with her own sexuality and reconciles abandonment by her mother as a child. Her mother left (loss). She’s obsessed with her neighbor, who’s not interested (love). And the connection to food? Win is a pastry chef.

Pretending to be a pastry chef was an easy con, as a writer. In addition to picking avocados and raspberries at our farm, I worked around food whenever possible. So, when it came time to write about pastries, cakes, life in a cafe, I just combined my kitchen work, added in a heavy dash of my mom’s lessons in baking and voila! A (hopefully) realistic take on the baking life.

Bin of lemons at Foley Farm
Photo by Maureen Foley
Then, blah, blah, blah, my book is published and I decided that if Win can work with food, then why not me? I started a jam company, Red Hen Cannery. Now, like Win, I wake up every Tuesday and look at this week’s produce from the farm and think, “What am I going to make today?” Talk about meta! Now, check this out. I made an olive oil cake this week (which I mention in the book and which you should make tonight from the recipe in Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin) and served it with the incredible McConnell’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from Santa Barbara and my own Blood Orange and Vanilla Marmalade. Love in a small, scalloped, pressed-glass bowl.

The loss? The leftover cake got eaten two days later by ants. All my blood oranges are gone, for another year, and I only have a few jars of the marmalade left to sell until then. But most importantly, my amazing teacher, Akilah, is no longer alive. She didn’t just educate us on love and loss. She lived it. Now, we must live without her great wisdom. Instead, we can make more cake and top it with jam or whatever and keep writing and searching for our old books and rediscovering new poets and living and loving and losing. Because we eat each other.

About Maureen Foley 
Maureen Foley is a writer and artist who lives on an avocado ranch by the sea in Southern California with her daughter, stepson and husband, writer James Claffey. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Epileptic. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Caesura, The New York Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Skanky Possum and elsewhere. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Prose from Naropa University and now teaches creativity, English, writing and more in Santa Barbara County. She is currently working on a new novel and developing a series of illustrations and text for a children’s book.

For more information, visit: www.maureenfoley.com

 Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
About Women Float by Maureen Foley: Lonely California pastry chef Win never learned how to swim, despite growing up just miles from the Pacific Ocean. Even Janie, her flaky pro-surfer single mother, couldn’t convince her to brave the water, solidifying Win’s fear when she leaves her at the tender age of 9. But when Win turns 29 and decides to take swimming lessons for the first time—finally confronting her hydrophobia and trying to make sense of why her mer-mother suddenly swam off all those years ago—she must also deal with a desperate crush she’s developed on her New Age neighbor, mysterious postcards that keep arriving in the mail, and her bad habit of pathological lying.

This touching and humorous look at female relationships and the dramas that come for contemporary women turning thirty also doubles as a loving ode to the small coastal town of Carpinteria and the laid-back SoCal lifestyle that guides it. Poetic and moving, Maureen Foley’s fiction debut is both a perfect beach read and an insightful look at love, accidental families and the power of friendships.


  1. While this doesn't sound for me, the author is definitely cool. I love her pics.

    1. Did they just make you hungry, Juju? :) Stay warm ...


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