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  • Gregarious gluttony

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on June 23rd, 2007 (All posts by )

    From a book review by Caitlin Flanagan:

    As for what they [female college students around 1900] ate — just about anything that wasn’t nailed down, apparently. One cannot read this book and continue to believe that the “disordered eating” that besets so many college women is a recent phenomenon. Today it may be marked by grimly endured starvation campaigns or bulimia, but in decades past it was the stuff of a strange glee: festive communal gorging. The midnight suppers or “spreads,” once a major pleasure of college girls’ lives, were conducted around a chafing dish — by the 1890s, it was a popular gift for a college-bound girl — in which the hostess cooked rarebits, omelets, and (most popular of all) pan after pan of fudge. By the early 20th century, groups of female eaters commonly gave themselves nicknames: the Stuffers, the Nine Nimble Nibblers, the Grid L. Kakes. While college men during the same period were forging friendships through cane rushes, fraternity hazing, and other acts of ritualized violence, the girls ate — and ate — their way to community and affection.

    Sounds like fun, and much healthier than anorexia or bulimia.


    3 Responses to “Gregarious gluttony”

    1. Tatyana Says:

      Ralf, you have to consider that at the time the ideal look was mollige Figur (did I spell it right?). All those elegant elongated ladies we see on Klimt’s canvases were slim 20 years ahead of their time.

    2. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Good point, and yes, the spelling is correct :)

    3. Tatyana Says:

      Full disclosure: I’ve got the spelling from a fictionalized biography of Alma Mahler, who was an epitome of mollige Figur turn-of-the-century beauty. Who said in her notes that she loved to eat, and being a real Viennese, particularly loved the whipped cream and pastries (and who could blame her!), since she was 12.