Soul Food Stories: Of Devouring Books and Chewing Stories

I have always enjoyed eating fried chicken and it doesn’t matter whether it is Kentucky Fried or from a shack near my university where those waiting in queue include both humans and stray dogs. Undoubtedly, it is soul food – it offers taste and satisfaction in equal quantities.

But it is not one of the only things that give pleasure to my senses. Just like I nibble on a crispy bit of chicken, I also devour books and chew stories. The taste of chicken may linger in my mouth for a fleeting moment, but stories survive the test of time.

I treat them as fuel for my soul. For me, they are like candies in a box which I ‘eat-repeat’ whenever I feel the need. The last time I had a bitter heartbreak, I turned the pages of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and read about Elizabeth Bennet once again. She taught me about self worth and how important it is to never chase a man – it is Mr. Darcy who pricks his own bubble in order to confess his love.

This year, my friend lost her mother and I sense her inner turmoil every now and then. She pretends to be happy and is scared to tear off the mask. It’s because she knows how we are easily judged when we expose our vulnerability.

Also read: A Brief History of Reading: The Innate Joy of Second-Hand Books

When I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I was intrigued by its cover. It said, “A Journey from lost to found.” On completing the book, I realised how beautifully the writer depicted her own pain of losing her mother to cancer. Just like she comes out as salvaged soul at the end of her hiking trail, I too journeyed with her into the wilderness. In the movie adaptation, Reese Whiterspoon does a marvellous job.

On her 27th birthday, I think the book would be a perfect present for my friend.

Sometimes I wish if my grandfather could read English. So even in his late 80s he could feel that he could still make a change any way he chooses. In Mitch Albom’s phenomenal book Tuesdays with Morrie, the old man refuses to succumb to his disease. Instead, he gives life lessons to his student everyday even when he knows that he is nearing death and oh, what a legacy he leaves behind.

Perhaps someday soon, I will make him a bowl of mac and cheese and read some lines from Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove – maybe he’ll relate to the protagonist who also loses his wife early and reminiscence about memories from the past. My grandfather is just as grumpy as Ove and he too doesn’t understand the new generation all that well.

Just like the concept of soul food is universal, stories have the same ability to touch hearts in whichever corner of the world we may live. They are like rivers that flow in all directions if they are allowed to.

Fried chicken and mac and cheese may belong to one corner of the world, but it excites my palate too. Food connects people, and so does stories. Both have the power to enrich one’s soul.

Take a bite of a fried chicken and read Alice in Wonderland, and you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Anusuya Chhetri is an M.Phil scholar at University of North Bengal.

Featured image credit: Zelle Duda/Unsplash