I think often of the invisible but inextricable link between my grandmother’s experience of torturous starvation and, later, her robust appetite, an almost frenzied consumption of nearly anything. I think of the way my father adopted it, too, despite never having survived a mechanized atrocity. How does starvation make way for a bottomless belly, a belly that becomes enthusiastic and agreeable enough to create a genetic impact? While she purchased the cake, they both ate it, night after night, with unusual vigor.
The inclinations of the tummy are mysterious. Recent research has indicated the sugar high — that ubiquitous explanation for children’s hyperactivity mid-birthday — is not even a real phenomenon. So how does one account for that sudden giddy rush of energy? Is it just a sweets-induced joy? An appreciation for the ability to eat purely for pleasure, a gratitude made physical? I imagine this is what living looks like, sometimes: it is blithe and euphoric and grateful. And then it is over.
In Avidly, Monica Uszerowicz reflects on what living through the Holocaust does to a survivor’s relationship to food, hunger, and eating for pleasure, and how these relationships get passed on to successive generations.