chapter  1
Introduction: Food in Children’s Literature
Pages 16

At the beginning of Book 20, Odysseus cannot sleep for the anger that he feels. An insomniac lying in the entranceway of his own house, he is tempted to simply rise up and attack the suitors then and there, disgusted by their abuse of his household (e.g., the butchering of Odysseus’s stock of pigs and hogs for their perpetual feasting), but he represses that urge in order to give his cunning the time it needs to devise an attack. He thinks about an analogous moment-Polyphemous eating his crew-when he successfully strategized

and executed a plan to save himself and the rest of his men from becoming food. Food leads to food. His anger successfully repressed (food memory as defense mechanism), Odysseus will not let it die out, though, and he keeps himself awake, “tossing, turning.” At which point, Homer introduces another food moment, this time as a simile. Odysseus is the cook grilling the sausage, which is also Odysseus, “tossing, turning.” He is the cook and the cooked, subject and object, a closed circuit meant to embody Odysseus’s management of his anger. As with all cooks, the keys to his success are ingredients, heat, and timing. The cook Odysseus has a hot fi re and a well-stuffed sausage, and he has the skill “to broil it quickly” (but not too quickly) in order to serve up his anger to the suitors, with the “fat and blood” at its peak, ready to burst out of the skin. But Odysseus’s fi re is too hot, and Athena appears to cool his anger and assure him of his revenge:

Even if fifty bands of mortal fighters Closed around us, hot to kill us off in battle, Still you could drive away their herds and sleek flocks. (lines 49-51)

Odysseus is promised that he will control the suitors’ food stocks. In fi fty-one lines, in the lead-up to the climax of The Odyssey, the slaying of the suitors, food and food preparation dominate Homer’s language as he attempts to capture Odysseus’s mindset.