Rewards of Hard Work

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Indulging in treats and good food in general brings incredible satisfaction and happiness to one’s body. Food serves as a unifying theme between Mary Oliver’s “Sister Turtle”, Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” and Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s “Little Heathens”. Regardless of the different settings they place, “Little Heathens” and “Sister Turtle” share a love and appreciation for being able to enjoy food. Kalish’s memoir reflects on growing up during the Great Depression on a farm where she learns the importance of hard work and perseverance. The narrator in “Sister Turtle”, however, struggles to enjoy food without feeling guilt and anxiety for succumbing to her body’s cravings. In contrast, Kafka’s hunger artist completely rejects food for the simple reason that he cannot find something tasteful. Consequently, he misses out on essential pleasures that food brings, such as happiness. People often take the luxury of cooking and eating a good meal for granted, even though putting food on the table requires hard work and perseverance. In “Little Heathens”, “Sister Turtle” and “A Hunger Artist”, the protagonists show their consciousness of the labor involved in obtaining and preparing food as well as the different pleasures that may derive from food. Raised by a single mother during the Great Depression, Kalish realized that modern technology has led to a loss of connection to food and a convenience-oriented society. Kalish’s childhood consisted of mundane chores and arduous farm work because her family had to provide everything for themselves. The Kalish family owned four farms that served as both a blessing and a curse during difficult times. In her adult life, Kalish has the luxury of buying food from a supermarket, using an electric stove and eating out at restaurants. As a mother of her own family, she wanted them “to be aware of the foods, the ingenuity, the knowledge, the skills, and above all, the everlasting work that was required to survive when resources and supplies were limited” (Kalish 143). Kalish never took food for granted because she grew up on a farm where she learned first hand that one needed to hard work in order “to survive when resources and supplies were limited” (Kalish 143), such as during the Great Depression. In addition, Kalish’s memoir shows the importance of teamwork and family in order to compensate for the lack of technological devices. A self-sufficient farm, such as the one in “Little Heathens”, requires constant time consuming and arduous hard work in order to maintain it. Kalish’s memoir explains how “meal preparations demanded a ceaseless dedication of time and energy that is not readily apparent” (Kalish 117). Every family member must contribute to procuring and making food; the adults take on the bigger responsibilities such as cooking and starting fires (Kalish 105) while the children perform their daily chores. In fact, “the continuity and stability of family life was absolutely dependent on the fact that all of us kids did the chores that were expected of us” (Kalish 104). The youngest members of the family have a tremendous amount of responsibility on their shoulders. Even though their work consists of small tasks such as “getting wood” (Kalish 104), it helps the adults a great deal because it relieves them of time consuming chores. If one person slacks, the work remains uncompleted and the whole family suffers. On the contrary, they are rewarded for their hard work at the end of the day with food on the table. Although each member of the family has a specific role to play, most farm work requires a group endeavor. Food preparation calls for the effort of the entire family, such as picking beans and harvesting for a Thanksgiving feast. The Kalish family participates in “handpicking green beans for the canning factory in Vinton” (Kalish 107), an exhausting but rewarding task. Although it requires toiling in the bean fields for hours under the hot sun, the family members do not complain...
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