We are at the mercy of Christine Sloan Stoddard as chef in her book Force Fed. Stoddard alternates between buffet and fixed menu as she develops her nameless narrator and a family history of childhood abuse. The abuse is built on a mother’s obsession with food and her daughter’s eating habits - a disturbed aftermath of alcoholism. For the narrator, unanswered letters to her sister, whom she watched suffer the fate of the book’s title among other horrors, are a means to heal from that trauma. The narrator dumps her epistolary plate of guilt, confusion, and warped processing onto her silent sister via mail; her sister’s unspoken voice crackles like an oil that fried a child's ANS. Between the letters, napkin poems provide a break to spare readers too intense a heartburn.
FDA scientists subjected Force Fed to nutritional analysis before the book could be sold to the public, per Sec. 403-A of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; therein Sec. 403-1 - “National uniform nutrition labeling.” They determined the following nutrition facts:
Serving size of one (1) full reading
% Daily Value
Processing trauma and not moping
Processing trauma by re-traumatizing a loved one
Hunger for a better life
Second-guessing that hunger for a better life because the emptiness and poison from the people we love, the people that ruin us, turns us gorgeous
Though immune to DCP&P, the narrator does not see how her own behavior resembles her abusive mother's: she too unburdens herself at the expense of the sister she idealizes. Her sister is once more a target that hasn't consented, shot before she knew she had a bullseye on her stomach. Each letter the narrator writes, like the act of eating, has the false invitation of mutual cooperation, of symbiotic forgiveness for Mom. 'We're in this together, food-sister. Now don't move or speak while I eat you.' Her sister is repeatedly consumed as a meal that promises the narrator a clean conscience. The condensed milk doesn't fall far from the whisk.