“Ice-Cream Man”

Food and Sex: The Politics of Exchange in Lynn Coady’s “Ice Cream Man”

by Liana Cusmano

Chicken, ice cream, soup. In Lynn Coady’s short story “Ice Cream Man,” food is exchanged for companionship without allowing for meaningful connection between individuals. The guy at the canteen has been offering the protagonist an ice-cream sandwich – food – for years, making the “same joke since [she was] seven years old” (34). The proverbial ice- cream sandwich is a stand-in for sex, and the guy at the canteen does eventually “give [her] the ice-cream sandwich he’s been talking about all these years” (35). He repays the sex that she routinely gives him with free snacks from the canteen and with rum (37). Food is thus exchanged for company, specifically for sex, but the relationship between the two individuals is based solely on intercourse, involving no depth, intimacy, or intellectual closeness. Later, the man hints that the girl ought to bring him fried chicken (39); suddenly she has become the primary beneficiary of the relationship, and he expects his offer of sex to be repaid with food. He is used to this method of exchange: “Every woman I’ve known has always tried to do nice things for me” (39).

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The Soup Trade

The girl’s distant father has a similar attitude when he wants her to eat soup with him; he expects his culinary thoughtfulness to be compensated with company, although “he doesn’t even quite know why that is” (43). The relationships the girl has with the two men in her life are thus based on trading food for human companionship, but she shares no meaningful connection with her so-called boyfriend or with her father – in spite of all the soup and chicken involved.

 

Coady, Lynn. “Ice Cream Man.” Play the Monster Blind: Stories. Toronto: Doubleday, 2000. 27-43. Print.

Photos by Alexia Moyer

 

Everybody’s Hungry: Food and Control in “Play the Monster Blind”

We are launching a second miniseries. Over the next few weeks we will be joined by students from Nathalie Cooke’s Canadian Literary Fare course (ENG 441, department of English, McGill) as they too are studying food scenes in Canadian literature this term.

 

Text by Carla Dean.

Food and familial power dynamics form the center of “Play the Monster Blind” by Lynn Coady; throughout the story, the struggles of various characters for power in their relationships are reflected by their eating and drinking habits. Characters who successfully control their food intake have power in the family unit; those who are controlled by food are disempowered.

John is a more powerful version of his father; he has overcome an eating disorder (4), whereas his father is incapable of controlling his drinking habits. An example of this dynamic is the restaurant incident, where the father causes a scene over “a good dry chip” (15). John, however, uses “‘[a] little thing out there called PR,’” (13) which really means a controlled approach, to much better effect. John’s interpersonal skills earn him far more social currency than his father’s drunken antics.

Bethany similarly mirrors Ann, whose lack of agency is clearly linked to her eating habits. Bethany is a self-described “big eater most of the time” (11) and earns the father’s approval because of her appetite (10), whereas Ann is a “meal-obsessed” recovering anorexic (11). Ann associates her stagnant, disappointing life circumstances with food; she throws up shellfish after a nightmare in which she “‘[is] just doing all the things [she’s] been doing all along’” (15). Ann’s blow to Bethany at the end of the novel, which turns her new ally against her, only happens because of excessive drinking—and Bethany, who does not lose control, tastes power (25).

 

Works Cited

Coady, Lynn. “Play the Monster Blind.” Play the Monster Blind: Stories. Toronto: Doubleday, 2000. 1-25. Print.

Kulesza, Michal. Movie Night. Digital image. Stock.tookapic.com. JPEG file. February 7th, 2016. <https://stock.tookapic.com/photos/21005&gt;.