Christina Patterson: If you don't like food, you don't like life

Share
Related Topics

I have never met Alexandra Shulman, but I think I'd like her. Not, alas, because of a shared interest in haute couture (I think £49.99 is rather a lot to spend on a handbag), but because of two much more important things. The first is that as editor of the fashion bible, Vogue, she has dared to bite the hand that feeds her. But only (since no one in fashion eats anything) in a metaphorical way, of course.

She has recently written to leading fashion houses, complaining that sample sizes are now so "minuscule" that they force fashion editors to use models with "jutting bones". Vogue, apparently, has to retouch photographs to "make the models larger". Make the models larger! You practically need a microscope to see them now. In real life, they must be like those poems engraved on grains of rice.

Which brings me to the main reason I like Alexandra Shulman. She is not like one of those poems engraved on grains of rice. She is like a poem written in calligraphy on a fine piece of parchment. Beautifully turned out, and also solid. She looks as though she might recognise rice, might even have eaten it with a Thai green curry. She does not look as if she would order an egg-white omelette that she would then bury under a pile of rocket.

While I wouldn't go quite as far as Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in wanting "men about me that are fat", I share his suspicion of anyone with a "lean and hungry look". Anyone, for example, like Victoria Beckham. The poor girl looks as though she might buckle under the weight of her sunglasses. She looks, in fact, as if a single bean sprout would have her bursting out of her size-of-a-seven-year-old jeans.

My friends, like me, and like every woman in the Western world, would mostly like to be thinner. We'd like to be thinner in the way that we'd quite like to win the Booker Prize, or marry George Clooney, or bring about world peace. We'd like to be thinner in the way that once had me devouring The Atkins Diet in the bar at Waterstone's, Piccadilly, with a nice glass of Sauvignon and a bowl of Kettle Chips. I read You Are What You Eat in a hotel lounge with a cafetière and a plate of home-made shortbread. I read French Women Don't Get Fat in a café with a banana muffin and a latte. French women don't get fat, if I remember rightly, because they're neurotic, miserable creatures who would rather look like a clothes horse than get a life.

Because that's what it's about, this thing called eating, it's about life. Food is fuel, of course, to keep the body functioning, the heart beating, the blood flowing and the brain alert – but it is so much more than that. It's about the tastes and smells and textures of life itself. For me, sharing tapas, or mezze or a smorgasbord with people I love feels like a kind of communion.

Last week, the columnist Liz Jones confessed she had "never eaten a whole banana" and spent her entire life wanting to be "like the women in the pages of Vogue". It hadn't made her happy, she said, but she would "rather be thin than happy". She was flooded with responses, she wrote this week, from people who felt the same way.

How very, very sad that so many women – not pre-pubescent teenagers, but adult women – are wrecking their lives in pursuit of such a silly, life-denying goal. And now we know even the "women in Vogue" don't look like the women in Vogue. And neither, thank God, does its editor.

A royal study in quiet dedication

At a time when Prince Charles has given us a taste of the kind of monarchy we can expect in 10 or 15 years, it's good to be reminded of his mother's more traditional approach to the rule of her realm. Luscious in lemon at Ascot on Wednesday; pretty in pink yesterday. Elegant, dignified – and silent.

The woman who has made more small talk at more tea parties than anyone else on the planet has learnt that the point of small talk is that it's small. It is not an opportunity to foist your eccentric opinions on captive subjects. It is not an opportunity to wreck their plans with a (we-royals-must-stick- together-in-protecting-the-world-from-monstrous-carbuncles) quiet, coded word.

The Queen may not be known for public expressions of enthusiasm, but it's certainly not a quality she lacks. She loves horses. She loves dogs. She loves Michelle Obama. We all love Michelle Obama, but the Queen has her to tea.

Some years ago, at a Buckingham Palace reception for a poetry competition for the Queen's Golden Jubilee, I was talking to the Guyanese poet, John Agard, when Andrew Motion approached with the Queen in tow. She was fantastically pretty in the flesh. She was charming and she was charmed. She was flirting, in fact. She was, in the words of West Side Story, "pretty and witty and gay". None of which you'd know, if you hadn't met her. Which is probably as it should be.

If we have to continue with this ludicrous system (and President Sarkozy et al are quite an incentive to) then please may we have figureheads who understand that they're figureheads. No amateur meddling, please, we're British and we quite like this last, lone, silent voice of the British stiff upper lip.

Sexual truths cause the real stir

In all the can-women-write-well-about-sex? hoo-hah this week (answer no, but nor can men) the assumption has been that writing about sex exists purely for titillation, purely, in fact, for the 0.000 something per cent of the population who might buy a publication with a name like The Erotic Review. The title – sub university mag with happy memories of Emanuelle – gives some idea of the target audience. And no, I don't want to write for them, but I wouldn't, according to its new owner, Kate Copstick, be allowed to anyway.

But one woman who's been writing about sex has created quite a stir. Her name is Wedad Lootah. Unlike previous editors of The Erotic Review (who have been photographed in very little) she preserves her modesty with a full-length black niqab. Her book, Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples, just published in Dubai, celebrates the female orgasm, and also acknowledges that the first sexual experience of many men in Saudi Arabia is homosexual. They "want the same thing with their wives" says Lootah "because they don't know anything else".

Lootah has had death threats. The UAE government has offered to protect her, but she has declined. For real power, Ms Copstick, you need taboos.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Relatives and friends of al-Hajj family gather in a mosque to pray over the bodies of the eight family members who died during an Israeli air-raid  

Israel’s reaction has been vicious and misdirected

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Barclays are reducing the number of staff in their branches - and giving those remain ipads  

A bag? In the bagging area? Whatever next?

Andrew Martin
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?