Letter: A meeting place of minds

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The Independent Online
Sir: Charles Glass asserts in his article 'Eating together is a taste of civilisation' (2 August) that the dining table 'has long been the meeting place of minds and affection'. To justify his claim, among others he quotes a passage from James Joyce's The Dead, noting that Joyce devotes 'hundreds of words to the food on the table'.

However, while accepting that Joyce describes a rather sumptuous banquet, the martial imagery present in the passage suggests the massing of two rival armies:

On the closed square piano a pudding in a huge yellow dish lay in waiting and behind it were three squads of bottles of stout and ale and minerals, drawn up according to the colours of their uniforms, the third and smallest squad white, with transverse green sashes

The colour differentiation of the bottles placed in relation to Ireland's history obviously represent the Republicans and the Black and Tans opposing one another. Using such images while describing a dinner table feast suggests that Joyce may have been more sympathetic to Jane Jakeman's views ('How food snobs guard the right to scoff', 29 July) that the dinner table is 'a battleground for discipline and a means of enforcing codes of behaviour', rather than with Charles Glass's idea that a meal is a celebration of love with friends and family.

Yours faithfully,


Langland, Swansea

3 August