Endangered Pleasures

Endangered Pleasures

by Barbara Holland

What a magnificent treatise this poetic writer has given us: Do not let go of your earthly pleasures, as they are the very things that make you alive.

In admirable, anti-PC fashion, author Barbara Holland rails against those who shun fat, seasonal food in favor of cardboard tomatoes, dinner, happy hour, and various non-food-related delights.  In Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences, she laments the demonizing of fur coats, and other pleasures that, little by little, have become a source of guilt in our culture.

It is always with a wry grin that I discover voices that sing of living to the fullest, and casting aside rules that are foolish and killers of spirit.  Who on earth decided that a shower was preferable to soaking leisurely in a cast-iron tub, filled to the brim with perfumed bubbles?  If there were a person to write to, I’d send him hate mail, because my modern tub is an absolute nightmare for such purposes.  Holland agrees.

My favorite passages, naturally, are the ones on food and cooking.  Nostalgically describing homemade meals, she remembers the antiquity of “[m]ashed potatoes made of real potatoes, with a dent in the middle to hold the thick, dark gravy,” comparing them to now, when “dinner, though scentless, will be ready in a flash.”  She does, however, praise the ideal of restaurant dining, where not a thing is to be prepared by oneself for oneself — or washed after.

Holland ’s writing is often so lyrical that, like her subject, it harkens to a time in the past when grammar and eloquence were important.  One almost thinks of a Southern Belle with quill in hand, ruminating as her gaze travels out an open window, falling upon an orchard of peach trees.

At other times, she hilariously and saucily captures the essence of the human condition.  In describing the stress a guest experiences upon having to remake an elaborate bed, she writes: “All we can remember is that the blue embroidered thing went crosswise in a diamond shape instead of four-square.  Unless that was the patchwork piece, and the embroidered bit went under it.  …The top sheet hangs down two feet on one side and two inches on the other…After twenty minutes we give up, close the door tightly, and go down to breakfast, nerves frazzled.”

My favorite line in the whole book, however, is in her section lamenting the mandate to wear seatbelts:  “I suppose it’s sweet that the government cares so for my well-being that they’ve made it illegal for me to risk it.”

I need to add her to my dinner party guest list.