When the COVID-19 pandemic locked people at home for much of 2020, writer Rebecca Brill decided to pass the time by reading Sylvia Plath’s diaries and noticed frequent references to her meals. Brill told Atlas Obscura, “Almost every diary entry talked about what she had cooked and eaten,” a trend she also noticed in Plath’s letters to family and friends.
Many of these personal notes were short and direct, but still reflect a poetic sensibility, such as a 1959 entry that simply says “hot tea, hot bath, freshest cod with hot potatoes”. Other entrees include recipes, such as red cabbage, to which Plath liked to add apples and raisins.
Plath wrote about food with joy and enthusiasm, challenging one-sided views of her heritage that tend to define her solely through depression. Eliza Dumais, writing for Lit Hub, points out that on the day Plath wrote “Lady Lazarus”, a poem dealing with suicidal ideation, Plath’s diary entry focuses on a lemon pudding cake she made.
It’s a delightfully fresh perspective on Plath, and anyone looking to paint their life as nothing but a cloud of darkness should consider this 1961 diary entry: “We should have nothing to do but write and dream strawberries and cream.”
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).