"All of us are eating creatures. We can't help it. Either we eat or we die. And that makes food ripe for exploitation, and for power. We know this, because these are the stories we were raised on. There we are, sucking on candy canes as we read about Hansel and Gretel, stumbling through the forest to that great glorious trap of a house... Women navigate food- often with the primary responsibility for obtaining, producing and preparing it - on a daily basis. Even when there's food ready to be eaten the relationship is fraught. Women eat too much, they eat too little. They eat the wrong things. And their ability to consume, the choices they make about what they consume, is frequently and explicitly connected to their own consumable nature" - from the introduction, by the editor, Octavia Cade.
Sharp and Sugar Tooth is a collection of speculative fiction and horror stories centred on the theme of women and food. Around this shared theme there is a lot of variety in tone, and stories from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. There are fairy tales, horrible murders, and romances, straight, lesbian and ...complicated. Some are sexy, some are disturbing, and some are both. I devoured this collection quickly and eagerly. The following are my favourite stories:
The Fool's Feast- Anahita Eftekhari
Two sisters use magic to punish their greedy guests.
Candy Girl by Chikodili Emelumadu
Set in Nigeria, it is the story of a recently married woman, whose selfish ex-boyfriend uses magic and robs her of a new life with her husband. It's bizarre, and has a very satisfying ending.
She Makes the Deep Boil by Amelia Gorman.
It's a little Lovecraftian, if Lovecraft could write sexy lesbian tales of love and betrayal.
What the Bees Know About Discarded Girlish Organs by Jasmyne J. Harris
In this tale, the most overtly feminist story in the collection, a woman faces a dramatically reduced lifespan unless she pairs off with a male partner who will literally eat her discarded organs, one by one, until the two of them merge into a single entity. Some men renege on the deal partway through the process, leaving women to face life as incomplete, regretting having given of themselves to another man. It's a gruesome, but effective analogy.
A Year Without the Taste of Meat by Erin Horáková.
A science fiction story about a woman from a planet where it is customary to eat your loved ones when they die, but the thought of eating meat from an animal you didn't know is odd and distasteful. It's a moving tale of love and grief, and one of several lesbian stories in this book.
Red, From the Heartwood by Penny Stirling
This is a story from Australia, about a Bunnings employee who finds herself in a poly relationship with a couple of mythological creatures. It's beautifully told and made me smile.
The Lily and the Horn by Catherynne M. Valente
"War is a dinner party." Lady Cassava is the 'Lily', or poisoner of her house, in a world where territorial disputes are settled with poisons instead of swords. She remembers her schoolgirl romance with Yew, the 'horn' (maker of antidotes) of another house. This story is an absolutely gorgeous piece of writing, that reminded me of Anglela Slatter's The Bitterwood Bible.
Who Watches by Rem Wigmore
A zombie story, but a little different from most, since it's an infestation of lichen that makes the zombies shamble, and undead are not just the eaters but the eaten. The description is very evocative, which is fun if, like me, you read a lot of zombie stories and like that sort of thing. Otherwise, it will probably just really gross you out.
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers - Alyssa Wong
A very creepy tale of a woman who feeds on the ugly thoughts of others.
Sharp and Sugar Tooth is a diverse collection full of thought-provoking, unusual stories about women and food. Some of the subject matter is a little dark, featuring murder and cannibalism, as well as a sprinkling of humour, some sex scenes, strong language, and a LOT of descriptions of food of all kinds. It won't be to everyone's taste, but if you enjoy speculative fiction short stories it's worth a try.
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Upper Rubber Boot Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Published: March 26, 2019