The Whistle Stop Cafe opened up last week, right next door to me at the post office, and owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison said business has been good ever since. Idgie says that for people who know her not to worry about getting poisoned, she is not cooking. All the cooking is being done by two colored women, Sipsey and Onzell, and the barbecue is being cooked by Big George, who is Onzell's husband.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe was previously familiar to me from the movie adaptation of the book - a feel-good movie if there ever was one. The book was similar, focusing on the small, seemingly insignificant daily events in the town of Whistle Stop, Alabama.
The intricacies of the town with its all-American housewives and small-town mentality are lovingly and nostalgically described. Food and cooking is one of the main themes of the novel (complete with a list of recipies at the end of the book). Yet the town has its own problems with the poverty and social inequality of the black population and the Ku Klux Klan gaining power in the 1920s.
The novel begins in 1985 when a depressed housewife, Evelyn, visits a nursing home and becomes acquainted with Ninny Threadgoode, one of its unconventional residents who begins to reminisce her childhood and life at Whistle Stop in the first half of the century. In a way, the main characters of the novel are actually two women in Whistle Stop, Idgie and Ruth, whose story is told by Ninny.
One of the reasons why the novel can be considered an LGBT novel is the relationship between Idgie and Ruth and their gender roles. Idgie is a tomboy who rescues Ruth from her violent husband and establishes a popular café and, ultimately, also forms a family with Ruth and her son. However, their sexual orientation is never discussed, and the entire town accepts them unconditionally. Idgie's and Ruth's relationship was portrayed as slightly more conventional in the movie, a fact that was also criticized by some viewers.
The novel is in many ways a feminist novel, as its women are liberated and empowered mainly by each other. Men play a relatively small role. Even Evelyn gains strength from Ninny's stories of Idgie and Ruth. However, in the larger scheme of things, the events of 20th century American society, including The Great Depression and World War II, inevitably also penetrate the individual lives of people in Whistle Stop.
Fannie Flagg: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Vintage. 1987.
Wikipedia: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Wikipedia: Fannie Flagg