insulting meals of boiled vegetables?

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Senior Member

I'm reading 'Bittersweet', a memoir written by Matt McAllester.

<I visit the nursing home for my mom. I pretend to myself
that it doesn't smell of the dying and their final, insulting
meals of boiled vegetables and grease.

What does this mean?
What is this author trying to say throught this expression?
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Insulting is used here in a similar way to "insulting the intelligence". It means that the meals are an insult (offensive) to the senses of those being served, thus demonstrating contempt for the residents (with the implication that the old and infirm are incapable of appreciating tasty, well-prepared food, so they can just be given anything).


    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    The author is implying that the meals are insultingly cheap and bland, that people deserve better for their last meals.


    Senior Member
    English - Canadian
    Since one of the dictionary definitions of "insulting" is "giving or causing insult", I don't see why meals themselves cannot be "insulting." If a meal causes someone to feel insulted, then I think the meal is insulting, without reference to another person or object.


    Senior Member
    English - Canadian
    Re #6 and #7,

    So a meal makes itself, does it?

    Next time I'm faced with boiled vegetables and grease, I'll shout 'Show me some respect, you insolent cabbage and fat!'

    That'll be telling it. It'll know better next time.

    No, the meal doesn't make itself. My point was that the thing that causes insult does not have to be an active agent - anything that makes a person feel insulted, whether it's another human being making racist remarks, or movie poster showing a naked orgy, or even a plate of boiled vegetables, can be "insulting."

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Obviously the meal isn't trying to provoke the residents or disparage them; it isn't engaged in any act of insult. I'm not sure that this makes insulting a transferred epithet. An insulting remark is a remark which has an insulting effect; an insulting meal is a meal which shows insufficient respect to the people to whom it is presented.

    When the missionary refused the sandwiches offered to him for his journey, saying he wouldn't take any sandwiches of distrust with him into Afghanistan, he could have made it into a transferred epithet by saying that he wasn't taking any distrustful sandwiches with him into Afghanistan.

    For me, at least, a transferred epithet has an element of surprise, of an adjective being used in a slightly unconventional way. This isn't the case here. The adjective insulting is normally used of the means by which the insult is conveyed, an insulting remark, or an insulting gesture, for instance.
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