“Food Glorious Food,” sings Oliver Twist, the shrewd street child in Charles Dickens famous novel turned musical. Oliver never knew where his next meal was coming from, and was well aware of food as a precious lifeline.
We, as part of the 5% of the global family who do not want for our next meal, don’t usually think of food as glorious. That’s usually left to the hungry or five star restaurants. I wonder if perhaps we have lost the “soul” of food. In Frederick Buechner’s words, “Is [food] not a window through which you can see the almost unbearable preciousness and mystery of life?”— simply hold a piece of fruit in your hands. Can you not sense your connection to soil, farmer, sunlight, rain?”* How do we recover a relationship with the food we eat? After all, we are “dirt beings,” created from the soil where our food grows. Yet we have become divorced from this soil and anything resembling food production in our society.
Today our food comes pressed into almost unrecognizable forms, highly processed, irradiated, flooded with nutraceuticals, it’s genetics tampered with, industrialized and ferried around the world for the wealthiest to enjoy raspberries in winter and caviar, far from the dwindling fish who supply their eggs. Food has become a commodity to be bought, rather than a link to the earth, to one another, and to the Creator. How do we reconnect with the ancient communal dance of food-making, in which all humans, plants, and animals have intimately participated throughout time?
It is a challenge in our time-starved, fast food society. I know that I regularly fail to understand food as Holy Provision and Simple Gift from the Creator’s hand—connecting me to rain, sun, soil, wind, animal and the farmer who has bent to sow, grow, and harvest the food that nourishes my body and soul daily. I fail to give gratitude for each morsel that goes into my mouth on its way to my belly. I see how my husband and I stand in our kitchen for a mere 20 minutes, passing like ships after long days of work, grabbing food before we head out to our evening activities. I eat pre-popped popcorn from a bag, while he waits for a processed soy burger to heat up in the toaster oven, fresh from a cellophane wrapper in a cardboard box. There is no smell of supper wafting through our house, no anticipation of sitting at a table to share from our day.
–from Radical Grace
* From Food & Faith: Justice, Joy, and Daily Bread, p 63, edited and compiled by Michael Schut (296 pages, $20.00, ISBN: 978-0-8192-2411-8), and used here with permission of Morehouse Publishing, an imprint of Church Publishing Inc., New York. For more information, visit www.churchpublishing.org.