Still hungry

This is a lovely post from Shannon Huffman Polson over on Patheos. Go read it now. But come back.

Communion_ShadowThe story certainly speaks to discussions we have had in our house, and our feeling that children should never be excluded from God’s table (our former priest Christopher Martin said something similar to her bishop, along the lines of, “I never want there to be a time in my son’s life when he doesn’t remember being fully included as part of the Body of Christ”).

Another reason I often state for communing children is in response to the protest that “they can’t fully understand” what’s happening (also given re: baptism). The simple answer to that is: “Who does?”

I mean really, if you can tell me you fully grasp everything God is doing through the sacraments, you are a stronger theologian than me. And if Jesus really did ask us all to approach the kingdom “like a little child”, then perhaps we adults are the ones who should be holding back and waiting, watching for their instruction on properly entering the mystery.

Polson’s story also harkens back to one of the greatest moments this past Lent for me, when my two year old son ate his communion cracker, then promptly stated (loudly): “I’m still hungry!”

Indeed. How often has that been true for many of us?

And not just spiritually speaking, though we could go on forever about that. Why aren’t we physically satiated by this meal?

Why isn’t this a meal at all?carow1_500x375

Polson’s son is hungry and she waxes rhapsodic about fulfilling his hunger at the altar rail. Only that doesn’t work. Not if her son is anything like mine. A thin wafer ain’t gonna do it.

This past weekend we missed a talk about intentional eating at our church, and later our priest was filling us in and told us he was surprised that people weren’t connecting the meal we eat on Sundays with the act of eating.

But I’m not. Because today’s Eucharist is no longer a meal. It in no way resembles food. That wafer is what I fondly call a Liturgical Prop. Even if you’re one of the lucky folks in a church that bakes weekly – still I ask: does the King of kings feed us only bread, as if we were slaves and not his beloved children?

So until there is more up there – until there is actually a meal to our meal, a feast element to the feast elements – then my son, and Polson’s, and the rest of us…we will probably stay hungry.

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The Five Minute Pitch

Last night a woman asked me about this blog and what I write about. It gave me the opportunity to practice my “five minute pitch” – that is, the distillation of the ideas you’re considering for a book that can be given in an elevator ride. Technically I realize five minutes is too long. But once I get going I tend to keep people’s interest. 🙂

Anyway I failed at being very coherent last night (granted, there was wine involved, which I felt the need to imbibe while speaking so as to underline my points about eating well), so I thought I’d better get this figured out on here and then I will hopefully have a better spiel for next time. And Tina if you read this, hope it clarifies things for you!

Many Christians want to integrate their faith into all aspects of their lives, but often don’t think about how to do that with their choices around food. Yet the way that we shop and eat is so deeply important to our ethics and our general approach to life, and absolutely can and should be a spiritual act. To make it simple, I take as my starting point the three tenets of the Slow Food Movement: food should be good, clean, and fair.

Food being “fair” means that the processes by which it is produced respect the dignity of all creation. This starts with treating the earth well: not poisoning it, tending it with patience, etc. It means allowing animals to be the creatures they were made by God to be: so pigs, for instance, will root in a forest, not be crammed into a crate. It continues up the chain to human beings: paying the farmer a price that reflects his or her work, ensuring that slave or near-slave labor does not continue, and supporting legislation that lifts up the individual, hardworking people who labor to bring us food. Respect and Fairness also means giving all created beings, including the land,
the Sabbath rest it deserves.

Food being “clean” goes right along with this. Christians can think of it as purity, as not polluting our bodies with inventions masquerading as food or poisons that may give a moment of pleasure but contribute to a lifetime of illness. It means having a clear idea of where your food has come from, and connecting to the people (and animals, if you like) who are part of the process. It means personally knowing your farmer and even visiting the farm, showing your children the beauty of the earth and its abundance. Again, it can mean supporting certain types of legislation. And the best way to ensure you’re eating clean food is by growing it yourself: a wonderful way to connect to God’s creative work in the world.

Finally, food should be GOOD! It should taste good, it should make our tongues and our tummies happy! That means we eat real food, not foodlike substances (it means we throw rules out the window now and then, too). We take time to cook and honor the recipes of our ancestors. We use premium ingredients from around the world, that remind us just how varied and exciting God’s handiwork can be.

And it should be good for you, not just in the physical sense, but in the emotional, social, and definitely spiritual senses! Pondering your apple while you eat it will settle your mental state and put you in a place of gratitude and connection with your world. Eating with other people will bring you close together and cement community. And there is a great reason why the Eucharist is the primary sacrament of Christian discipleship: it is through daily bread that we return thanks to our Creator for sustaining our lives, and it is through wine that we return thanks for the grand enjoyment we are given in life! Blessing God for the gift of food makes us priests before him, sharing and stewarding, correcting the selfish error of Adam and Eve who took for themselves alone.

Good, clean, and fair food connects us to our families, our communities, our God, and our best selves. And that is why eating well is, inherently, a spiritual act.

(ok that is probably over five minutes….like I said, I really get going. It’s a work in progress!)

Raising a Foodie, Part 3

I didn’t really expect this to stretch to three posts, but turns out I have a lot to say on this topic!

"Freedom from Want" by Norman Rockwell

 

 

In the end, the primary reason for raising little foodies is found in the more intangible benefits of truly enjoying eating. I speak here of fellowship with other human beings, the satisfaction of being able to appreciate fine food, knowing your meal was prepared with love and care, and the connection, I believe, that we make to our spiritual selves when we acknowledge the provision of our food, the bounty of this incredible world, and the care and attention with which we are fed with so much diversity and flavor and fun by God.

 

 

And this necessarily must involve feeding others: you cannot fully enjoy filling your belly if your neighbor is hungry.

And, of course, it will involve our religion, for Christians (and those of many other faiths, in differing ways) believe that God has fed us with Godself, and continues to do so week after week, becoming, literally, part of us, as we ingest the Divine.

I feel like, when I feed my kids, I’m not only teaching them about how to taste. I’m teaching them about how to be human – how to be fully human (which, according to Iraneaus of Lyons, is the glory of God). How to interact with others, how to share the deepest bond we have – the very stuff that gives us life.

I’m teaching them to think beyond their own tastes and hunger when choosing what to eat, to consider also the farmers, the animals, the earth. To think about how far their food has traveled and what that’s done not only to the environment, but to its composition and flavor.

All of this, unfortunately, I teach only through example on many days. I’m not yet sermonizing at the dinner table (though that day will inevitably come). But I suppose I preach through their plates.

I do wish they could grow up thinking it’s so totally normal to eat tomatoes only in season that they wouldn’t dream of trying to find one in winter.

I want them to look for all the colors of the rainbow on their plates and protest when there’s no vegetables.

I want them to be lonely if they try to eat alone, to feel it’s not really a meal without company, believing it normative to eat with family or friends and share lively conversation. (I actually feel this way, so kudos to my parents!)

And I want them to see every meal as an occasion: an opportunity to share love, friendship, creativity, and deliciousness.

Every meal can be a feast; every bite, God’s love made edible.

The FoodiEvangelist

Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2010” included real-food advocate Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules), urban farmer Will Allen, animal welfare championTemple Grandin, and deputy USDA secretary Kathleen Merrigan, who wrote the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act (the first federal legislation establishing standards for the “organic” title).

Over the summer ABC ran a second season of the series “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” in which the British celebrity chef fights to replace the processed food in school cafeterias with fresh produce and whole foods, and teaches Americans how to cook simple meals instead of patronizing the drive-thru, all the while emphasizing that this is a “life and death” issue.

First Lady Michelle Obama has made diet-related disease her primary cause, planting a teaching garden at the White House and encouraging Americans to get to know their farmers.

There is no denying that a foodie frenzy has taken hold in this country. Suddenly it is not enough simply to eat organic – you must find the most local produce possible at the farmer’s market. The new “status lawn” is a backyard homestead, complete with Victory Garden, compost bin, and free-ranging chickens. The Food Network has spun off a second cooking channel and has already spurred many competitors (from TLC to The Travel Channel) to feature food-centric shows. And just recently I read on my Starbucks napkin that they no longer use artificial colors or flavors, hydrogenated oils, or the real boogie man, High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The backlash against the “industrial food complex” is strong and vocal, demanding an end to the prevalence of convenient but unhealthy food produced in non-sustainable ways. The major players also call for an end to the prevailing wisdom of “Nutritionism” (Michael Pollan’s term): the idea that food is merely biological fuel in the form of key nutrients, and no matter how they are consumed, it is the nutrients that matter the most. No longer is the nutrition info box on the side of the carton the only place one should look to know whether something is good to eat (good not only meaning healthy, but also tasty! Which actually matters to these people!).

I call this lifestyle choice the “religion” of the foodie – it calls for a change in one’s eating habits that makes them less convenient, more expensive, and ultimately more satisfying and nurturing. I call myself a “FoodiEvangelist” because I believe that this dogma can be instructive to persons of faith (particularly those of my own persuasion, which is Christian). Continue reading