I am becoming increasingly concerned, as we near the climax of the consumerist year, about relationships between all sorts of things. Reading the latest Resurgence reminded me of our relationship to food which can be as much about how we deal with others as it is with fueling our bodies. This is intrinsically linked to the relationship to the land on which the food is grown or reared. Satish Kumar writes “We have to transform our relationship with food…” Unless we can move from merely fueling, our bodies there will be no change in the relationship. Fuel / Food is a requirement of our society, as much for our means of transports as for ourselves. Food has become yet another commodity in which to deal, like the great oil debate, how good it is for us or what benefit it can bring us has moved to how cheap can we get it. I cannot remember (not that I watch a great deal of adverts on television) the last time I saw an advert for food which did not mention how cheap it was, ignoring the possible nutritional value by focusing on price.
The whole slow food movement, (which is growing fast, if that is not an oxymoron) the farmers markets, market gardens, local, organic, sustainable and Fairtrade culture is to be applauded, but it won’t sustain the majority of people. Some have taken up the mantle of growing, rearing and preparing better foods, but it is too expensive for many. It is the relationship with food which must be healed, before those who produce the bulk of our nations food will begin to change their selling habits.
A friend said last night, ‘there isn’t much I do that doesn’t have food involved’. What a wonderful sentiment. To elevate the nourishment of our bodies and souls to the centre of everything; it becomes, if you like, a peg to hang our life upon. If we meet and share a meal, we feed not only our bodies, but each others minds. If we eat in isolation, we are just visiting the fuel pumps for our bodies.
Again, in Resurgence, Thomas Moore writes about food for the soul, “Food makes community and at a profound spiritual level eating together is communion, a commingling of souls.”
It is no wonder, perhaps, that so many of the writings about Jesus are set around a meal table or where food is central to the discussion. I wonder perhaps that sometimes in our Eucharist, we have focused in on the heart of the matter, but forgotten to take the time to prepare the meal with those around us thereby cutting them off from the source of the food. It is true, (for me at least) that if you grow your own food, it tastes better. If I involve my children in the growing of the food, in the process of planting, looking after and harvesting the food, preparing and cooking it, will it taste better for them? I am ashamed to say I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. I have a hunch, call it an incling, that this is the key to changing our relationship with food. Getting involved in the whole process. Of course, it not only provides food, but also conversation, a shared task, food for the mind and soul before a pea is podded or a potato uprooted!
And if I use that same process regarding the Eucharist…