Food and Where It Comes From (Guest Post by The Life Artist)

We were dining with extended family at the American Flatbread pizzeria in Middlebury, VT when my brother-in-law directed my gaze to a large wooden plaque hanging over the brick oven at the back of the restaurant. Inscribed in the sign was this: “Food Remembers”.

{Wait for it . . .}

As conscious as I try to be about my food and where it comes from (I mean, I’ve seen Food Inc. and a bundle of other like documentaries and I do eat my share of fermented veggies.), for the life of me, while I was staring at those two words, I couldn’t think of one thing that “Food Remembers”. Turning back to my sister and her husband, I asked them, “So, what exactly does food remember?”

I am grateful that my delightfully-hippie relations didn’t look at me like I was stupid. Instead they responded—almost in unison—as if they had a speech rehearsed just in time for their visiting urban-kin: “Food remembers how it was planted, grown, harvested, purchased, prepared and eaten . . .” The sentence trailed off when the seven children in our midst interrupted with their boisterous behavior and the conversation dropped before it ever really started. But a tiny seed had been planted softly inside me.

:::

There’s something I believe so strong, something I would hang my entire life on and it’s simply, completely this: we were created for intimate–such intimate–relationship. Created for a deep love-communion and peace-friendship with God, fellow humanity, ourselves and the created order. And something awoke from sleep in me when “Food Remembers” started hovering around in my molecular makeup. I comprehended that I had never really cared for or fostered an intimacy in my relationship to this dimension of the created order, namely: food.

Food of all things! Should this physical fodder get that much of my intention? Can we :: should we :: be intimate with it?

In the process of my get-close-with-what-I-eat quest I read this in Yoga of Eating:

To see that each food represents not one but a composite of many vibrations, consider two heads of broccoli. Their vibrations represent the totality of their history and production, in addition to the innate nutritive characteristic of the plant species itself. Imagine that the first head of broccoli was produced in a huge industrial-type farm that relies on intensive use of groundwater, fossil fuels, pesticides, and chemical fertilizer. This farm engages in practices which poison the water and the soil; its produce is harvested by exploited migrant labor and trucked to supermarkets thousands of miles away. Broccoli with such a history will have very different vibrations than a broccoli grown in an organic garden. One head of broccoli might be part of the destruction of the planet, another, part of its renewal. The two heads of broccoli share some vibrations in common, while others are distinctly different.

Perhaps all these vibrations are biochemically encoded in the broccoli, perhaps not. Current scientific research certainly confirms that agricultural chemicals and depleted soils affect the makeup of a plant. But could a chemical analysis determine whether the laborer that picked the broccoli was treated fairly? This seems ridiculous. But it is the premise of this book that, whether biochemically or through some other mechanism, the entire history of a food is somehow bound up within it.

And the questions must be asked because I think there is a deeper story, a story that reveals intricacies untold, pulsing like a real heartbeat inside the life of all edibles.

Do you believe that every living organism has capacity for information retention? That it matters what we store into the atoms of our food? Do you think that where we choose to purchase our food is connected to a much larger and longer system of memory—all the way back to an exploited migrant worker? When we eat something, are we eating everything that happened to make that food come into existence—thereby affirming a certain version of the world?

Another thought:

Suppose you eat a banana from a South American plantation, located on destroyed rain forest land wrested violently from indigenous tribes, who now labor at starvation wages, using pesticides that pollute the ecosystem, shipped thousands of miles using polluting oil-fueled ships, by a company that puts small independent growers out of business through corrupt practices. By eating a banana, you ever so slightly reinforce this state of affairs, and make it part of your reality and experience. You are saying yes to such a world.

Or suppose you eat chicken from a battery-raised hen, who suffered her whole life in a tiny, crowded, filthy cage, pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, painfully debeaked to prevent her from wounding her cellmates in her extreme stress … raised, basically, in Hell. Each time you eat such a chicken, you affirm the hellish suffering that brought it to you. Incrementally, bit by bit, you invite that experience into your reality.

Ask yourself now, what kind of world are we saying yes to with our modern food system? When our food production system throws nature out of balance, is it any wonder that our lives too spiral out of balance? When our food system is based on the prolonged suffering of humans, animals, plants, and soil, is it any wonder that we often feel consumed by loneliness, estranged from the world? When we impose unnatural order on plants and animals through monocropping, genetic engineering, and so forth, is it any wonder that we too feel channeled and restricted, the natural flowering of our souls contorted and corralled into the unnatural, self-betraying mold society imposes?

Preparing, eating and sharing meals is such a substantial serving of routine life and church happens in our house whenever we invite people to circle around our kitchen table and we bow heads together and know that every act in this physical world has been designed so that we, the-Christ-people, might do all things in remembrance of Him, our daily Bread.

I hunger now for a surplus of connection to the entire food-communion process and have recently found myself going all gentle inside when I’m preparing meals, my hands infused with reverence and love while the celery is between my fingers. Where did it come from? What is it’s story? I’ll wonder and say a prayer because I didn’t buy it local, but I wish I could have and the recognition comes ——-> This relational journey with food has made me realize that I’m not okay anymore with the reality I’ve been saying “yes” to. That I want to be more thoughtfully-intimate and make different sacrifices so that I can engage more honorably with what goes into the nourishment of my physical body, the bodies of my family and friends. I want it to be an act of worship to incorporate intimacy with Christ in all things—even this, the meal-making. And when I can’t afford the delicacies of local, farm-grown? I know the prayers of blessing and grace that we cover our cuisine with will cover where we can’t financially extend ourselves, that God’s love covers the multitude of our shortcomings. And yet, I still want to do as much I can to bring the future glory of heaven into this simple act of my food-companionship and thereby, I believe, relieve some of creation’s groaning as she eagerly awaits the day when she will join God’s children in the final freedom from death and decay.

I would love to hear your thoughts . . . How relevant is this conversation to daily life and culture? How does it relate to our faith and family?

(thank you, my dear erika… please visit E at her blog, The Life Artist)

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4 thoughts on “Food and Where It Comes From (Guest Post by The Life Artist)

  1. OOO, I love this!
    In my recovery, great strides were made when I first shopped the local Olympia Farmer’s Market in Olympia, WA. The life and joy of being surrounded by healthful, earthy food, where I could see and touch the people who benefited from my partaking struck a chord with me.
    From that day in 2008, I have at least noticed food differently, though I must confess have not always lived what I know and believe.
    http://www.predatory-lies.com

  2. We have definitely drifted further and further away from the origin of our food supply It’s actually quite sad how the thought doesn’t even cross most people’s minds! I think there needs to be a huge shift in the way we do things as a society! I realize that will take time and effort and with our growing population great strides will have to be made but I do believe it is possible! Great post!

  3. Erika, there is so much here I’m digesting. I’ve thought about this all before, and it’s shaped our eating and buying habits, but your words take me to another level of thought and spark a want for diligence. It’s just that … It becomes extremely hard to articulate why this matters with those who don’t thin quite as deeply about life. And then it becomes a battle — no, we won’t buy that and please don’t buy that for the boys because it’s not something we want to support. That’s a relevant conversation swirling in my mind — how do we converse meaningfully about something — food –that most don’t find meaningful beyond it tasting good.

    • It’s funny how “food relationship” can take us on such an isolated path – everyone has a different opinion, or no opinion at all and that can be just as challenging, eh? I find that since we’ve gone more intimate in our practices with food, we’ve had to pray a lot more and ask for Grace to cover all the places we can’t – like, when our boys are given certain edibles by well-meaning people, I have to decide whether it’s time for a prayer of Grace and a “go ahead and eat that” or if it’s time for a genuine “no thank-you”.

      But maybe, at the end of the day, you need to follow your own heart for your family and the path that God is guiding you toward? Whilst being a vessel of as much Grace and Love as possible? I’m just not sure that everything we choose to do is meant to be understood by everyone?

      Love,
      Erika

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