Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Let's talk about food: Restoring soul to food

[Jan Steen, "Meal," 1650]
"Food has a profound capacity for meaning and fostering community."

So writes Thomas Moore in "Food for the Soul,"an article in Resurgence and Ecologist magazine (Nov/Dec 2008). Moore, a former monk, a psychologist, and the best-selling author of Care of the Soul (1992), believes that food is (or should be) much more than fuel. When we bring imagination to food, we allow it to enhance community, conviviality, pleasure, beauty, spirituality--and no doubt lots of other good things.

"There is always a place for a quick meal," Moore acknowledges, "but everyone also needs communion, the intimate experience of conviviality that only food can provide." Here are two paragraphs from the article that especially pertain to this week's conversation topic at St Barnabas, hospitality.
Food ... brings people together, mysteriously serving the emotional life. Say you have trouble in your marriage. You call a friend for help. Do you say, “I know a solitary place with no distractions where we can have a serious talk”? Or do you say, “Let’s have lunch”? On such occasions do you need the calories or the chemicals? Do you need to deal with your hunger? Or do you know deep down that eating together will intensify your conversation?
Perhaps the greatest challenge in this time of rapid technological advance and the shrinking of the globe is to create a world community. But that important task can’t be done in the abstract. Food can play a role. Food as community, not as a commodity. Whatever power allows lunch to foster friendship, wedding cake a marriage, and bread and wine a religion could make a community of the world’s population. But we need first to restore soul to food.
Moore's article is short but deep. Though my friends who have studied the 16th- and 17th-century Puritans will point out that his comments about "puritanism" have little to do with the behavior of actual Puritans (apparently the first Thanksgiving drinks included "beer, brandy, gin, and wine," for example), the word "puritanical" has taken on a life of its own and I'm willing to give Moore a pass.

St B parishioners, here are some questions we might talk about Sunday:
  • Think of some hospitality stories from scripture. What foods were involved?
  • How does food foster community?
  • Are some foods better than others at fostering community?
  • Do we ever use food as a substitute for community?
  • How might we pay more attention to the "soul" of food?

This is part of a series of short posts especially for people who attend St Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, where I'm leading conversations about food on September 22, September 29, and October 6. I'll post about food every weekday between September 16 and October 4.

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