Monday, October 7, 2013

The Spirit of Food: Thirty-Four Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God

The Spirit of Food: Thirty-Four Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward GodThe Spirit of Food: Thirty-Four Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God edited by Leslie Leyland Fields

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even as I ask these questions, I know something is missing. Something our grandmothers and mothers knew at their church potlucks, as they carried to the communal tables Velveeta broccoli casseroles and Jell-O salads greener than any fruit dared to grow. In our zeal for purity and right living, we may have forgotten something other generations and cultures knew. That food is more than politics; food is more than economics; food is more than culture, entertainment, nutrition, even justice. As important as each of these is, none of them singly identifies or describes all that food is and does and is meant to be.

Food is nothing less than sacrament. All food is given by God and is given as a means to sustain not just our bodies, but also our minds and our spirits. In all of its aspects--growth, harvest, preparation, and presentation--food is given as a primary means of drawing us into right relationship toward God, toward his creation and his people. Even its intentional absence, through fasting, pulls us toward a deeper dependence on God and one another.

As I turn to the Scriptures now, I am amazed at the centrality of food in its pages ...

From the introduction
As can often be the case with anthologies, even those for whom the essays are specifically written, one gets a mixed bag. Some of these 34 essays relating food to spiritual search were very moving and hit the mark for me. In particular, the introduction by the editor, the pig farmer's meditations, and the bread baker all had points that moved me and have come back to me frequently in daily life.

Several of the pieces take Father Capon's seminal The Supper of the Lamb as a jumping off point. There is a key chapter of Capon's book included and you can see why it is probably his most reprinted excerpt. Indeed, if you haven't read his book, then save this one for later and read that first. Capon pulls off conveying how the world around us, beginning in our own kitchens, reflects God ... all the while also giving us a functional cookbook. In fact, it is on my Desert Island book list and I probably should read it once a year.

If I could give half stars, this would probably be a 3-1/2 but I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt. Some of the essays struck me as covering very familiar food-writing ground in using their pieces as platforms for complaining, condescending, or posturing. However, these may very well strike others in a different way, especially since few of us are ever in the exact same place in our spiritual journeys, not to mention our levels of exposure to food writing.

Each of the essays has a recipe at the end but, of course, finding new recipes is actually not the point, even if I did find a few I'm going to try out. It is to feed both body and soul that this collection exists and it does a good job.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting concept for a book. Without having read it or even heard of it before just now, I would say they should get an A for originality.