Is eating a spiritual experience for you?
This question seems to occur more often recently, as people, during difficult times, take stock of their lives and habits.
Most cultures and religions -at one time or another - have believed it so. Whether the admonition Enjoy! , Mangia! , simply "Come 'an git it 'fore I throw it out!" , or the more classic blessing before or after a meal, I think this is common to human nature and something we should not abandon.
BeliefNet asks this question in two recent articles - The Sipping Sacrament and Green Jell-O and Other Sacred Delicacies, a treatise on church suppers. I remember well the delicacies - and horrors - each church member was prone to bring when my father had his first pastorate. Mrs. Perry made the best scalloped potatoes I've ever eaten; my mother frequently brought baked macaroni and cheese, with crusty tops and edges, crispy with cheddar and Velveeta. Or sometimes Boston Baked Beans rich with molasses. And then there were the canned tuna casseroles..... less said, the better. Someone, I forget who, usually brought a great potato salad, another had a tendency to bring one made with mushy canned peas and under-seasoned. Another parishioner was famous for her rich dark chocolate cakes, one reason my mother never dressed me in my Sunday best at these suppers. Thankfully I wasn't exposed to lime Jello until we moved to Nebraska.
Nor will I forget my first mortifying experience of bringing a cake to a church Christmas Party!
Although we do not personally ask or say a blessing before meals at our home (except when the grandkids were little), I truly believe there is more that one way to eat spiritually - to be thankful and to thank both the source and the producers of the food and water we drink.
A controversial figure involved in the move towards purifying and stopping further pollution of our water supply is Masaru Emoto, who claims that our attitudes change the very nature of water. He suggests that when we drink, bathe or otherwise use water, we thank this very source of our life, by reciting or thinking: "Thank you, water", and "I love you, water". For some startling photos, see:
And there's more. We are eating spiritually when we recycle containers, reduce our water runoff, make compost heaps with trimmings, and refrain as much as possible from further pollution of our mother earth. When we eat mostly easily renewable resources such as fruits and veggies, whole grains, eggs, milk, and stay away from most chemically enhanced "foods", nutritionless substitutes, altered fats. When we use meats mostly as "seasonings" or additions, not as main courses.
We are eating spiritually when we support better conditions for the workers that pick or pack our foods; better controls and testing in processing plants, healthier living and feeding for fish, poultry and other animals which supply our tables, and purchase foods produced under such restraints, even if it costs us more when we do so.
Another way is to share food - with neighbors, family, friends. And not to waste it; this means both dishing up smaller portions, and straightening the refrigerator regularly.
We are eating spiritually when we eat mindfully, as Dr. Weil suggests, which is not only a way to further appreciate our food but to eat less and lose excess weight as well.
We are eating spiritually when we appreciate the efforts of the cook enough to help set the table, serve the food and clean up afterwards, cheerfully and with thanks for the meal. We carry on the tradition when we teach our children to cook, with love and lots of thank-you's!
In addition, eating with the family in a pleasant atmosphere is eating spiritually, and can reap big benefits. This is a family time that makes a real difference in your children's development and behavior.
Note; be careful if you ask the small ones to say the blessing.
And we can also, as writer Walt Mills puts it, Gather Memories.....