May 17, 2015
Knowing food is a spiritual practice. Paying close attention to food is living a practice of knowing creation.
To know food is to move beyond myopic buying of food with little thought of its origin: the people involved in its growing, the weather that supports its growth, the community of production, or the sources of its growth—soil, water. To know food is to step beyond a big-box grocery store existence to life of creation.
This desecration eliminates harmony within the landscape. In part, the dearth of harmony comes from a food system that says there is a “right” way of eating. The system cares little if one is a meateater, vegan, or vegetarian, what matters most is that folk believe their way of eating is correct. Such thinking keeps a food conversation of justice at bay, and folk looking at one another believing they could do better. When a friend posted Beefing Up Justice on their Facebook page they commented, “Thank you…for the sacred work you do. And for providing ‘happy meat’ for those of us who just can’t quite commit 100% to the vegetarian way of life.” Obviously, the response made my day. Here is a meateater giving serious thought to becoming vegetarian, who has not fully embrace that way of eating, but is trying to live well in the transformation. Soon thereafter, someone responded to my friends posting saying, “I believe you will be able to give up killing to eat one day. I have faith in you!”
Both my friend and the responder gave faithful responses. Yet, I’d like to ponder the latter response.
I understand the want to give up killing. I figure few of us want to kill. However, only in our modern non-agriculture society might one convince themselves they can eat without killing. This idea of eating without killing is exactly the dream the existing food system would have us believe. Such a dream has eaters of food looking at one another, commenting rather than conversing on what they could do better (rather than self), rather than considering the organized food system which has formed their big-box meateating, vegetarian, vegan mindset in the first place.
A conversation of eating must begin with the current reality of life being rooted in death. One can no more eat a vegan or vegetarian diet without killing than a meateater—creation dying due to a vegan or vegetarian diet, may look different from that of the meateater diet, but it is death all the same. The idea that regardless of how one eats they cause death may be hard to accept, but once accepted, their eating moves from the innocuous to the spiritual. Eating becomes a spiritual practice.
Of course eating is the backend of food as a spiritual practice. The fullness of the non-farmed rural landscape knows the fullness of creation and her animals, rabbits and quail, gophers and voles, crickets and beetles, ants and earthworms, cicadas and frogs. Tilling, of any kind (for any type of diet), for wheat, emmer, spelt, oats, raisins, oranges, apples, nuts, or olives, means created life is lost. Therefore, good care and good practice begins the moment one turns the soil. Therefore, it is essential for folk—tiller to eater—to come together and talk and converse about their food. The moment folk leave behind their sureness of my way of eating is correct and begin a conversation of life and food, the harmonic spiritual landscape begins to break through.
Knowing eating as spiritual practice allows us to know life and death in the plate of food before us. From the tilling of the land, to seeding and watering, to harvesting and buying, to preparation, the plate reflects reverence of creation. Which is why saying grace at the table means everything. For in that bowed moment, folk honor creation by speaking and remembering life has been given so life might be lived. That is a practice of reverence, of honor, and of spirit.