Hello friends! I am just delighted today to host a sweet friend, Abby of Suburb Girl in an Agrarian World. Getting to know her over the past few months has been nothing short of joyful. Today, she tackles the significance of what we eat, both in faith and community. (Three of my great loves too — which may be why I’m such an Abby fan!)
What we eat matters. I suppose that’s not a surprising statement when we look to the world around us. It’s endlessly discussed that losing weight isn’t just a matter exercising, but also eating right. We go to the grocery store and are usually affronted with dozens of options for any food we could desire. Movies like Food, Inc. are causing us to question the modern agricultural system.
But the importance of what we eat goes far deeper than we might think.
A Commentary on Life
18th-century French foodie Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once wrote: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”
Our food isn’t merely what we must consume to remain alive. What we eat commentates on our views of life and the world.
When I think of how I like to enjoy food, several instances come to mind. I think of October evenings when my family would sit down together, enjoy roasted chicken, red cabbage and sweet potatoes, and discuss our day. I think of the mornings, afternoons, and evenings that I spend at the local coffee shop (where I’m also employed) drinking tea whilst studying. I think of Thursday nights at my apartment when my roommate and I make an inordinate amount of food and invite folks from our campus to join us.
Community. Quality. Beauty. Three things that I value. Three things that are expressed through my food.
Who do you eat with? What do you eat? Where do you eat? Why do you eat?
Maybe, your food shows that you enjoy buying your groceries from the farmer just outside your city. Perhaps, you set the table every evening reflecting your desire to set apart dinner as a time to pause and reflect on the day. Likely, your food tells of the unique tastes and interests you have in the world around you (my love of tea is without a doubt influenced by my devotion to Jane Austen!).
There’s not right one way to eat and enjoy food. God’s put us in particular places with different people and unique tastes. But, are we intentional about our food choices? Are our food choices consistent with what we value as individuals a part of a larger society?
Our Food + Our Communities
And food does far more than merely act as a commentary on our personal beliefs; it binds us as people.
Eating is a basic act, something that must be done in order to survive. Eating is a shared experience between individuals.
Think about it. We grab coffee with a new acquaintance to get to know one another better. We have the new family at church over for lunch. We decorate cookies with our friends for something fun to do.
I don’t think it’s surprising that in his essay on religion, secularism, and community, Alain de Botton envisioned a particular kind of restaurant being created to replace traditional religion.
“Like so many institutions in our modern city,” de Botton writes, “restaurants know full well how to bring people into the same space, but they lack any means of encouraging them to make meaningful contact with one another once they are there.”
Assuredly, there is nothing that can replace the church as instituted by God throughout the Bible. But de Botton correctly understands that people congregate around food. It’s something that matters to everyone. Food brings us together and gives us a shared experience from which we can launch from to build meaningful relationships with others.
De Botton describes his dream restaurant as a space where intentional, meaningful dialogue happens.
“The liturgy (of the restaurant) would inspire charity in the deepest sense, a capacity to respond with complexity and compassion to the existence of our fellow creatures.”
The time and space created around a shared meal is unique, giving individuals a chance to pause from schedules, come together, rest, and discourse about this journey of life we find ourselves wandering.
A Final Thought
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he showed them how to pray for food. “Give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus asks right after requesting that the Kingdom of God come and God’s will be done on earth.
Whether we’re enjoying a sumptuous supper surrounded by friends, or quietly drinking a cup of tea on an early morning, the food we eat is ultimately a gift from the Father above. It’s a gift that we can enjoy. It’s a gift that helps us understand and think about our lives. It’s a gift that enables us to enter into community.
Today, as you sit down to eat, ask yourself what your meal is saying about you. Ponder if you’re using food as tool for deepening friendships. Consider how God’s goodness is coming to you through your meal.
And when we eat with thankful hearts as a means of understanding ourselves and serving our communities, the food will taste all the richer.
Abby Maurer is currently beginning the end of her undergraduate degree in Agricultural Communications; or, the study of food, people and words, as she likes to say. While not studying, researching, or cooking, she likes to be with people, go on walks, and drink tea. Looking to the future, Abby wants to go to graduate school, have a family, cook incessantly, and write about the intersection of faith, community, and agriculture. Read more by Abby on her blog: Suburb Girl in an Agrarian World.