How do you think of food?
For millions of years it has been something wonderful that sustained us. We had to work hard to meet our needs so we valued everything we ate.
Gerry Wilson is a Methodist minister in West Cumbria. He wrote the following piece in April and was kind enough to allow me to reproduce it here. My own reflections on food follow.
To set the scene, Gerry and his wife were out during the school holidays and too far from home to pop back to eat.
“Lunch was calling so we made for the nearest place that food was available – McDonald’s. Yes, I know it was a bad move, but I did learn something while I was in there.
The place was packed with excited children and frantic parents trying to keep them quiet. As quickly as one group left, another one piled through the doors to take its place – an endless stream of hungry humanity with voracious appetites and endless energy. That was what they brought to the place, but what caught my attention was not what they brought, but what they left behind.
When the place finally did quieten down a bit, we took a look around and there it was – a mountain of debris which would have fed another army of people easily. It was left on trays, tables and the floor, and that despite the fact that facilities were provided to clear food away.
What a waste, but that is the nature of our society; we acquire things because we want them then and there to satisfy some passing whim. Whether or not we need them is another matter. The fast food phenomenon is a symptom of our times. It is cheap, tasty and convenient, and satisfies us temporarily. As to its nutritional value, well, best not to ask.
In the West we have become very good at feeding our bodies, so much so that carelessness has crept in and an obesity crisis looms large unless we are careful.”
Gerry went on to compare this careless ‘fast food’ attitude to the way we can cram the soul with spiritual junk food.
As recently as the last few decades, our relationship with food changed. There is not only a vast supply that makes it easy to get more than we need, the type of food has changed so that the majority of what’s available doesn’t nurture us at all but keeps us tired, overweight and sickly. We have a careless attitude to food and to ourselves.
When the Dalai Lama visited Britain he was puzzled to find that people didn’t seem to like themselves very much and gave themselves a hard time. Self-care has become alien to us except at the superficial level of external appearances (clothes, hair etc).
Now food has even become an enemy and we avoid it. Enormous amounts of will power are directed to not eating. When we are offered a plate of good food we can experience a range of negative emotions (which interfere with good digestion, incidentally). Fear. Guilt. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Confusion. It isn’t natural to deprive yourself of food so the experience is very unpleasant. It becomes doubly dispiriting when deprivation turns out not to bring the long-term improvements it promised.
Perhaps it’s time to make friends with food again. Learning to eat well means eating differently, not eating less. You can eat with confidence and feel positive, knowing that you are doing yourself good.
Top tips: Cook with love, eat with gratitude, enjoy eating well.
Please do share how you think about food.
You can read my part of this article in The Cockermouth Post (May issue) along with many other fascinating columns.
The picture is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The Granville at Barford.