Monday, August 22, 2011

The Real Value of Food

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~Lewis Grizzard

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about food lately.  Not in a gluttonous way, mind you.  Rather, as a kind of spiritual practice, really.  The famine in the horn of Africa has been haunting my quiet places ever since I first saw these pictures and I can't shake the feeling I get, deep in my non-starving gut.  The never ending questions have frothed up from somewhere beyond deep within me and I've struggled to know how to move forward.  The most paralyzing question is the one that I always end up landing on and getting stuck in: "How can I continue to go on living my life of abundance here when I know that so many are suffering there?"

I mean that with all seriousness.  How can/shall/do I go on?

How do I, as a follower of Jesus, reconcile my entitled existence with the suffering of others?

What am I supposed to do?

As much as I know nothing, I do believe this... the Spirit of the Living God, the One who breathed me into existence, is breathing something else into my deepest places.  His whisper tells me that what I can do

what I must do
is this:

share what I have.

Although there are many voices within that want to say, "go there! be among them"

I know I am here, for now, and this is what I must do.  share.

We grow some of our own food.  We also had big dreams of being more self-sufficient when we first bought this place.  Those ideals have been greatly humbled by the sheer magnitude of that task, even though that is the very thing we expect those who are starving half-way around the world to do.  Be self-sufficient. 

But we lean on.  We learn more each year and we do what we can.  I know, though, that we could do more and I am living into that understanding.  To grow your own food and to divine all the multitudes of ways to store and preserve that bounty is a process.  And we are such novices.   
But then we have met others who share this desire.  Those who grow children and food and hope.  Those who knead life and prayers into their daily bread.  Those who love their animals and respect and honor the gift those animals share with the farm.  Because isn't that what all of these are, really?  Gifts.
So we enter into relationship with folks and animals and life and wonder.  We try, as much as we can, to choose the gift, rather than the trinkets offered everywhere else and as a result, we enter into a sacred place.
"You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:
'Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.'
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions."
--Wendell Berry

We are trying to learn the real value of our food, to better understand what all went into the very food we put in our mouths. 
Understand, though...we are but novices.  We are still, very much, Americans...the majority of whom rarely think about their food, much less sit down to enjoy it.  We don't always make the virtuous choice, the humble choice, the sacred choice.  We still sometimes eat to satiate some other hunger rather than to celebrate the gift.  But we stumble on...reaching...hoping.

We strive for the relationship, the connection.  Because that's when you can't help but share.

(bread by Renee's Breads and milk fresh from a cow named Chocolate at Full Plate Farm)
And so I continue to count the gifts:
--a weekend full of being together, listening, laughing
--so many colors in the garden right now and a surprise vegetable, courtesy of that beloved compost (maybe something a chicken ate and passed on as a gift?!)
--a string of ruby peppers hanging in our kitchen, drying, waiting to add needed warmth to winter stews
--sharing the gift with our chickens...oh how they love our offerings of rinds and peels and seeds
--how the chickens give us gifts in return...beautiful eggs in varying shades of brown
--swirls of cinnamon that make the kitchen smell like home
--milk with full on cream that is living and breathing and "tastes like grass", according to August
--the hard lessons learned through chores that bend and shape and make little boys stronger
--sitting around the fire circle on a Sunday night, listening to owls and figuring out where North is and talking about what will become of the Earth
--falling asleep with a book in hand

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