Friday, November 13, 2015

Eat with Joy by Rachel Marie Stone

A few years ago, when I first saw the word "foodie," I was amazed that anyone would admit to loving to eat. It seemed vaguely sinful. But as I've read other books about how communal eating meets deep human needs, I've been forced to rethink that. (After all, the word "companion" means a person with whom you share bread.)

Food writer Michael Pollan states that even though our nation is the most health-obsessed in the world, we are the least healthy. Eat with Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food grabbed my attention because it attempts to find the middle ground between gluttony and compulsive calorie counting.

Stone contends that our obsession with health keeps us from appreciating God's grace expressed to us through food:

Why did God make eating so pleasurable? The biological explanation - food is pleasurable so that we'll eat - is legitimate in its place, but it doesn't go far enough. It doesn't explain Le Cordon Bleu and fine wine, or chocolate for that matter... I suspect and prefer to believe that God made eating sustaining, delicious and pleasurable because God is all those things and more. (p. 24)

But how do we get back to eating as a means of grace? Stone suggests three ways. The first is to eat in community. She points out the most eating disorders are practiced in private. The second way to eat more wisely comes when we eat with gratitude. Thirdly, when we slow down, food takes its proper place. She goes as far as to say that if we grow our own food and cook it from scratch, we'll become just as satisfied with the process as with the eating. (I don't garden, but I do know the satisfaction of home-cooked meals. The more I eat them, the less I enjoy all the "fake" foods that are available in stores and restaurants.)

Lastly, she points out that our emphasis on nutrients and calories robs food of its true purpose, which is to remind us of God's goodness. So a cherry is not a shiny orb of tangy sweetness grown from a beautiful tree blossom, but a five-calorie delivery system for antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, iron, fiber and magnesium. (p. 138)

My favorite quote from the book: Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than useful. (p. 152)

While I appreciated Stone's insights, I was a little put off by some of the side issues in the book such as food justice. If you want a less technical book on the joys of eating in community, I highly recommend Shauna Niequist's Bread and Wine. (reviewed here)

P.S. I just happened to be reading a food-themed novel and enjoyed this quote that coincides with the ideas in Eat with Joy. The protagonist loved old recipes because they were "less concerned with fat or antioxidants. They were unselfconscious and more concerned with being tasty than being hip. They were food without an identity crisis." (from A Table by the Window, p. 238)

1 comment:

Carol said...

I agree with the eating in community idea. I had to go out around 10 this morning & was surprised at the amount of people having coffee/breakfast etc with others. It's becoming more common here locally, probably because we've had quite a few new cafes opening up but I think it has become more of a trend in the past few years. More & more people meet outside of their homes for community eating/social events etc. I wonder sometimes if hospitality is becoming a dying art