Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Spirituality of Food

I've been interested in learning about food since I was a junior in high school, when I decided to become a vegetarian. I don't remember it being an abrupt decision; somehow I had gotten a hold of Francis Moore Lappe's classic, "Diet For A Small Planet" and read quite a bit of it. I was disturbed by the environmental damage occurring as a result of animal farming (which I now realize is not animal farming in general, but specifically factory farming), and about the world starvation problems that could supposedly be solved by the worldwide adoption of a vegetarian diet (further reading has convinced me that vegetarianism would not stop world hunger). But mostly I got hooked by the recipe for an open-faced apple/cheddar sandwich, cleverly broiled to melty, slightly singed perfection. I stopped eating meat not so much out of a great conviction about it, but just because it felt good to not eat it.

This winter, after 17 years as a vegetarian of one sort or another (I never could keep all the labels straight), I declared myself an emerging omnivore. I read another book that had a deeply profound impact on me and the way I view food, farming and animal husbandry, and nutrition. I now read everything I can get my hands on about traditional, sustainable, humane omnivorism. Look for a bibliography at the end of this post.

Sure, I feel better. I eat a diet now that consists of about 30-50% of my daily calories from fat, and a lot of that from saturated fat. Unthinkable in our mainstream culture! I no longer fear real food - on the contrary, I am enjoying food more than I ever have in my entire life. I feel creative with it; I feel close to it; I feel deeply fulfilled in a way that I never could have imagined.

Almost every time I work with food in our kitchen now, I find myself tapping into a deep soul-satisfaction, a feeling that I'm exactly where I belong and doing exactly what I am meant to do on this earth - break open the secret nectars of nutrition in our food and provide my family with those nectars. Feeding myself and Descartes well and treating the planet, plants and animals with deep respect has become a kind of spirituality for me. The meditative quality of preparing food. The consciousness with which I contact each element in each meal and the gratitude I feel in knowing how this food has reached us and that it blesses us. The quiet joy I feel when we take the time to eat together at the dining table or in the backyard and really connect. (This heightened awareness and reverence for our food makes me want to celebrate it rather than gulp it down in front of the TV, which all by itself is a huge blessing.) I feel like I am training to learn how to provide our baby with excellent health when she or he arrives. Hestia visits me regularly now, in my kitchen chapel, and she whispers in my ear as I chop and sautee, bake and ferment. When I first started this blog, I wrote of my hope for something like this, but I am pleased as punch at how it has manifested. So I say to Hestia, "Journey on with me! Bring me in deeper!" I never dreamed home could be more fulfilling than career, but am I ever glad I was wrong.

***How to be an omni-sustaina-humane-loca-vore: A Reading List***

Essential reading:
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Nutrition And Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price

Recommended reading:
Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice
Real Food: What To Eat And Why by Nina Planck
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
Eat Fat Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon

Next on my list:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver & Steven L. Hopp


Popeye said...

Oh, dear God, I love eating things. Whole Paycheck, I mean, Whole Foods just moved in down the street and my eating patterns have completely changed all of the sudden. My meal planning has started to move from what's good and frozen to what I may be able to eat fresh. . .

Aubrey said...

Wot it sounds like we are on a similar journey! I have only very (very!) recently decided to include meat in my diet again, after 14 years of vegetarianism. I am currently reading both Real Food and Nourishing Traditions. I've been obsessed with farming & sustainability for a long time, but only after my recent bout of obsessively reading/studying/researching have I come to the conclusion that humans are omnivores. This was an extremely shocking conclusion!

My husband & I continue on our studies & discuss the topic at length often. Although he feels confident in our decision to become omni, he's not ready for me to talk about it in my Blog yet because his friends & family read it. He feels the need to "come out" more slowly to everyone on his own time. Which is a little difficult for me, "Ms Blab about every detail of my life" girl. :p But I understand him, so it's all good.

We will only ever consume meat raised humanely & organically so so far have traveled to an awesome farm about 20 miles away from us to buy all our (fantastically raised) meats. :)

This has been such a fascinating journey for me, I wish I could blab all about it in my blog! lol

Anyway, um, HI! I know I discovered your blog through MDC & I put in on my bookmarks list several weeks ago, but now I cannot recall who you are on MDC, so please forgive me if I am repeating things I may have already said about this topic on the site! My username on MDC is "zjande".

Maggie said...

Popeye: Good for you and fresh food! It has been a few years' work for me to transition out of my fridge full of leftovers and packaged food, to fresh whole foods. I feel so much better though, and I so enjoy the journey! Thanks for the post.

Aubrey: Welcome to my blog! Thanks for posting - I'm always interested in what brings people from vegetarianism to omnivorism. My sweet friend Pixie has recently started a conversation through comments on her blog as well (Pink Coyote). I look forward to continuing the conversation! And I totally feel where you're coming from...when I discover something new and exciting, I want to blab to the whole world about it! :-) Good for you for honoring DH's wishes. I'm HerbanGirl on MDC...see you around!

pixie said...

Maggie, this is such an awesome post. You are a modern woman with a lovely traditional sensibility, I've always loved that about you. I'm so happy you are leading the way in my community for conscious omnivorism. I'm listening to all you have to say, my dear! xoxox p