September 8, 2017

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Do we eat to live, or do we live to eat? Recognizing God’s gifts for us

Cynthia DewesDid you ever notice how much we talk about food? It almost makes me hungry to think about it. Of course, food is essential to human survival, but it’s so much more than that.

Food tells us a lot about the people who consume it. Regional and ethnic environments often determine what and how we eat. Scandinavians tend to make dishes that are bland and heavy on the carbohydrates. After all, they live in a cold climate where they need to keep their bodies warm and well padded. And the vegetables they can grow are often limited to root veggies such as potatoes, carrots and rutabagas.

Italians, on the other hand, live in a hot climate where they can grow more energizing vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers and onions. And they can grow the wheat for pasta, which is a good accompaniment to the vegetables. Those who live near the sea or lakes and rivers eat lots of fish prepared in many different ways, from baked walleye to sushi.

People grow the crops and raise the animals which are suited to where they live. But despite how different they may be, the foods of the area are right for the needs of those who eat them. Food provides warmth, strength and a natural feeling of well‑being. And it makes the eating of it fun and yummy while they’re at it.

When we discuss our travels with friends, the subject of food inevitably pops up. This particular restaurant we found in Acapulco was the high point of the trip, or we plan to make fish soup as delicious as the one we had in Oslo. Maybe it’s the thrill of traveling, or the desire to widen our daily food choices, or just to show off, but we dwell on food after coming home.

When I read over the logs I write when we’re on the road somewhere, I find detailed lists and descriptions of almost every meal we had. When we talk to friends about their latest trip, we hear a recital of hotel breakfasts and local cuisines, with praises here and there for the wines they drank. And if we think about it, we realize that part of our preparations for a trip always include making sure we’ll be well fed.

Apparently, we’re not the only ones. All of a sudden, there are several food channels on cable TV, popular with the unlikeliest viewers: grown men who never cooked a meal in their lives, or teenagers—ditto. Movies are devoted to food and eating: The Dinner, The Diner, My Dinner with Andre, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to name a few.

The attention given to food reflects the relative plenty of this century compared to many in the past. There was a time when people were vegetarian, not by choice, but because meat was rare or too expensive. But nowadays, the host must be prepared for vegetarian guests.

Of course, since we’re human, there’s always a certain amount of greed or gluttony or selfishness in our attitudes toward our food. We need to nourish ourselves to honor our bodies, and we may make that effort as delightful as possible—without forgetting our obligations to feeding the poor and to the natural environment.

Next time we get ready to chomp on that juicy hamburger or bite into that heavenly dessert, we can thank God for them. We can thank God for the pure joy of good eating—just one more of God’s little gifts for us.
 

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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