“Man does not live by bread alone, but he also does not live long without it” (Frederick Buechner).
SOME PEOPLE ATTACH TOO MUCH IMPORTANCE TO FOOD, BUT OTHERS ATTACH TOO LITTLE. Not only can we not do without it, as Buechner suggests, but the necessity of it is a daily necessity. The nature of our physical constitution is such that the eating of food must be woven into the fabric of each and every day’s activities.
But the truth is, food is much more than a necessity. I like what Luciano Pavarotti once said: “One of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Yes, it is a part of life that we have to stop and eat — but that is one of the nicest things about it!
Partaking of our food can even be seen in a higher way. “It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty . . . to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too” (Gerard Manley Hopkins). Gratefully eaten, food lifts us toward God.
So our food was meant to be taken in gratitude and to the glory of its Giver, but it was also meant to be enjoyed. “When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” (Book of Psalms). And we don’t have to be rich in order to savor our food. Indeed, abundance may make it harder to enjoy what we have. The writer of Ecclesiastes saw this clearly when he said, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.”
As is often observed (especially in the South), food traditions are deeply social and communal in nature. Of course, not all of us have the privilege of eating all our meals in the company of others, but when we are able to do so, we should see that activity as a great blessing.
If we’ve lost touch with the enjoyment of our food, we need to return to that enjoyment as part of the simple life. Perhaps we would do well to turn back the hands of time. Remember how easy it was long ago to revel in the simple pleasures of innocent, God-given life?
“One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).