Recently, I re-watched a film (Gods of our Fathers) with my students, which made me think about how the way we, as human beings, have voted with our food has changed over time. During the time of hunter-gatherers, they never took for granted where their next meal might be coming from or what it might be. My sense is that they found food along the way to nurture their bodies. I have a hard time envisioning them stopping at regularly scheduled times to eat. My sense is that not knowing where their next meal was coming from or when; they did not take any morsel for granted.
The film helped me to realize that even once the living conditions changed from hunter-gatherer to agrarian societies; food was not something they took for granted. Whether it was those from ancient times living in a small agricultural village along the Nile or me growing food for the first time in my backyard, there is a different attitude and appreciation for what you have before you. I have learned this year that growing food is labor intensive and that there is no guarantee how abundant your crop will be. As a result I have experienced a different level of appreciation and gratitude for comes into fruition regardless of its shape.
We learned that deeper down in our garden area are some rocky areas. This caused our carrots and other root vegetables to have interesting shapes. They appeared looking like no other carrot, beet, or cucumber I had ever seen in a grocery store. At first, my thought was that they were deformed, but then I realized that they too were offerings of the Divine through nature. Our sense of what is “normal” has been shaped by what we have been allowed to see at the grocery and farmers markets. While our vegetables do not have the “normal” shape I am used to, I am grateful for their willingness to contribute to our nutrition and wellbeing.
We no longer go out to hunt and gather our food. We have become increasingly dependent on the kindness of nature to provide the rain and sunshine necessary for growing food. Perhaps this is why so many earth-based forms of spirituality understand and celebrate the direct connection between the agricultural harvests and various deities.
Historically, particularly in indigenous cultures, food has been perceived as sacred. Sacred has nothing to do with organized religions. It simply means “set apart” or not of the ordinary. Sacred is also related to the word “sacrifice which may mean that something is sacred because it derived from something sacrificed. In that respect, all food is sacred in the sense that the life of a plant or animal has been sacrificed to feed another being. May we remember that no matter how something came to our plates that a sacrifice was made on the behalf of others that we might be fed.