Food and Joy

What is it about cooking and eating that feels so…prayerful?

How can things that take such time, patience, and effort be so pleasureful, almost as much as the act of eating? Is it the anticipation or the creative forethought that makes it so wonderful?

I’ve been watching the Netflix documentary, “Cooked”. Its only four episodes, and there are times when I feel the producers and speakers place motives and ideas on the food industry that the industry may not really have (e.g., “They are engineering food to be addictive.” They are likely engineering it to be good…and that happens to include things like sugar, salt, and fat, which we crave.)

But it struck a chord recently: cooking can get us back into touch with the planet, with our own fragility. Not right off the bat. Getting your ingredients is often as simple as going to the store, picking up a few things (even things that aren’t in season), and then returning home to cook them.

But think back to a time, a time not so long ago, when any food you wanted had to be grown. Pesticides of industrial sorts were not readily available or available period, and evading drought or plague or flood or frost was either a systematic effort or unavoidable. You toiled in the sun and soil in order to produce your food. You scavenged the landscape or hid among the foliage to catch your sustenance. Then, you returned home to cook, possibly another hours-long or even weeks-long process of preparing your food.

Compared to today, cooking is often a quicker, easier offering of time and nourishment to ourselves…in a setting where we believe time is more valuable than it once was (as there is less of it).

Not only does cooking potentially get us back in touch with the roots of our food, the sources of our life, the very fruits of our planet, and how delicate our existence is (and how well we are buffered, in America, against some of that fragility), but it reminds me of a simpler theme: how great and simple and yet wondrous it is to be alive.

How amazing it is that our bodies can break down plants that grow or animals that walked and get energy from those things. Its as if it’s an offering to ourselves, every meal we make and eat.

And when I think that 20% of our children go hungry in our own country, and that there are people world-wide who fight for their food, it makes me realize I’ll never be truly appreciative of the wide array of foods available to me year-round.

It makes me appreciative. It makes me happy. It is a simple pleasure, to eat. And it can be a mindful task, to cook.

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