Eating is so fundamental that it is one of the first things we do after we are born, yet eating seems to be increasingly complex and fraught with moral dilemma. It used to be that eating’s biggest challenge was simply being able to do it.
When humans were hunters and gatherers, most of the day’s activity would have centered on procuring enough calories to sustain a tribe. When humans became farmers, life still centered on cultivating the crops and tending the animals that would be turned into the family’s food.
Today, even those who farm rarely see their produce directly placed on their own tables, and the shift from small-scale butchers and canners to conglomerates who prepare foodstuffs unsettles many of us. We wonder whether the hamburger or the spinach will give us E. coli. We wonder whether we should eat meat at all, or whether we should buy strawberries in December. If I were to really eat locally, I could never justify having another mango on my table.
Although I didn’t grow up on a farm, I lived in a small town, and we bought eggs and fresh-butchered chickens from local farmers. There are places where I can still buy fresh-butchered chickens, but can I justify driving 80 miles for them? Should I be burning yet more fossil fuel (at fluctuating prices)? What does it mean for my children to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” when the grocery store is the only source of provenance they know?
This month, we are privileged to share the essays of three young writers who have thought about the significance of food and its greater implications for their Christian lives. That they happen to be female voices is interesting to note; that their faith informs their understanding of food as relational, and therefore that it points to the greater relationship we share with Christ in the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine, is their offering to you.
There is much more to be said about food–particularly about U.S. agricultural policy and food production, about the ways that we relate to food, and how the Church might speak to food matters large and small. We invite you to continue the conversation.