This food comes from the Earth and Sky,
It is the gift of the entire universe
and the fruit of much hard work;
I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.
–Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists
Growing our own food and eating locally has brought us to a new level of awareness of what “food” is. No longer can we look at a shrink-wrapped container of meat in the grocery and just see “pork chops.” No longer view a head of broccoli and not wonder where it came from, or how it was grown. We recognize that behind each piece of food is true story. Sometimes very complicated, other times not. Sometimes sad, even heartbreaking. While still others celebratory.
In this world exists a constant give and take. To grow and thrive we must consume. And when our lives are through we will be consumed back into the earth. Though we may not want to admit it, we are interwoven into the tapestry of the natural world around us. We are made of the same elements of everything in the universe.
When we eat the good bread,
we are eating months of sunlight,
weeks of rain and snow from the sky,
richness out of the earth.
Spending time on farms puts us back in the reality of the story behind food. Behind every glass of milk is a cow. Behind every sack of potatoes is a field. Behind every pork chop is a pig.
I was reading a friend’s blog post not long ago about her reflections on her first year of farming. In it she mentioned that when she first started her farm she wondered if she could raise an animal, care for it, and then eat it. After her first year she had done just that. She said that the experience made her much more mindful of the food choices she made. Her story made me reflect on my own experiences with learning to butcher chickens and eating an animal I raised. In the past I had always been afraid of the reality of eating meat, which is part of the reason I have been vegetarian over the years. I didn’t feel it was right for me to eat meat if I was so uncomfortable with the reality of what had to happen in order to get a hamburger on my plate.
Becoming involved with the farming community and raising my own food has put this experience in a new perspective. I have come face to face with the reality of where food comes from and like my blogging friend, it has made me a much more mindful eater. When I see a roast on my plate, I see an animal and I recognize the life that was given. (And for this reason we only buy meat from local farmers who raise their livestock on grass and sunshine) I accept the responsibility of eating. And I honor the holiness of the food.
Mother Earth, you who give us food,
whose children we are and on whom we depend,
please make this produce you give us flourish
and make our children and animals grow…
Children, the earth is the mother of man,
because she gives him food.
Food is a gift. While my family is blessed with sufficient resources to feed ourselves well each day, we recognize that much of the rest of the world goes to sleep hungry. Each time we sit down to a table with brimming, full plates we are humbled by the recognition of our good fortune.
Because food is a holy, wonderful gift, we have begun giving thanks at mealtime. We want to raise Harper with a mindfulness toward eating, a gratitude for our daily bread. Our mealtime prayer provides us with a moment to stop, recognize the holiness of the meal in front of us, the effort that was given to bring this food to our plates, and our incredible blessing of having enough to eat. It is a powerful act, one that centers and grounds us, and brings us together as a family.
May you be a mindful eater, and give thanks.
To all else thou hast given us, O Lord,
we ask but for one thing more: