REFLECTIONS: Meals are supposed to be religious experiences
Most Wednesdays, for Dorothy’s Cafe, Kelli makes the main dish–usually some type of soup, a quiche, stew, beans and greens, etc. One of the hallmarks of our cafe is that we primarily (often exclusively) use food grown in our own gardens or produced and bought locally, most often from local farmers, sometimes through our family-owned grocery store Ward’s. One could assign it minor importance–but for us, it is one of the essential values of our community and goes to the integrity of what we do.
Most of the food which is distributed to people who are impoverished is high in fat, sugar, starches, salt, and so on. It’s usually highly processed food, often lacking any nutritional value. It’s food that if you eat a lot of it, you’re more apt to be unhealthy, to get sick, to suffer all the physical, emotional and spiritual malaise that comes with eating food that is just not good for you. From the beginning of the GCW, we have sought to provide for and share with people only the very best food that we can; as much as possible, we buy or attain local, organic, in-season and non-processed food which we then take the time to prepare for our friends who come for the cafe or the coffeehouse, or whom we meet at the labor pools on Friday morning.
Food can be a powerful force for binding us to one another. So many of our religious stories revolve around the sharing of food, and these stories often point out the strength or weakness of the economic, social and spiritual health of our communities. From whom do we get our food, what kind of food do we have, and with whom do we share our food? These are all questions that go to the heart of what it means to be community. From our local farmers who gifted us with lots of lettuce and radishes for the salad, the onions and broccoli from Mr. Henry for the pizza, to Kelly H.and her goats (goat cheese) and the eggs from Springhead Ranch and the oranges from the Hendersons. Kelli writes about this network of relationships often, and the goodness and beauty of it was so evident to me as I held all these various strings connecting us to others in my hands in the final pulling together of today’s meal for the cafe.
So this is what good meals are supposed to do I think: not just fill our bellies, but fill our bellies with food that sustains and lifts us. Even more, our meals should build community and tie us more closely to one another–from the gathering of the raw materials to the preparation to the actual sitting down and eating. This is the Latin root of the word “religion”–to bind together–and I don’t think I’m stretching it too far to talk about our meals as being religious experiences.