Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Local grown...

Last night, Laura and I sat down to dinner. It was first time and her second time eating a meal with food taken from our garden. Last night, that meant a roasted butternut squash dish made with arugula from the first cuttings of that planting.

I endorse the locavore movement. Reducing the carbon footprint of the food I eat is a good thing, a godly thing, as I see it. The challenge is to not make of it an idol, while at the same time being mindful that the food I chose to eat really does embody a healthy response to striving for justice and peace in God's kingdom. When I eat food that we have grown ourselves, I get a sense, not only of what it takes for me to raise a crop of food for the table, but also of the energy the plants themselves put into the effort of growing and bearing fruit. It is a remarkable thing, to see seed go into the ground and just a few weeks, sometimes even days, later to then see plants begin to grow. To be able then to eat that food gives me an awareness of the kind of gratitude I too often forget to offer to God for the gift of food and for the hands that have worked so hard to prepare it for the table.

That sad unconscious, unmindful state of being is something I slip into all too easily. When I am not eating out of the garden, it usually takes an extreme moment to wake me to mindfulness of just how grace-filled the act of eating really can be for us as human beings.

I was once good friends with a practicing (Christians would call her practice "devout") Buddhist. She was actively seeking to reduce the amount of suffering she caused any sentient creature she encountered in her life's walk. That meant being focused on reconciliation in human relationships, being a vegetarian...and when she went out to the garden to cut and harvest her dinner to acknowledge that the plants themselves had to suffer so that she might live. Going over to her house for dinner was at once both an act of contrition and a revelation in mindful eating. Even your lettuce had a life. Are you willing to give that lettuce the same honor as you would a lamb roast?

On another note, I was recently on retreat with a group of clergy colleagues. It was our first time staying in a rather affluent midwest/Rocky Mountain community. Near a famous resort town, we decided that for our last day/meal together we would take some time to explore the neighborhood and grab lunch at a local eatery. It was "just" a BBQ joint. Nothing special, but heavens the food was good! Racks of baby back ribs with meat just falling off the bone. Sure, the food had a high carbon footprint, after all it was smoked...but even the fixings on the side were clearly, lovingly hand-made and not out of a jar.

As we were leaving the joint, one of my colleagues came out with an announcement for "us foodies" in the group. You see, the pork came from the Netherlands. The pigs were fed on tulips and raised in such a way as to both sweeten the meat and keep it exrtraordinarily lean.

The "carbon footprint" just grew exponentially.

Mind you, I still give thanks for the care with which the meal was obtained, from lot to table. Still, to imagine such a global effort to bring a simple, $8.99 platter of ribs to the table? What a remarkable world we live in today!

So, as you eat today, locally-grown and obtained food-or otherwise, please remember to give thanks for the lives given to sustain yours, for the care and labor entrusted to earth and creation by farmers, food-preparers and cooks and for the God who has made this wonderful world.

When we eat, we share life...when we pray and then eat, we acknowledge that even the meal before us is not about us or for us alone. It is representative of just how much we are loved and supported by creation itself.

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