Sugar-coated ritual

Eating is a most ordinary act. Scrounge through the cupboard, peer into the open fridge, pour, peel, unwrap, nuke, scoop, chew, swallow, put the dishes on the counter. Again and again. It is the basic daily maintenance of existence. Sometimes it’s tasty, sometimes it’s drudgery.

But food is also the stuff of ritual. Whether it is offered to gods, becomes the flesh of God, or is simply poured from a freshness-sealed package into the last clean bowl as the weather report comes on, food and spirit go together.

For to eat is to partake in the most basic mystery – that of life itself. A seed sprouts, a calf is born, a blossom turns to berry, the elements turn to food and we eat. This spark of life is pure wonder, and without it we die. Even if food is processed, packaged and relegated to the cheap bin near the express check-out, it still owes its existence to the mystery of life.

The danger is that somewhere between field, factory, Wall Street and table the mystery goes rancid. The danger is that we lose our taste for ritual and just start consuming shrink-wrapped pop culture. – Eds.

Issue 8

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 8, Winter 2007, The Future of Food in an Urbanized World.

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