Making and eating food are among the most spiritual acts I perform. From gardening, ranching, and hunting in childhood, I have always had a close relationship with much of the food I ate. From the fresh vegetables raised in our garden, to the beef from the calves we raised then sent to slaughter, to the venison and other game meats we hunted, my hands had a role in the processing from beginning to end.
Living in the city now, I have a modest garden in my back yard that produces more squash and tomatoes than I can eat, but certainly comes nowhere near sustaining me. The back yard definitely will not support a herd of meat animals or even a flock of chickens, so I am forced to rely on the grocery store or meat market for them. Until the time comes for me to slice and cook, I have no connection to most of the food.
Despite the void between ground/hoof and table, the act of preparation remains spiritual for me. I do not exercise enough. I do not sleep enough. I drink too many high-caffeine drinks. Cooking and eating well prevent my body from going totally to pieces. Cooking and eating well honor who I am. I enjoy it and gain great satisfaction in preparing something delicious from the ingredients I am given.
The relationship between each part of the meal encourages reflection on the connections between parts of my life. Too much of any one ingredient puts the dish out of balance. Friends, work, family, and God all shape who I am; they are the ingredients to me. Just like a recipe, any one out of proportion alters me and the person that I am. Food connects every aspect of life – friends, work, family, and God. At the table, at a restaurant, or even in passing, food offers that moment of connection – even if it is in passing.
Perhaps, at a certain point, my career will allow me the opportunity to live on land again instead of being confined to the small spaces of the city and will allow me the chance to raise the majority of the food I eat. I like that connection, but it is not necessary for food to be a central spiritual aspect of my life. God is present no matter how many hands touch the food and I take solace in that knowledge.