It’s been 10 years since I began this blog. As the subtitle says, it’s mostly about food, ‘the food we eat and the tables we share.’ It’s an idiosyncratic thing, an odd collection of recipes, reflections and quotes, suggestions for reading and good places to eat. Underneath is a deep sense that eating is about more than good taste.
I am a religious person. No surprise there. But not just in some cultural, nominal sense. It runs deep. The older I get the more I understand my faith as part of who I am. It’s more identity than belief. It’s not so much a creed as it is a way of living. Personally, I’ve found in the story of Jesus the inspiration to live differently. The best image I have to understand my faith is as a table — a table of nourishment, meaning and good company; a shared and open place of grace and belonging.
Inspirations in this are many. One of those is Sara Miles, a North American writer and activist whose understanding of faith is refreshingly grounded in the most tangible ways. For Miles, if faith is not connected at the most human levels — the levels of food and the daily justice of shared tables — then it’s really not worth having.
This is my belief: that the heart of Christianity is a power that continues to speak to and transform us. As I found to my surprise and alarm, it could speak even to me: not in the sappy Jesus-and-cookies tone of mild-mannered liberal Christianity, or the blustering, blaming hellfire of the religious right. What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely; that upsets the established order and makes a joke of certainty. It proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new. It offers food without exception to the worthy and unworthy, the screwed-up and pious, and then commands everyone to do the same.
I cannot claim a faith that always lives up to this vision, nor a life at the table as radical as the one Jesus embodied. But I can cook. I can share food with neighbours and strangers. I can do my best to live each day generously, inclusively and with grace. And I can advocate in my city for a shared table that affirms our life together in all its diversity, its beauty and struggle. I can do that.
Sara Miles, Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion, New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.
Image: ‘Grace Before Meat’ by Jan Steen (1660)