Category Archives: Food & Justice

M.F.K. Fisher on bread & betrayal

“There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. It’s like religion. If you have a glass of water and a crust of bread with someone and you really share it, it is much more than just bread and water. I really believe that. Breaking bread is a simile for sharing bread … you cannot swallow if you are angry or hateful. You choke a bit … it’s all very betraying, how we eat.”

MFK Fisher, The Gastronomical Me, North Point Press, 1989.

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Slow Food & me

We got divorced. It was an amicable split. In the end I bit my tongue and went quietly. Years later I still grieve for what we had and what could have been. It was good in the beginning, but the disappointments gradually mounted. Five years in and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I left.

It was back in 2000 I bought my first Slow Food membership. Inspired by founder Carlo Petrini and his Slow Food Manifesto, I signed up to the organisation’s Australian convivium convinced that our shared values would make a lifetime bond. In the early days I devoured the publications, relished the events, and met some extraordinary people. All too soon, though, the relationship stalled.

My discontent was not to do with the values of the movement or the aspirations of its leadership, but with the priority of the local gatherings. It felt to me like our conversations became increasingly privileged and indulgent. While we mouthed more noble commitments, we were far more concerned about the taste of the oysters and the provenance of the olive oil that we ever were about matters of food security and justice. Unable to face another tasting of goats cheese, I quit.

Good food is about more than the aesthetics of taste and place. It’s even more than the values of slow. While I love my Maffra red wax cheddar, am fussy about the quality of my sourdough, and value the routines of food preparation, surely the designation ‘good’ has to go further than that. To determine food’s goodness requires an intelligent, moral engagement with the systemic issues of food’s production, distribution and consumption.

In her book Good Food, the North American writer Jennifer Ayers makes this point well. She argues that the quest for good food requires “moral attention” to those farmers and labourers swamped by an increasingly industrialised food system, to the urban and rural poor who struggle to find healthy food at an affordable price, and to the long-term wellbeing of the earth that produces it. According to Ayers. what’s needed is a social and environmental movement that addresses the deepest needs of “the poor, the laborer, and the earth.”

It’s not long ago that Australian writer Rebecca Huntley made the same plea in our context. For a food-related movement to be truly revolutionary, she argued, our vision must go beyond “artisan-crafted goats cheese” to address the needs of the most disadvantaged – those marginalized by place, poverty and race. It’s a new “republic of food” we need, she wrote – one in which all are fed and a table at which all are welcome.

Now that’s a movement I can be part of.

 

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Jennifer Ayers, Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology, Baylor University Press, 2013.
Rebecca Huntley, Eating Between the Lines: Food & Equality in Australia, Black Inc., 2008.

Gastronomy and Spirituality

coverI made a small contribution to the latest issue of TARGET, the journal of TEARAustralia. It’s an issue dedicated to food as an expression of faith, culture and hospitality.

There are some terrific articles on the links between food, poverty and justice, an interview with Kate Bracks, Australia’s MasterChef of 2011, and some wonderful food stories from all corners of the world. It’s worth a look.

Here’s a link to my piece. It’s not a long read. Just click on the title page below.

title page

Credo bowls

New bowls for Credo, the space that’s been providing food, rest and friendship to our neighbours here in the heart of Melbourne for more than fifteen years.

 

 

A Credo Lord’s Prayer

God our creator, provider and carer,
you are our best and fairest.
We are committed to searching out and living the way you want us to.
Help us not to worry about the future
and to share what we have with others.
Forgive us when we destroy life
and teach us to create life instead.
Give us courage to choose to forgive those who hurt us.
Be with us in our time of need
and help us not to give up.
Our safety and life is in you.
Amen.

Zadok Perspectives on faithful eating

Zadok Perspectives is the quarterly journal of Ethos: Centre for Christianity and Society. It’s an award winning publication well worth a subscription. When it comes to issues of food, the latest instalment ‘Faithful Eating in an Unjust World’ is certainly worth a look.

DOC150414-15042014101731 2It includes some terrific articles on the big issues of agriculture and globalised food production from a distinctly Christian perspective. Economist, homemaker and community farmer Dianne Brown explores the contrast between industrial and sustainable agriculture and the Christian commitments relevant to our choices: the stewardship of creation, intergenerational justice, equity for agricultural communities and living humbly with the limits of human knowledge. Similarly, Jonathan Cornford (PhD), the founder of Manna Gum, provides a succinct biblical perspective on the challenges of global and local agriculture into the future.  Both pieces are a challenging read.

There are other articles that address the more personal and local application of faith to what and how we eat. There’s Alison Sampson’s regular column on Everyday Spirituality prodding us toward ways we can ‘choose life’ in our shopping, cooking and eating; Paul Tyson’s and Paul Crother’s encouragements to acts of ‘micro-resitence’ in the face of large scale food production and supply; Dominique Emery’s testimony of juggling ethics, cost, nutritional needs and taste in the family home; an interview with Nick Ray on ethical shopping; and Kim Cornford’s inspiring story of neighbourhood food production and sharing.

For me, the highlight of the issue is Dianne Brown’s stories of two farmers, Giuseppe in Tuscany (France), and David in central Victoria (Australia). Though on different sides of the world, both are working land that has been in their families for generations, and both are on the slow journey toward more sustainable farming practices. Their stories are a moving account of the extraordinary cost of change, the risks inherent to ‘radical’ action, and the layers of complexity in the economic, social and cultural challenges that are part and parcel of their journey. More than anything, it’s a reminder to people like me of just how easy it is to talk and how challenging it is to act.

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