Category Archives: Food & Spirituality

Feast•Pray•Love

This week is the final week of the 2017 Feast•Pray•Love art prize and exhibition hosted by the Collins Street Baptist Church. It’s an exhibition that invites artists to explore the deeper meanings evident in our life at the table.

Now in its fifth year, the exhibition is one I feel especially connected to, not only because it arises out of my own church community, but because it adds a poetic and creative depth to the broader conversation on the role of food in our lives.

Coinciding with the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, one of the most significant of its kind in our region of the world, this exhibition invites the community into a more reflective space. There is much going on in our eating and drinking, so much that taps into our spiritual longings, our stories and our most formative relationships.

All the details of this year’s exhibition can be found at the exhibition’s website: feastpraylove.com

[Image: ‘Mythical Lands’ by Wendy Grace]

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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.

Muto on piecrust & living

“Is it possible that there could be an analogy between spiritual living and making piecrust? At times it comes out flaky and baked to perfection; at other times it is too tough, too loaded with shortening to digest, or simply too overcooked. ‘Don’t try too hard to make it happen,’ Mother reminded me. Learn to let go, to let be, and to live lightly.”

Susan Muto, Table of Plenty: Good Food for Body and Spirit, Francisan Media, 2014, 69.

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

Feast•Pray•Love Art Exhibition

Next week, here in my home city of Melbourne, is the opening of the annual art prize and exhibition Feast•Pray•Love, initiated and hosted by the church I serve as pastor. It’s an exhibition that invites artists to explore the deeper meanings evident in the sharing of food.

The exhibition, now in its third year, is one I feel especially connected to, not only because it arises out of my own faith community, but because it adds a poetic and creative depth to the broader conversation on the importance of food in our lives. And that’s a conversation I’m invested in.

The exhibition is made all the more significant by the fact that it coincides, intentionally, with the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Now in its 20th year, the festival is one of the most significant of its kind in our region of the world and is a wonderful celebration of the rich culinary heritage of our city and state. The fact that we can highlight food’s connection with the deeper longings of spirituality is one of the gifts we have to give.

This year the exhibition has attracted more than 45 works from around Australia. All the details of the opening, the awarding of prizes and the gallery opening hours can be found at the exhibition’s website: feastpraylove.com

[Image: ‘Carry Us’ by Rachel Peters from the 2014 exhibition]

Eating, Tables and Deeper Things

This blog is mostly about food. About Eating. As the subtitle says, it’s about ‘the food we eat and the tables we share.’ It’s recipes and words, reflections and quotes, suggestions for reading and good places to eat. But underneath it all is a deep sense that the business of eating is about far more than good taste.

I am a religious person, a Christian. Not just in some cultural, nominal sense. It runs deep. In fact the older I get the more I understand this faith of mine as part and parcel of who I am. It’s more identity than it is belief. It’s not so much a creed — a set of propositions or sacred rituals, or a sacred book to hit people over the head with — as it is a way of living. Personally, I’ve found in the story of Jesus the inspiration to live differently. It’s about life as a table, a table full of good food and company, a shared table of grace, community, forgiveness and belonging at which all are welcome.

Inspirations in this are many. One of those is Sara Miles, a North American journalist, writer and activist whose understanding of faith is refreshingly grounded in the most tangible, immediate ways. For Miles, if faith is not connected at the most human levels — the levels of food and the daily justice of sharing tables — then it’s really not a faith 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. It doesn’t promise to solve or erase suffering but to transform it, pledging that by loving one another, even through pain, we will find more life. And it insists that by opening ourselves to strangers, the despised or frightening or unintelligible other, we will see more and more and more of the holy, since, without exception, all people are one body: God’s.

UnknownSara Miles, Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion, New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.

Image: A Dutch Interior – Grace Before the Meal (oil on canvas) by Evert Pieters (1856-1932)

Cooking and Writing

Cooking and writing. They’re the two activities I gravitate to if time is spare; the two things, frankly, I would rather do than most anything else. Yet they are different, so counter in process and reward. The fact is, I can’t do both at the same time and therein lies the distinctive magic of each.

The writer Rebecca Solnit confesses that the pleasure she experiences in cooking is in the fact that it’s not writing. It is writing’s opposite. Cooking, she says, ‘engages all the senses; its immediate and unreproducable and then it’s complete and eaten and over.’ Cooking is such an here-and-now thing. It pulls me into the present. It’s messy, fragrant and extraordinarily physical. As Solnit says, it ‘operates in the realm of biology, of things rising and falling away, sustaining bodies.’ It’s true. Whatever I have faced during the day — whatever conundrums, sadnesses or anxieties I’ve brought home with me — chopping the onions and crushing garlic, browning the meat and deglazing the pan with sloshes of red wine has a way of getting me out of my head and back into my body. Whatever else life is, tonight we eat.

Writing is so different to that. To some degree, writing is an effort to defy biology and to resist the tyranny of now. Writing gets you out of your body and into your head, your soul. So much of writing is to do with consciously honouring yesterday, processing what has been or imagining what is yet to be. It’s about memories, ideas, arguments and longings. It’s a place to lose yourself and know yourself; to understand the world in new ways. It’s a place of escape, honesty, rage and engagement.

The odd thing is, I can write for hours and completely forget that I’m hungry. Eventually, though, I’ll come back to myself and I’m famished!

 

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby, London: Granta, 2013.

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