Gathering together to share a meal involves spirituality and a sense of community that has been negatively influenced by the modern food industry, says Lisa Graham McMinn, author of To the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Faith, and Community (Brazos Press, Jan. 2016) and co-owner of Fern Creek, a thirty-family CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm outside of Newberg, Oregon. McMinn, who is also the writer-in-residence at George Fox University, encourages readers to support the local food movement as she examines the journey food takes from farm to table in her book.
You talk about sacramental eating in your book. What is its significance to the way we live now?
Sacramental eating—that is, eating mindful of the sacrifice and service required to get food to our table—reminds us that we require something outside ourselves to live. While we reap the benefits of the big community that feeds us, sacramental eating reminds us of our obligations: to ourselves, to nurture our families, to all life that has gone before us making our life possible, and to all that will come after us. Sacramental eating calls forth a humble gratitude that inclines us to eat in ways that fosters the flourishing of other life. So we learn about and begin to pursue “just” food untainted with human exploitation, animal misery, or ecosystem degradation. We begin to open our hearts and minds to an ever-expanding community that changes how and what we eat. Perhaps we will influence how our partners and children eat, and introduce our friends and extended family to eating with an eye toward the flourishing of all life.
Describe the link between food and Christian holidays.
Christian holidays are rooted in Jewish and early Christian Church traditions that were linked to lunar cycles following the solstices and equinoxes. We’ve lost most of the significance of that, although we still use food to commemorate and celebrate these significant religious days. To go to the expense of feasting as a way to celebrate these religious days meant more to early Christians who couldn’t feast year-round. Perhaps because fasting also played a bigger role in the lives of Christians in other eras, the feasting was richer and more meaningful. People whose lives more naturally corresponded to seasonal shifts and food availability during seasons of the year recognize more readily the tangible expression of God’s love represented in food. For contemporary western Christians, feasting still includes gratitude for God’s presence and sustaining care.
How do you hope readers will apply To the Table to their everyday lives?
I want readers to fall in love with all things related to food. I hope they find some local, seasonal food, take it into their kitchens, and see what good things get stirred up there. I hope different aspects of the food story will capture readers’ imaginations so that they go learn about the banana trade, or try their hand at making homemade salsa, or go find a u-pick farm or farmers market to explore. The local food movement depends on individuals in local communities finding ways to support local farmers, which ultimately helps global farmers, too. If this book contributes to that, I will be satisfied. If readers see food as God’s love made tangible and begin to eat with mindful gratitude, then I will be doubly satisfied.