Eating and Drinking Elizabeth T. Groppe
This book is a part of a series by Fortress Press called Compass: Christian Explorations of Daily Life. This book is divided into three sections. Section 1 is a look at eating and drinking in 21st Century America. Section 2 is a “Christian theological vision of eating and drinking” (4). And section 3 helps us make sense of the first two sections by reflecting on how we as Christians can eat and drink in ways that are more in tune with our faith.
In section one, she eats like a “typical American” for a day. She has coffee, serves her son a sugary breakfast cereal, a banana for a mid-morning snack, a fast food lunch, chocolate as an afternoon snack, and a dinner of frozen French fries and chicken nuggets. As she eats this foods, she describes the history of each food and how it comes to be in our grocery stores and homes today. I appreciated how she combined history and current farming practice to give us a full picture of how the food we eat is produced.
In section two, she utilizes the work of theologians and our sacred text to contemplate our relationship to food. She begins by exploring the two creation stories and then moves on to Adam and Eve in the garden. I found this thought about their sin to be thought provoking, “We transgress not because we desire things that are evil, but because our desire for lesser goods eclipses our desires for God” (49). What is it we value too much? How might we value God more? Did Adam and Eve’s fruit eating mark the moment when humans first became consumers? (49-50). We continue our journey through the Bible with the stories of Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and surviving in the wilderness. She reminds us of the biblical mandates to care for those who are hungry and to live in harmony with creation and with the plants and animals who also call creation home. Using miraculous stories of feeding and the story of the last supper, we are reminded that eating was important to Jesus.
Section three opens with my favorite Scripture, Luke 24, where the risen Christ is recognized at table in the familiar act of breaking bread. She takes this story and pushes it back at us asking if the disciples would recognize Jesus today in the meals we eat? In this section, she opens our eyes to ways that our ancestors in the faith have been faithful in eating. She discusses fasting as a way to be more connected with so many who lack food and a way to think about eating more spiritually. She reminds us to offer a blessing before eating food and to ponder if we can ask God for a blessing on our food if the food was not grown and harvested in a way that is compassionate for the animals, soil, or workers? She asks us to start or continue to share the bread we have with others who are hungry. We can have more involvement in our own food by working to turn our national swords into plowshares. In a few pages entitled “Feasting”, she shares the story of how she made new friends by sitting down and eating a meal with them. Her book ends with a reminder to give thanks to the Creator who gave us life. “To give thanks is to receive without grasping, to eat without consuming, to taste without transgressing, and to live in the awareness that both the bread on our tables and the food and drink on the altar are unmerited gifts of the God who is love” (112).
I apologize for not posting an image of this book. I read it in the Virginia Theological Seminary Library and forgot to snap a picture before I left the library. Augsburg Press has more information and a picture too!