|Knowing the Hand That Feeds You: When Eating Becomes a Sacred, Joyful Act|
|Friday, 31 August 2012 00:00 | Written by Guest Contributor | Blog Entry|
How can you marvel at the world and then feed yourself in a completely un-marvelous way? – Alice Waters
I recently took a study break for my regular late-night snack craving. I had toast with butter and some leftover pepper and onion sauté I’d cooked a few days earlier. Munching away contentedly, I realized that I could trace every part of this meal back to its source.
The butter came from grass-fed cows in the San Joaquin Valley. The vegetables I used in the sauté had shown up in my CSA-box delivery from a Capay Valley farm. I had picked up the bread from Morell’s Bakery stand at the Saturday Farmers Market. The information they gave me indicated that it had been baked in a traditional-style brick oven at the Headlands Institute in Marin County, and that the flour had been freshly ground from wheat grown at the same farm from where my peppers and onions came.
The meal was delicious enough already, but knowledge of its origins intensified my delight. It was the bread, especially, that really hit the spot. Warm from the toaster, dense and chewy, it filled me with the pleasure of nourishment. I thought about Eduardo Morell, who had sold me the bread. We chatted for a few minutes, and I had learned that his bread is truly different from even the best supermarket loaf. He and his wife knead the dough by hand, then send it into their wood-fired brick oven. It is naturally leavened from a 10-year-old sourdough starter, in keeping with traditional methods of bread baking.
It’s certainly a nice story, but am I paying double the supermarket prices for a simple story, or am I really getting something more?
When I tasted Morell’s bread, I realized that the story provides nourishment in a way that just bread doesn’t. The story elevated my experience of eating from simple consumption to spiritual connection. Morell’s bread is not a “product”—at least not in the commercial, industrial sense. Unlike bread from the supermarket, this was hand-processed with the care and attention that come from centuries of experience.
Does this mean it’s healthier? Science may or may not say so, but I think the issue is not one that can be adequately addressed by science. Food should nourish. Eating this bread filled both my stomach and soul by connecting me to its source. What’s good for the Earth is what’s good for my body is what’s good for my soul. Sometimes I’m not so sure that these elements are disparate entities when it comes to food. When we acknowledge their interaction, eating becomes a sacred, joyful act. You can’t get that from a microwave meal.
And yet many of us have a predilection for fast food such as ramen noodles or easy mac. Many of these industrially produced dinners seek to imitate the comfort foods of our past; foods inhabit a place of mystery and magic in our memories. Grandma cooked with a pinch of this and a bit of that; we watched in awe and ate with zeal. As individuals in modern society, we can’t always recreate this magic, nor can we surround ourselves with family and indulge in its culinary traditions. But we can visit the Farmers Market, where Eduardo Morell will offer his bread and remember our faces.
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[This piece was written by Lindsay Meisel and provided courtesy of the Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology. – Ed.]