Bread Body Spirit
This is a book that will make you hungry. You’ll be hungry for the rich curried vegetable soup in the chapter entitled “The Parable of the Squash,” and you’ll be hungry to take a new, more meaningful look at the meals you serve and eat.
Editor Alice Peck set out to create a compilation of already-published essays on the spirituality of food and eating. The result is a nourishing collection of reflections by authors of different faith traditions.
In a world that juxtaposes fast food with an obsession with dieting, Peck’s anthology invites the reader to go deeper. “Looking closely at the relationship between bread, body, and spirit—the food we eat, how we eat it, and who we invite to our tables to share it—can be a framework to study what is sacred about a seemingly mundane part of our lives.” The essays she includes are well-chosen. I saw my own Catholic faith reflected back to me in Sister Miriam Therese MacGillis’ “Food as Sacrament,” but I also got a taste of food’s role in other faith traditions—Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Native American, and Muslim.
Also mixed in are essays that don’t speak to a specific religion but rather are the stories of a particular meal that was transformative in some way. In “One Beautiful Meal” Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon write, “It was the kind of meal that, when the plates were clean, led some to dark corners to sleep with the hushing of the wind, and others to drink mulled wine until our voices had climbed an octave and finally deepened in the small hours, into whispers.”
The gift of this book is that it invites the reader to cook and eat with intentionality. It elevates food preparation from the dull spot where it is often lodged (next to sock sorting) and takes it to holy ground. Perhaps Mary Beth Crain says it best in her chapter, “When food is prepared with love and joy, with the pure motive of nourishing others, it becomes a blessing for all concerned.”