Eating, or food in general is a HUGE subject! And if you follow my blog, or if you flip through some of the past posts, you know how important the subject is to me. As a mother and wife, it's extremely important to me that I feed my family well. But at the same time I fully understand that food isn't JUST about nutrition, it's also about taste and emotion. Food is often used as a way to celebrate, especially when it comes to Sabbats & Holidays, not to mention, things like birthdays, anniversaries and deaths. So yeah, the "purpose" of food is to sustain our physical bodies, but it's SO MUCH more than that!
For me, and many others that I've talked to, food is something which is very important, not only to their physical health, but also to their spiritual health. It connects us, directly, to the Earth and/or to the Animal Kingdom. We are, after all, ingesting the very life energy from other life forms. It is this reason I believe we should be doing all that we can to ensure that the food we are eating is not only good for us, but that it was also well cared for prior to it's becoming "food."
**I've spoken with many Pagans who see this idea and choose a life of vegetarianism or veganism as a result. I, however, do not. While I will cover all my reasons for eating meat in another post, I think it's important to touch on here. For me, I am a firm believer that all life is equal - be it human or animal or plant. We are all blessed with divine energy as a part of our life force. If anything, I feel plants to be MORE divine than animals, as they are purely spiritual and physical, there is not mental layer to them, and therefore no way for them to act outside of their purpose. And I don't buy that plants feel less pain than animals, I simply feel they feel pain in a different way than animals do. - Yes, I always loved Fern Gully!This means doing all we can to eat Organic and well cared for plants AND animals! Unfortunately I'm not eating 100% Organic as of yet, but I am getting there slowly. It takes time to change and I am giving myself that time without forcing the issue on myself or my family - which would just cause more stress and negativity in my home. This year however, I am planting a large garden, and I've located a local dairy that sells raw milk & dairy products, a local apiary that sells raw honey and a local butcher that sells only local meat - or that will butcher meat from an animal you have killed - so I can much better monitor how the animals I do choose to eat are raised, treated and killed. I am unable to grow ALL my own fruits and vegetables, and I have yet to master making things like oil, bread, pasta and so on, so I'm not completely self sufficient or even locally sufficient. BUT again, it's a slow process and I am working on it, which I believe, is what is important.
In addition to ensuring that what I am eating is organically grown, and treated well, I am working hard to ensure that the foods my family eats food which has not been Genetically Engineered (GE). It's unfortunate that the US does not require the labeling or study of GE foods, but I do hope that this is changing. It's also unfortunate that companies have the right to term their produce or products as "Organic" even if they are GE, making it very difficult to completely avoid GE foods. (Again, this is something I will be going in to detail about in future posts.) It's this reason that I feel it is SO important to grow as much of your own food as possible! I have found that even many "farmer's markets" are stocked with GE foods shipped in from other states or areas, rather than being locally grown and even if labeled "organic" or "all-naturally grown." So it's extremely important that you speak to the "farmers" prior to assuming that you're buying non-GE food.
Food is something that we often take for granted in this country. We are so overwhelmed with choices when it comes to food, and although there IS hunger, it's not something that most people see or even realize is an issue. Most of us have at least a few cupboards full of food, plus a refrigerator, and a freezer chest... And that's on a bad week. In fact, we have so much access to food, that we have become disconnected from it in some ways.
If you were to ask the average American what healthy foods they ate today, chances are most would answer you by saying something like "I had sausage & eggs for breakfast with orange juice" or "I had a green salad for lunch." Most have no clear understanding of "healthy" vs "unhealthy." Sure, we all now that cake and cookies aren't healthy, but many of us grew up being told that Hamburger Helper and Cheerios are a "healthy part of a balanced diet" just like the commercials say. I, too, grew up this way. I understood that Pizza and McDonalds weren't healthy, but I didn't understand that homemade burgers weren't any better. So it's taken me quite some time to relearn all that I have.
Ann Wigmore said "The food you eat can either be the safest & most powerful form of medicine OR the slowest form of poison." Although I know she was simply referring to the use of organic and whole healthy foods in our diet as a way to keep us healthy, but I like to view this statement as so much more than that. The fact is, our food not only works as a benefit or detriment to our own health (and that of our family) but of our world as a whole. "Conventionally grown" and "Genetically Engineered" foods are produced at a great cost to our Earth! The processes used to grow and harvest both plants and animals for consumption deplete the soil of it's naturally occurring nutrients, and dump numerous anti-biotics, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and gods only know what else. In fact, in a study carried out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) there were 36 types of pesticide found on tested strawberries, and raspberries were shown to have even more! And their nutrition benefits continue to dwindle as the top soil is washed away and fields are not given time to rest between seasons. So not only are we putting all these chemicals in our bodies, but we are also not giving ourselves the nutrition we need, making it physically impossible to be truly healthy eating these!
Now you may be reading all this and thinking - "Okay, but what does this have to do with being Pagan?" Well, quite a bit. To me, being Pagan isn't like being Christian. You can't simply go through the motions on Sabbats & Esbats and then forget about the rest of the time. Being Pagan is as much a way of life as it is a "religion." In fact, I really don't even like using the term "religion" when talking about what Paganism is, because it's more than that. It's more than mythology or rules or faith, it's how we live our lives, how we treat others, how we treat nature, and how we treat ourselves. And I don't believe we can live in a way that we KNOW poisons and abuses our bodies, our families, our society and our Earth, and still consider ourselves as "living the faith."
Do NOT take that to mean that I assume every Pagan out there is going to live on 100% organic locally grown foods and spend their weekends picketing Agra-Businesses... Obviously, that's not feasible. I myself fall back on boxed dinners and conventionally grown produce way more than I would like to admit. BUT, I think what is important is that we make an honest attempt to do what we can. We can not be perfect, and we alone can not change the entire food system. BUT, we can do a small part each time we plan dinner!
Honoring nature and ourselves does not require great rituals or rites. Instead it requires a daily effort to do what is best a little bit each day. Obviously focusing on food is only ONE aspect of this lifestyle, bit it is one that is hugely important! Other things you can do are as simple as not using plastic water bottles or grocery bags, composting, and getting rid of all the harmful cleaners in your home, but those are a totally different blog!