Monday, December 27, 2010

The Spirituality of Food

I have this theory. Everybody worships something. And I’m not just talking about God or a deity of some sort. I’m talking about some THING. For everyone, at least as far as my theory goes, there’s an object or idea or activity that  is somewhat consuming and brings some sort of meaning to life. Some people love movies. Others are into figurines. Still others dig Mid-century Modern.

I worked really hard to avoid that. So hard.

I stopped collecting playing cards. I threw out sentimental memorabilia from random middle school events. I even got rid of most of the dust collectors on our shelves. Any “thing” that I have a lot of is only out of necessity: I can’t mooch all of my comic books, so I have to buy them. I have a lot of socks because I’m slow about doing laundry. I have five kinds or rice in my cupboard because—

Oh crap. I do worship something.

I think a lot of people worship food. Food is integral to our lives but also interesting and it’s nice to be dependent on something that is so enjoyable. Our society even has a name for this quasi-religion: Foodies.

Foodies care about their food. They have ideals they try to uphold. Foodies desire creative, good-tasting food that is locally sourced, humanely and sustainably raised, wholesome, unprocessed, and, at least for this Foodie, not horrifically expensive. That’s dogma if I ever saw it.

Since the weather has turned freezing (i.e. low 60s), I have switched to Finnish cooking for the next quarter year. Finnish cooking helps me to uphold several Foodie tennets, at least in theory. Specifically, it’s easier to cook Finnish food in the winter because the vegetables are all cold-weather veggies, and therefore easier to source locally.

Until I made lamb stew, that is. Yes, I have gone back to cooking meat, but trying to uphold my Foodie beliefs while doing so. And here is where I failed miserably and need to figure out which altar to kneel at for penance: My lamb was from New Zealand.

I didn’t even think about it at the store! I didn’t even look at the label, I was just glad to buy my meat somewhere I could be confident about Humane and Sustaining and Wholesome. It wasn’t until I got home that I took a closer look and saw where it was from.

Lamb Stew with Dill was amazing. It simmered for an hour and, with just some dill and salt, created a rich broth that became a slightly tangy gravy when added to a roux of butter, flour, sugar, and apple cider vinegar. We loved it, so tender and comforting but not overly heavy. An amazing winter meal. The Finns really know how to do it.

But what was the cost? Herein lies the problem—at least to me—with adhering to a belief system: Guilt is a huge motivator.  Yes, you’re supposed to do it for the love: because you want to, not because you have to. But breaking free from the guilt of not adhering every minute to one’s values is challenging. Where do you let it give a little without having it all fall apart? How do you stick to your guns without them weighing you down? (Or frightening off people who think they’re way too big to be safe?)

I’ll let you know if I figure it out.


  1. I just lost my comment. Bumsky. Well that short of it is that lamb from New Zealand likely has a very low carbon foot print and thus might hold up to your Foodie ethics. Travel by boat, which is how it comes, is likely the lowest impact way to ship. I don't know how it compares to eating within a 100 mile radius. But research that. I think you may have more guiltless Kiwi lamb in your future.

  2. I'm not sure "foodie" equates to "localvore"...but I appreciate your desire to pay as much attention to the location as well as quality of the food.

    and I want some of that stew.

  3. Hey, thanks, Joy! That is a good point about the shipping part. Still, I'm hoping I can find a local source that is not too hard to obtain.

    Yeah, my definition of "foodie" is pretty broad; I feel like Foodies have a wide variety of things important to them and that locality is part of what contributes to good taste. Plus, I'm a little bit hippy.