Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scattered thoughts on feasting

Feasting. We're in the middle of the season for feasting. Between the parties, the special dinners, the cookies and candies that seem to be everywhere, and the snacking in the kitchen while preparing to feed others, it seems like we can't get away from feasting. It starts, sort of, at Halloween (when I'm sure I'm not alone in raiding my childrens' candy stash). Then the patriotic Thanksgiving feast lasts a few days; then, as soon as the turkey's gone, we're going to parties and baking for Christmas. Even many people who don't celebrate Christmas probably get wrapped up in the holiday feasting.

I have to say, I love feasting. I love getting together with family and friends for a beautiful and substantial meal. I love celebrating some special event, whether it's personal or communal or societal. I think, though, that we've lost an understanding of what it means to feast. No, that's wrong. We still know how to feast; we just don't know how to not feast any more.

There was a time in human history when most of our meals were simple; when we ate essentially the same thing every day, and meals were relatively simple to prepare. Every so often, a few times a year, the community would gather together to celebrate something ~ a religious observance, a changing of seasons, or maybe the harvest. The food at feasts was more substantial, more abundant, and probably of greater variety. The food at feasts was often richer, more fatty and therefore more flavorful. The extravagance of feasts marked something special.

We still mark special events with feasting. Truth be told, though, we could feast every day if we wanted to. We in the western so-called first-world have access to tremendous variety of food every day. We have access to tremendous amounts of food every day. We have the ability to eat on a whim, and so I think that feasting has probably lost some of its significance.

Plus, since we have easy and cheap access to processed, chemical-and-fat-laden, 'food' ~ which fills our belly without actually promoting health or wellness (all while what grows naturally out of the ground has become comparatively expensive ~ prohibitively so, for those who live in poverty), there is very little distinction between (what used to be) the plainness of regular eating and the richness of feasting.

It's gotten to the point that we're often no longer to differentiate between regular eating and feasting. And most of us are so removed from any awareness that this pattern is (physically and emotionally and spiritually) unhealthy.

Of course, I'm pointing out what I see as a problem in our society without promoting any feasible ways of working toward a solution. The trouble is, I don't think there is a 'fix' short of re-vamping our entire economic system by removing the ridiculous profit from the food industry (is it really ok to trademark seeds?), and by advocating for better patterns of eating across society.

But that's probably a bigger project than what I can tackle today.


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