First published in Franklin Journal
I just came inside after relishing a dish of blueberries. My preference is to eat them fresh and I’m saddened that this batch is dwindling. Other preferred ways of eating them is baked in a pie, with each serving topped with vanilla ice cream; or frozen blueberries with milk, drizzled lightly with maple syrup. Blueberries have a fairly long list of health benefits for such a tiny fruit. As a fruit, they are the source of the highest content of antioxidants. They’re a good source of vitamins and fiber and like other berries, a good prebiotic source. All of which I find interesting, but overall I eat them, because they taste good.
Most of the time, I very much connect with my food. A particular health issue has caused me to delve into the many benefits of eating close to the earth and nutrition content. As water and soil becomes more and more under attack and disrespected, I am growing increasingly interested in the symbolism and spiritual aspects of food, water, plants, animals, and tools. Hence, continued writing on the history of food festivals and ceremonies and related symbolism.
Last week, I was reading an email thread that was discussing the spirituality of the food movement. It started with the question “Is the food movement a spiritual movement?” Well, it can be. I didn’t participate, as I wanted to just listen, but I had further questions. Should it be? To what purpose is spirituality useful? When I grow, prepare, and eat my food, and yes, even in the cleaning up details, I consider it a spiritual experience. I consider drinking clean water a spiritual experience. “Blessing of water rituals” are often part of religious practices.
Along with use in religious practices, community fountains were gravity fed and used for the purpose of bathing and drinking water. When indoor plumbing became more common, they were for decorative purposes or to honor the builder. Muslim garden designers used them as part of miniature versions of paradise.
In exploring spirituality and how it can help people connect to food and water, I have found there are many paths to a destination. It mostly doesn’t matter which path you take. The one who is wasting their time is the one who spends their time running around the destination. That’s how I feel about discussing what the definition of the food movement is and is it a spiritual movement. We’re running around the destination. The discussion is interesting; however, we have people who are hungry; food laborers who are exploited; water to protect; and soil that needs help to regain its health, for our sake and for the sake of all planets. We don’t have time to be caught up in nuances.
The concept of spirituality is broad and often confused with religion. Miriam-Webster defines spirituality as being concerned with religion. I can agree, if we see religion as a means of expressing spirituality with positivity and unity. Religions include food mindfulness. However, I see spirituality as something broader that helps us all to be connected and hence, understand better our place in the universe. I don’t consider it an idea that should have a bunch of rules and a constricting definition. If you need a rule, consider this – spirituality is where vision and mind meet in the heart.
Now, in a broad definition, can I be religious about food and water topics? I can be religious-like. Anyone who has heard me speak on human trafficking can attest to my passionate, nearly religious, commitment to protecting men, women, and child laborers. When I see someone eating certain brands of chocolate or Thailand shrimp, for instance, the fierce, momma bear in me comes out. Due to human trafficking in these industries, I know child laborers are at risk, so there was a time I would become nearly, unbearably, emotional when thinking of children being mutilated or denied education, so we can have chocolate.
I’ve felt the impact when you don’t have access to food you can eat. I have a protective reaction when I hear of communities selling water rights to corporations. While today I am just as fierce, and I still feel the pain of trafficked people; through the exploration of spirituality, I am learning, as my ancestors did, how to address those feelings and still fight trafficking; gain equitable distribution of food people can eat and is nutritionally good; confidently speak out on water rights; and reclaim connection to air, wind, water, and yes, fire, in order to save our planet.
Our food and water journey should include soil and water discussion, celebrations, symbolism, and people’s strife. Spirituality must also be included. It will help us connect and gain greater understanding, learning to stand together, as taught by the tribes who are coming together in North Dakota to protect the water. Then we will become one with earth, the universe and each other.