Humbled, Grateful & Slightly Terrified–Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food–Now Available for Pre-order!

I’m humbled, grateful, excited, and slightly terrified to see that my book is now available for pre-order on

I did not write a book on “redeeming God’s gift of food” and on “eating with joy” because eating and food is uncomplicated for me–quite the opposite. My story was never one of eating disorder such that would make a good after school special (The Best Little Girl in the World, anyone!?), but it was a story common to many American women and girls–that constant, nagging, calorie-tally in the head. The sense that ‘everything else’ would come together if I could just lose a little more weight, or tighten that flabby area, or get my sweet tooth under control. It even had Christian overtones: Christians should stay thin and lovely, Christians shouldn’t be ‘gluttons.’ Meanwhile, conflicting notions of dietary “righteousness” abound: local, organic, vegan, Nourishing Traditions, macrobiotic, freegan…

Food and eating–even and especially in this Land of Plenty–are complicated, touching on family, finance, community, faith, justice, creation care, and more. Even so, I think God invites us eat with joy. 

{Really looking forward to hearing what you think of it!}

Is it all just navel gazing? (and sometimes literally?)

I used to be a literal navel gazer.

Well, almost. I didn’t sit around looking at my navel, but I did pinch it. A lot. Because I was checking for pinch-ability. I wanted to be able to pinch nothing.  And so, for years of my life, I arranged my interests and activities around my navel–the over-exercising, the under-eating, the hours in front of the mirror and on the scale. Sad, no? Let me tell you, I have cried actual tears about the years I missed because I was obsessed with the adipose tissue around my navel.

By God’s grace, good things came into my life anyway. And while the story’s too long to tell here, my world expanded beyond my own navel. I forgot to care so very much about things like my tummy, every last crumb of what I ate or didn’t eat and whether or not I had spent enough time exercising at my optimal heart rate. Somewhere in that time, my abdomen expanded quite dramatically behind my navel–twice!–and behold, two new navels! (See above.) 

But there are two other things that are important in my life that are sometimes derided as “navel gazing”: writing (and particularly blogging) and food. I remember hearing a book club discussion on Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma in which the critics were complaining that Pollan’s locally grown and gathered meal was a “decadent” use of time; that his approach to food was a “fussy yuppie thing.” Writing that’s of a personal nature is also sometimes dismissed as navel gazing, but that’s often unfair–even in writing about his or her own experiences, a good writer aims to say something that’s beneficial to someone else in some way.

                                                      I have GOT to stop hunching my shoulders like that…

Okay, but food? So many people are talking and writing about–and marketing–the whole local-organic-sustainable-green-artisanal-smallbatch-blahblah that it’s easy to start to think, “I’m so tired of hearing how heirloom-whatevers have more flavor–why not talk about something THAT MATTERS?”

Thing is, it does matter. The choices we make every day–several times a day–regarding food–add up. And not just for you, your family, your food budget, your waistline. Nope. From what you spend to what goes to the farmer, to what goes to the processor, to what goes to packaging, shipping, advertising, and on, and on, multiplied across millions of households, these choices add up to a whole food culture. (Which is why you don’t have to stress if you eat junk food once in a while–we’re talking big picture here.) Why does my grocery store carry a bazillion brands of squishy loaves of white bread and NOT ONE GOOD BAGUETTE? Why do stock watery strawberries from California when there are farms all around growing rich, sweet ones? Why do we feed our schoolchildren crap at school as we spend lots of $$$ on everything else?

Diseases caused by diet are America’s top killers, but we talk about food choices as if they are all about us, us, us. (I’m pretty convinced that obesity is largely a creation of Big Food, the drones of which speak in all seriousness about the “problem” of the “fixed stomach”–they want you to eat MORE and to think that your weight is YOUR problem.) The amount of fossil fuels used to bring us all everything ALWAYS from everywhere is outrageous. Our way of eating–super processed, super packaged, and super shipped–creates problems for people here (not least, small farmers) but creates devastation for people (and, yes, especially farmers) in other places.

For me, spending time growing, preserving, and procuring good food (and writing about it) is anything but a navel-gazing venture. Food touches so much–it connects us to one another and to God’s creation in so many ways. Our choices at home add up, home by home, meal by meal, to a national food culture a GLOBAL food culture. The current one is killing people–not least, children–through equal parts starvation and overfeeding as it slurps oil and belches carbon dioxide.

                                   (sure beats looking at my navel–organic plants and free range kids!)

Okay, that’s really depressing.  But here’s the good news. A better food culture–one that’s better for you, your neighbors, the planet–everyone!–is tasty, too. And fun. And you don’t have to change everything all at once. Even little steps–ONE local meal a week, say–add up significantly. (If everyone in the USA would do that, we’d reduce our national oil consumption by 1.1 BILLION BARRELS that week. Really!) So the next time you hear some folks going on endlessly about the heirloom tomatoes or the artisanal bread, don’t make fun of them. Ask them where they bought it, and if they know where you can get some local ice cream. Support better practices and better taste, bearing in mind the needs of the least of these. 

And experience some revolutionary joy.

Like this!

Coffee Cake Communion

(or, the dilemmas of Sunday Coffee Hour)

Recently I talked with a woman who’s in recovery from bulimia. “We’d never bring a bunch of recovering alcoholics into a room full of booze,” she said, “but you can’t really avoid food, and especially not at church.” Indeed, eating and drinking together is an important part of the community life in most churches, whether it’s limited to the celebration of communion (or Lord’s Supper, Mass, or Eucharist) or extended in “coffee hour” and potlucks. Eating together–as in MOST DAILY MEALS together–was an important part of the life of the early church. And it’s still important, though it’s different and in some ways, more complicated.

Some people really struggle with overeating, and I’ve heard from some folks, firsthand, that the platters of doughnuts and coffee cake and other goodies set out after church entice them in ways they don’t fully understand and want desperately to resist. (Before you’re tempted to cry out “they need willpower,” consider that the food industry does all it can to press the right ‘buttons’ to get us attracted and addicted to their offerings; if you don’t believe me, read this book.) Other people struggle with various forms of under-eating, and dread having to attend potlucks.

Eating in front of other people can be embarrassing, complicated, and messy in ways both literal and figurative. Maybe that’s partly because, despite all the rituals surrounding cooking, serving, and eating, eating is still so primal–such a naked acknowledgement of need. But I still think we’re meant to eat together. Eating together is good for what ails us–whether we’re inclined to binge, restrict, or whatever. A number of studies suggest that eating family meals protects children and teenagers emotionally, physically, psychologically, and socially. The most effective treatment for anorexia involves little more than love and meals eaten together. And people who eat with others are likely to be better nourished and at a healthier weight than those who eat alone.

So I think it’s important that churches eat together–especially when they eat together in ways that really focus on the togetherness. That’s not possible in all churches–say, in really big ones–but it’s more than possible in small churches and small groups. I do wonder if we’d not serve one another (and maybe even the Lord?) better if in these settings we’d be careful to meet the needs of those who are struggling with food issues in one way or another. I won’t say “no desserts!”–but I do wonder if communal meals (or snacks) that focus on simpler nourishment–like soup and bread, or fruit and cheese, or vegetable platters–would better serve the needs of those who (given the dismal statistics on these things) are likely to be struggling with food and weight.

At the same time, intentionally simpler and more mindful table fellowship can draw our attention to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper–which points us to Christ, our Bread of Life, and unites us to one another, Christ’s Body. “Don’t eat and drink without recognizing the body!” St. Paul wrote. Our food sustains us, as Christ sustains us–and as we sustain each otherthe body of Christ. Eating is complicated, unduly alluring for some and unimaginably anxiety-producing for others. When you eat with others today–whether at church, at home, in a restaurant, or outdoors (lucky you!)–consider how you might build the body.