What’s With All the Instagram Shots of Your Lunch?

“Food is everything”, says my friend Ben, an organic farmer who runs a small vegetable stand at Lancaster’s Central Market. Each generation pushes back on the one that came before it, often a reaction against cultural norms that seem to be inherently evil. One of those such current ideas comes as a blowback in how we produce and consume food. Since WWII, our food supply has been mass-produced and mass-processed, often putting in it more preservatives than nutrition. In recent years, organic farming has blossomed (in part) as a reaction against the greed, industrialization and lack of nutrition of America’s food supply. At Ben’s market stand, a small sign reads something like “out of the ground comes nutrition for our food”.

There’s certainly something deeper to this little sign whether he knows it or not.

“Man is what he eats”, writes Alexander Schmemann. All of life is sacramental, and therefore, Eucharistic. He continues, “Man must eat in order to live. He must take the world into his body and transform it into himself; into flesh and blood.” In the same way, at the celebration of the Eucharist, the very flesh and blood of Christ come to man. Man eats it and in this most revered element of Christian worship, he ascends to heaven with Christ, receives the Kingdom of God, and takes it with him back into the world. Eating is sacred business in the Christian economy and without it, the Kingdom of Heaven does not come to the world. Schmemann even goes so far as to say that all food leads us to Christ.

Meals in community are sacred. They have been for most all peoples for all time.  There is something deep within the heart of humankind that knows this. There is a longing for communion and companionship over any meal we eat. But alas, our culture does not work this way. We are hurried to and fro and are lucky to grab something at a café or in a drive thru or whatever quick meal we can get out of the way to get on with the more important things of life. But, even in our hurried state, we stop and take the time to photograph our food and post it for all to see – our new “social” community – facebook or instagram. What we miss by eating alone so often, we try to reacquire via our mobile technology. Our souls crave the sacred meal together, yet, for whatever reason we make little effort to make this a primary part of our lives. We want others to share in our experience and the best way we can get them to do that is to post our square images  of eggs in a frying pan or the coffee we got on the way to a meeting on our own little online kingdom.

Each Sunday, as we partake of the Eucharist, we ascend with Christ into his Kingdom for the good of his world. In the same way, let us strive to make our daily meals a little more sacramental; a little more Eucharistic, even.


On “Real” Food: a TED Talk everyone should watch

This is a recent TED Talk given by Robyn O’Brien, the author of The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It. It’s on food. She makes a pretty compelling case for the “Real Food” movement, encouraging us to move towards “knowing” our food once again–it’s source, it’s farming method, and it’s distribution.

Now, this whole local, organic thing is a pretty big fad right now (and I’m as guilty as any for being an evangelist for it–even though I’m also a weak practitioner), but O’Brien’s perspective is different. She is a former Wall Street analyst, and so she spends her time not trying to belittle or demonize businesses who have a legal responsibility to maximize profits for their shareholders. Nor does she try and show how this perspective on food is inherently “better” or more “ethical” or “moral” (even though I might think so).

Instead, she shows how our current food system is–literally–killing us. There’s no sensationalism. No partisan backhands. No sarcasm. No exaggeration or twisting of facts; just a simple telling of her story of transition from a “normal” mom to her views today.

Ultimately, she shows how changing our food system could actually be best for our nation, both economically and politically.

On a personal note: I applaud this video, and yet I still find myself not following its suggestions (even as I’ve watched and read similarly-minded “exposes“, books, and documentaries). Nothing has been enough yet to actually change my habits. My main concern isn’t necessarily money or sourcing. Rather, it’s time. It takes time to plan, shop, and cook with intentionality and thought (or so I think).

I’m sure many of the readers of this blog will agree with the principles laid out in this video. If so, I want to hear from you. No. Actually, I need to hear from you. I need help in this. What’s your story? Do you follow these principles, even a little bit? What has worked? What hasn’t? Any tips for a time-bound (and probbably, more realistically, just lazy) twenty-something looking to reform his eating habits? Sound off below.