Meditation on Food

Kat Liu

We all need to eat, but how many of us think about where our food comes from, before it was placed on our plate or in our hands?  How often do we think about all that went into the food in front of us?  For this exercise, you will need some food to contemplate.

In fall
it is mushrooms
gathered in dampness
under the pines;
in spring
I have known the taste of the lamb
full of milk
and spring grass;
it is beans green and yellow
and lettuce and basil
from my friend’s garden -
how calmly,
as though it were an ordinary thing,
we eat the blessed earth.

- Mary Oliver


Look at the food in front of you.  The entire world is in this food (as it is in you). 

If it is plant-based - fruit, vegetable, and/or grain - it started as a seed in soil.  Imagine the seed sprouting, sending a tender shoot up towards the sun.  While it's doing this, the tiny new plant draws energy stored in the seed by its parent. And its parent came from its parent, and so on, and so on. 

Once the shoot reaches sunlight, it receives energy from our sun and CO2 from our air to make more plant cells and grow.  It sends roots into the soil, drawing up water, nitrogen, and other essential nutrients.  The water ultimately came from rain or snowmelt, from clouds in the sky.  

So all four elements are in the plant(s) that became your food.  The fire of sun, air, water, and earth.  

If your food contains meat, egg, dairy, and/or honey, it was produced by an animal who grew by eating plants fed by the sun, air, water, and earth, as well as drinking water and breathing air itself.  We animals cannot store the sun's energy ourselves, but when we eat plants (or when we eat animals that ate plants) we are extracting the energy that the plants stored in their bodies.  We are extracting the energy of the sun.  Also, the nutrients they drew from the earth.

So all four elements are in any meat, egg, dairy, and/or honey that became your food.  The fire of sun, air, water, and earth.  

But let's go back to the growing of the plants (and/or animals) that became your food. Likely, they did not grow in the wild but were instead farmed.  That means people planted the seeds that became the plants that either directly or indirectly became your food.  People pulled away the weeds so that the plants could get enough nutrients and air, and made sure there was enough water.  When the time was right, people harvested your food.  So their work is in your food.  They are part of your food.

And the people did not get there by themselves.  They had parents who birthed and nurtured them.  And the parents had parents.  Imagine them, going back generations. So all the ancestors of the farmers who grew your food are part of your food as well. 

And the farmers had teachers and other people who influenced them.  Siblings.  Lovers.  Friends (both human and other animals).  They are all part of the farmer(s) and thus part of the food.

So all the people who grew your food and their ancestors and anyone who influenced thhem are in your food.  Imagine it.  

You may have purchased the food directly from the farmer who grew it, but more likely it was transported over long distances by ships, trains, and trucks.  Imagine your food traveling to get to you. The people who did their part to bring the food closer to you are part of this food as well.  As are their ancestors and all the beings who influenced them.  

As is the fossil fuel that was likely expended to power the ships, trains, and trucks.  Imagine the oil deep underground, and the people who worked to bring it to the surface and to refine it so that it can be burned to power the vehicles that carried your food to you.  Even if you bought your food directly from the farmer who grew it, very likely you both used fossil fuels to reach each other.  

So the plants and animals that lived millions of years ago and whose bodies then became oil, coal, or gas are also in your food. As well as all the people who worked to make the fuel available and the people who drove the vehicles and everyone who influenced them... all in your food.  

Unless you grind your own flour and process your own sugar and salt, etc, there are other people - likely working in factories - who processed some part of your food for you.  And someone - likely working in factories - put the pocessed food in packaging.  And someone else - likely working in factories - made the materials that were used to package the food that was processed.  Can you see it?  How the whole world is part of your food, and of you?

Once the food was packaged, it was shipped to the stores, where more humans stock shelves and ring cash registers and mop floors.  All of them created by their parents, ancestors, loved ones... All of them contibuting to your food.

And finally, someone cooked your food.  It might have been you.  It might not.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose labor created the simple occasion of your food at this moment. Imagine them. Imagine them as part of you.  

And all of them too were nourished and grew from food that they have eaten, both plants and animals.  Just like the plants (and possibly animals) on your plate.  These once living beings who became your food, their energy stored within their bodies will become your energy and body.  Every plant and animal you ever ate, and every plant and animal ever eaten by the people who helped create you are part of you.

And ultimately, we are all made up of the same sun fire, rain water, air, and earth.  All of us inter-connected.  All of us part of Mother Earth.

Forum Activity

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
Mon, 06/16/2014 - 07:09
Tue, 10/01/2013 - 22:01

Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative