Growing up, food came from the grocery store to home, where mom cooked it, and we ate it. That was the life cycle of food. Sometimes food came from a box, a bag, or a jar. Food had commercials on TV. Food was pizza day at school (triangle or circle pizza only… rectangle pizza was gross). We DID eat vegetables. But I’ll be very honest and say not many, and when I did eat vegetables there was usually a creamy sauce involved. I spent my teen years eating a whole lot of Pop Tarts and chocolate milk. Food was in packages.
People say grace to thank God for their food, but lately my own personal grace has become a product of mindful eating and understanding the true life cycle of food.
Food comes from hard work. Food comes from people: farmers and gardeners, beekeepers and butchers. Food is a tiny miracle, and we need it to live. A seed planted in the earth will grow into a plant, whether it’s a vegetable, tree, fruit, grain, berry, grass, weed, etc.
Fruit is amazing. When you eat fruit, you are taking part in an ancient reproduction ritual. Plant makes a fruit (anything with seeds inside, basically: cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, oranges, avocado, watermelon – all fruit). Animal eats the fruit, sometimes eating the seeds as well. Animal goes along its merry way and – ta da! – eliminates the seed in a pile of fertilizer for a new plant to grow, and make more fruit, and do the same thing. Now, humans aren’t exactly running around pooping seeds out, but it doesn’t make the eating of fruit any less important.
Speaking of reproduction… Bees are CRUCIAL. Bees pollinate plants, assisting with their reproduction. If you are eating a plant, a bee probably helped. And then bees make honey, which has infinite uses for health purposes. You can eat it to help alleviate allergy symptoms, you can put it on a cut for healing, you can wash your face with it. Honey is incredible.
Vegetables are also tiny miracles. I cut off a head of bok choy and placed the bottom end in a bowl of water. The leaves are re-growing! I am RECYCLING bok choy. You can do the same with green onions, garlic, basil, celery, and more.
Food does not have to come from the store. You can literally make your own food, from seed to plant to kitchen to table to stomach. The Earth has provided us with all we need, yet we seek nourishment from prepackaged stuff in a box.
Meat and eggs and dairy come from animals. I don’t have a problem with ethical, compassionate, and humane consumption of animals and animal products. Up until the point of death, animals should be allowed to live their life in a way that nature intended. They should eat a natural diet, live a low-stress life, and be killed humanely. I’ve seen the PETA videos of animal slaughter, and they’re haunting. I have a problem with mass-produced meat. Because meat isn’t a product. Meat was alive. Meat was an animal who may have had offspring, or a mate, or friends. Many animals are more aware than we realize. Animals do not have bar codes. We owe them respect and we owe them so much gratitude, because so many of us rely on them for nourishment.
Eggs aren’t meat, they were never alive, but eggs are still a huge ethical sticking point. Who makes the eggs? Hens. Hens who deserve respect and proper care and treatment. Hens who deserve to see outside and walk in grass and peck and scratch and dig for bugs. Hens who deserve their bodies to not be maimed. I recommend finding a local chicken owner, because you can’t even trust Cage Free or Free Range to really mean anything.
I used to be disappointed when food went bad in my fridge. Oh, no, I spent money on that. Oh, dear, the chicken went bad because I forgot to freeze it. Now, when food goes bad, I am beyond disappointed. I feel like I let that food down. I let the farmer down. I let the animal down. Every single item in my kitchen was the cost of someone’s hard work and sacrifice – whether it was a farmer, a laying hen, or a living creature that died so that I could take nourishment from its body.
Every time I eat, I say grace. Not to God for the miracle of my food, but to the people and animals that made it happen.