Who’s On My Dream Dinner Guest List…and Other Fun Questions

Guilty. That’s the single best word to describe how I’m feeling these days…at least about
this blog.

Yes, I know I had two surgeries in the month of November, moved homes, and am beginning a major house rehab. I also know I’m supposed to be limiting my hours on the computer while my eye continues to heal (emergency surgery for a torn retina was one of those two surgeries, in case you missed it). And I know I have deadlines galore still to meet that editors have been patiently waiting for ever since my eyes decided to go on hiatus.

Nevertheless, I’m still feeling guilty about my inability to blog regularly here. Not guilty enough to prioritize it over the other deadlines. But guilty enough to feel a little bit sick about it every morning when I sit down to write something else.

So, although more time or better eyes have not yet presented themselves, I have decided to mildly assuage my guilt by sharing the fun conversation I had with Zoe Romanowsky earlier this week about The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet.

Here’s a taste. You can read the rest over at Aleteia.

What’s your short response to people who say: Why should I pay so much attention to food?

There are a few different reasons. One is because our culture has so many disordered attitudes towards food — there are people struggling with various kinds of eating disorders, people who are over-eating so much that their health is in jeopardy. So just on a natural level there are many problems related to food. But supernaturally, we’re called to see the world and everything in it as a sign of God. God created the world. He loves the world. He holds everything in existence because He loves it. So learning to see food as something that teaches us about God, and teaches us about His love, and about the Eucharist, is part of growing in Christian maturity and Christian understanding and to really see the world with Catholic eyes. Of course, food is not as important as other things such as human beings, marriage, family… but food is a part of that so when we see food for what it is, we see God more clearly.

I think there’s an ethical dimension to eating because of the chain of events and lives along the food chain. For example, when I buy industrially-raised meat, I’m often supporting the terrible treatment of animals and sometimes the exploitation of workers. Is there room to be conscientious about these kind of things?

I think there is room for it. But I don’t think it’s the ultimate test of “virtuous eating.” I try to eat organic; I like to eat food that is locally grown. But I also recognize that’s a luxury of my class and economic status. So if someone is struggling to put food on the table and the best they can do is to get meat from a large manufacturer, or if there’s no way they can afford organic milk and there’s no local co-op in their area, they’re not committing a sin; they’re not eating less virtuously than someone else. So it’s about doing what you can within your means and circumstances. And if you’re spending all your money on locally grown food and not giving to the poor, that’s a problem.

I agree with what you say in the book — that it’s more important to have a clean soul than to eat clean food. But I don’t see why we shouldn’t strive for both. What we eat profoundly affects our health, how we function, our energy, our moods — and all of this can affect our spiritual life. What is our responsibility as Christians in this regard? How do we take seriously the command to treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit as it pertains to what we eat?

We have to think of it as a question of justice. I talk a lot in my book about “virtuous eating” — eating with justice, temperance, fortitude, and charity. In justice, we owe our body what it needs to function well; we want to make sure it’s healthy and strong. So most days it’s really important to pick the Brussels sprouts over the Twinkies — that’s an issue of justice. But if a Twinkie is your favorite dessert on the planet it’s okay to have it every once in a while. If you go to a friend’s house for dinner and she serves a casserole made with a processed soup that normally you’d never let cross your lips, charity trumps all — you should eat what you’re served.

So it’s really just approaching it with a balanced attitude. You do want to give your body what it’s due, and make sure you’re eating in moderation and making wise choices, but you also want to do everything with love and with an eye to recognizing that food is pleasurable. A good rule is the 80-20 rule. When you’re at home, eat what you think you should eat, but when you’re out, relax a little more because charity is always more important. Unless you’re going to die from something, of course… I would die if I ate peanuts so it’s more charitable for me not to eat peanuts if you serve them to me — you would feel terrible if you killed me.

What was the most important thing for you to convey in this book?

I really wanted to convey the joy of eating. It’s so easy in our culture to strip food of its joy and love and its communal significance. Instead, it can become about calories, nutrients, making your body look a certain way — we project all these different things onto food so it stops being what God made it to be: a sign of love, healing, nourishment, and joy. Food tastes good because God wanted us to enjoy eating. There is so much love from God in every bite of food and when you sit down to a delicious meal, recognizing how much God loves you though that meal is the most important thing you can do.

See more at Aleteia.

One thought on “Who’s On My Dream Dinner Guest List…and Other Fun Questions

  1. Louise says:

    Hi, I enjoyed reading your reply to the questions above. I am so glad you are recovering from your surgeries. But I am a bit confused, the title of this piece and the copy don’t seem to go together. Merry Christmas to you, Louise Miller

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