A few weeks back, my mother invited my dad’s maternal uncle over to our place for lunch. This was the first meal he’d had in our house for almost twenty years. After he had his fill, he sat in his favourite chair in our living room, raised his hand and said, Annadaata Sukhibhava (‘blessed is the food provider’). Mother went down on her knees and touched his feet.
Last weekend a bunch of us went out to dinner. While I was cleaning up the last morsels of food from my plate (as I was taught to since I was a child), a friend of mine sitting next to me said, ‘Don’t worry. You’ve already paid for it. No matter how much you leave now, the food is going into the trash bin.’ I asked him if he didn’t believe in what our parents taught us, that every morsel of food that we leave uneaten on our plates is a morsel we’ve snatched from those less fortunate. He scoffed and said, ‘That’s communist garbage.’
Two days ago I attended a wedding. I saw all the discarded plantain leaves and uneaten food being washed into the gutter. I did not wait to see if a wandering stray dog would come sniffing. I thought of what my friend said the other day. Maybe he did have a point.
I think we’re in it for the pause, the quiet thanks for love and for our blessings, before the shoveling begins. For a minute, our stations are tuned to a broader, richer radius. We’re acknowledging that this food didn’t just magically appear: Someone grew it, ground it, bought it, baked it; wow.
Today, in the midst of a conversation, my neighbour said there was intrinsic value in gold. Why? ‘Because to create an ounce of gold, someone had to expend blood and sweat to bring it out of the ground, purify it, and cast it into coins or bars.’ I asked him if the same did not apply to food. He gave me a blank look. After a period of silence, we began to discuss politics.
Now, as I write this, I’m still unsure of what to think about food. Is it just a commodity that we buy with money? Does it have God in it? Why are we taught not to get up from our tables without having eaten everything on our plates? Is the notion communist garbage? Or just a quiet way of saying thank you? If it is the latter, whom are we thanking?
I don’t know. Do you?
Image Courtesy: Parade