Food Heaven and Hell...
Updated: May 27
‘In this plate of food, I see the entire universe supporting my existence’ – Zen food blessing
‘Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet ‘– Albert Einstein
‘Never eat more than you can lift’ – Miss Piggy
I need to start with a warning. Some of this piece may not be for the squeamish. Nevertheless I encourage you to read on…
There is an account of Mahakasyapa, one of the Buddha’s disciples noted for his compassion towards the poor and downtrodden, accepting and eating a food offering despite the fact that a leper’s finger had dropped off into his bowl along with the food. In some traditions it is apparently believed that through this act he achieved enlightenment.
As Buddhists, I know we should accept, with gratitude and impartiality, whatever is offered, whether it evokes delight or aversion. We all have preferences, especially where food is concerned. There are things we love to eat and, for many of us, things we strongly dislike.
For example, there is the abomination that is beetroot. Actually I have a theory that nobody likes beetroot. They just pretend they do to make me look stupid and unsophisticated. It’s a global conspiracy directed at me. I realise that makes me look a touch egotistical and not a little paranoid.
Is it OK to enjoy certain foods above others? Is that an attachment that is best avoided? Perhaps it only becomes an attachment when we find ourselves pursuing bigger and better food experiences or gorging on the things we like, long after we’ve satisfied our hunger. We need to know when to stop. We need to recognise when pleasure has become craving. In short we need to eat mindfully.
Obesity through overeating and lack of exercise is fast overtaking smoking as the greatest threat to public health in developed countries. Advertisers exploit human weakness by encouraging over-indulgence, almost implying that it is somehow virtuous; a mark of success.
We have forgotten that, for most of us in the West, it’s perfectly fine to feel hungry. We are encouraged to kill that hunger immediately, even if our next meal is only an hour or two away. This is unnatural and harmful. There is an overwhelming need for us to nurture a healthier relationship with food.
I am picky and fussy and childish when it comes to food. In future, I will try to practise gratitude and impartiality with every meal I eat. I am really fortunate to be locked down with some delightful people and presented with wonderful food, lovingly prepared, 7 days a week. I will try to tolerate those things of which I am less fond and eat them without a grimace. But that won’t include beetroot, or leprous fingers. So I guess I’m not ready to be a Bodhisattva just yet.
[photo from wix.com]
Lines for a Beetroot I Once Knew
O you hideous, bruise-coloured horror,
I won’t eat you today and I won’t eat you tomorrer
Your sanguineous secretions leave nothing untainted
With vampires and leeches you should be acquainted
On whatever morsel I choose to feed,
My plate looks like I’ve had a nosebleed
It’s bad enough that you look like blood
I’ve tried to eat you. You taste like mud
Give me a carrot, or other such rhizoma
Not some gruesome, tumescent haemotoma
Though many extol your earthy delight
I’ve tried to love you but you taste like s***e