Last week I blogged about veganism, and at the end of my post introduced the idea that a challenge I face as a vegan is losing out on many experiences of social and communal eating. Right now I’m reading L. Shannon Jung’s book Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment, and I’m enjoying thinking through the many compelling things he has to say about hospitality and sharing food, and how these are essential aspects of the Christian faith.
Jung writes, “Sharing food is perhaps the primary socializing and civilizing activity of human beings,” and “food becomes the carriage that conveys feelings back and forth” (40). This is a pretty evident idea that we’re well aware of. Just about every experience I have of sharing food with family, friends, and strangers confirms the inherently relational nature of sharing food to me. But it takes on additional meaning when I think about sharing food as a distinctly Christian practice, and consider the ways in which I currently do or do not share food with others. Jung goes on to say that genuine wholeness, and salvation, requires sharing.
There is definitely something sacred in breaking bread together. We need to share, and it is our joy to share. I love making vegan food with and for my family and friends, and then enjoying it with them! Eating alone, on the other hand, is not much fun. Even eating with people, but eating my own meal while they share of the same spread, is not much fun either.
Jung also focuses on hospitality, writing, “Hospitality is a way of being in the world, an orientation to others and to life itself. It is a means of grace, a way of both receiving God’s grace and being in tune with the gracious life of the world” (51). As someone who never goes hungry, I primarily think about hospitality from the giving end. Christians adopt a posture of hospitality to make room for and recognize the dignity and value of others, and minister to those in need. Practicing hospitality is a matter of justice, of ensuring that all people are adequately fed, clothed and sheltered. Rarely do I think of hospitality from the receiving end. As a vegan, sometimes I feel like I have lost the ability to trust in others’ hospitality. I almost always bring my own food to eat or supplement what I eat at a picnic or potluck, and I constantly do all sorts of creative planning ahead to personally take care of my food needs and not put a burden on others.
For me, these are some of the social and relational consequences of diverting from the mainstream in eating. Standing up to the general culture for justice issues and things you believe in is important. I think fighting hunger and poverty requires it. I’m curious to know things that you do or are committed to that are potentially socially alienating, and how that affects you and others around you!