Rachel Marie Stone’s book, Eat With Joy by InterVarsity Press, is a feast for those who care about issues pertaining to how society views food and the complicated area of food ethics. For those of you who know me as a guy who tends to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants and somehow never manages to gain weight (or mass as the science textbook will state), you might be wondering why I decided to write a review of this book, much less bothered to even read it. After all, my story is very different from Stone’s who, in the introduction, describes her own conflicted feelings with food as she was growing up. Generally speaking, I have not felt any such anxiety about eating food throughout my life and do not suffer from either anorexia or obesity. Indeed, I can pack away the food so well that it even led one coworker of mine to remark in a teasing way, “He’s very serious about his food.” That comment is more accurate than that coworker realized for I believe that eating well ought to play an important part in the life of a Christ follower. Therefore, Eat With Joy is a book that is very relevant to the conerns of this blog: those of calling, community, and culture.
With respect to calling, Stone reminds us that part of what it means to be a Christian is to recognize our dependence on Christ, who sustains and nourishes us spiritually. Just as we are called to be dependent on God to satisfy our spiritual hungering, so too does He provide for our physical needs. From a position of receiving food gratefully and joyfully, we are then in a better position to fulfill another aspect of our calling: sharing and generosity. Unfortunately, many of the poor in American society are undernourished, not so much from a lack of food but from too much junk food. It is important that Christians make wise choices in their shopping habits, considering the effects of their purchases and be willing to provide food that is more wholesome to those less able to afford it.
Chapters 3 and 4 look at the role and importance of eating in community. Stone goes beyond the argument of how critical family meals are to the well-being of children and also reminds us of the role that eating with others played in the early church. I think she hits the nail on the head when she connects eating generously with eating communally. Unfortunately, far too many people are eating alone, and this is paving the way for dysfunctional and unhealthy eating, leading frequently to eating disorders. Stone proposes that by eating together, we learn to extend grace to one another and to begin to find healing.
Eating sustainably connects most closely with culture as our lack of sustainability reflects what we value most. Our ability to modify crops and to place animals in concentrated animal-feeding operations is both a result and a cause of a culture that values uniformity and efficiency above humane-treatment of animals and diversity in plant life and foods. Finally, food is intrinsic to culture I enjoyed her enthusiasm for cooking food and the realization that the simple act of cooking is a part of culture making.
Overall, Rachel Marie Stone’s book is a refreshing antidote to the chaotic state of our society today and how it views and relates to food. The table prayers, recipes, and points for action at the end of each chapter also remind one that our joyful eating is to be done in the presence of Christ and with one’s whole being: heart, soul, mind, strength….and stomach.