Food equals Love.” The quote on their wall arrested me. It has been a long time since I’ve loved food, or felt that food was loving. Eating, for the gutless, takes guts. It is an intentional choice to live, to survive. Eating for us is not romantic. It hurts. It burns. It shames.

But the quote brought me back to someplace that my soul once lived, to the tiny patch of roughed up earth that unwillingly rooted my narrow selection of plants. The words wafted up into my nose the way the chives and basil once did. I suddenly remembered scrubbing my nail beds before snipping those fresh greens into a salad and giving thanks for the goodness. Food was love, and I loved it.

It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten — every piece of fruit — had been picked by callused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before? All food is won by someone’s labor…

What We Came For by Alison Luterman

In those days I used to give much and reap much, and I understood eating as a byproduct of living a certain kind of caring, serving life. My greatest error at that time was in fastening my attention here and there on calories, forgetting the real matter at hand.

Robert F. Capon exhorts me to see the real matter: the miraculous in the rudimentary foods I have ceased to notice. Take an onion, he directs most spiritually. Plan to spend an hour with it. “The first order of business is to address yourself to the onion at hand… The two of you sit here in mutual confrontation.” This meeting becomes a session, enlightening my awareness of situatedness, creatureliness, and my need to notice.

But I am irked with Capon’s transcendent experience. Grasp the onion, he quips the delightful Russian fable, and it will lift you to heaven. I’ve resented the onion from the first post-surgical moment I spent with it. I don’t believe that the place it took me to was heaven. I hope not.

Today I can’t look at a green leafy without suffering  what do they call it in polite company?  the trots. Before the colectomy I had been treated with dietary restrictions so diverse and difficult that I believed this new lifestyle would be quite palatable. I didn’t understand that the colectomy was a marital breakup. I didn’t know how loveless meals would become.

The experience of suffering seems to drive a wedge between me and the flourishing, nourishing, feral Bread Life. The meals I once blessed I curse. My hands have ceased to serve and prepare and touch the earth. They reach for the simplest, the easiest, the most bland. In so doing, I have ceased to reach for the sacramental. And so I sit with the onion, and I pray…

O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.

-Robert Ferar Capon

Capon, Robert Farrar. The Supper of the Lamb; a Culinary Reflection. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969. Print.