The Power of Food
I was such a fussy kid. I hated any food that wasn't brown or beige. From a gastronomic point of view I despised all plant life. My dad still tells the story of how I kept a single pea safe in the folds of my top lip for over 24 hours rather than swallow it.
But you know how teenagers are...
I joke. The point is I was a nightmare. And whenever I left a stalk of soggy broccoli on my plate, half hidden behind a tumble-down shack of carrot batons, my parents would always say the same thing.
"There are children in Africa going starving."
And there were. And there are. Welcome to the human race's toxic, surprising, slightly overwhelming relationship with food. It's a mess.
We love food. We hate it. We need it. It sustains us and we've also reverse-engineered a lot of it to kill us. We've created diet plans to keep control of it and yet most of us eat things with almost no nutritional value on a daily basis. We've even managed to link our mental and emotional well-being to food. So we eat to be happy. Then we eat to feel in control. We eat to survive and we eat to be social. We eat ceremoniously and we eat unthinkingly.
Some of us have so much that at this point we're throwing away almost half of our prepared food every day (at least in the UK). Meanwhile it is estimated that a person dies of starvation every 10 seconds.
And this crazy, untenable state of play is now so normalised that we don't even recognise how insane it all is. Good work everyone.
I've been lucky enough to experience the way food is shared in some of the countries in which Christian Aid work. In the Democratic Republic of Congo I was taught to prepare cassava - a starchy tuber that is cultivated because of its relative hardiness in relation to poor soil and drought. The thing is though, cassava is just carbs, it doesn't have any nutrients - people eat it to fill their stomach, it doesn't actually nourish them. They feel full and they're still starving.
I've eaten in Colombia where a local waffle chain employed solely women from female-headed households - using food as a means of social empowerment. Or Ethiopia, where sharing tea has huge significance to the way a community functions. Everywhere, the experience of food (or the lack of food) - its preparation, its serving, its consumption - is woven into the culture - intrinsic and inescapable. That's the power of food - at once part of the problem and a huge part of the solution.
Right back when the Collective first started, we made a film about food and it's significance to the early church. Watching it again I'm struck by how its at the centre of everything we do - faith, community, the hope of a better life - that all starts with breaking bread with those around you.