Friday, October 14, 2005

The Syracuse Fast Break

Last night our minister met with the 15 or so people who did the three-day fast that coincided with the end of his month-long one. He'd prepared a wonderful and simple meal.

Before we ate, though, we lit candles and read aloud the names of the servicemen and women who had died in Iraq since his fast started a month ago (there were about 50 I believe). And remembered that many more Iraqis whose names we don't know have died as well. And then we sang "Spirit of Life", one of my favorite hymns.

The meal started with a single strawberry for an appetizer; my appetite didn't need much encouragement. But we all took our time nibbling at our strawberries, enjoying the texture and flavor. Then we had a tasty apple-squash soup the minister had prepared, along with some lovely homemade challah bread prepared by one of the other fasters. For dessert, the minister served up a very nice pear and raspberry custard.

I was fortunate to be sitting at the minister's table, and so once we started eating, got to hear some of his stories about food-related experiences during the month, some of which were pretty funny. (Note to self: if you want to have good anecdotes, you need to do something unusual once in a while.) We also talked about ritual and community aspects of eating, and I surprised people with the fact that my wife has made sure we eat dinner all together, with a chalice lighting and reading first. Of course I wasn't home last night, but my family wasn't all that deprived: they had Chinese take-out.

Afterwards we chatted about our experiences. Most felt what I did: a bit of a high, lightness, clarity, calm. More energy. A few had negative experiences: headaches, nausea, lack of energy. One of the things many noticed was that we were more deliberate, more intentional about everything. Perhaps it's just because we were being so intentional about food, and that touches so much of what we do.

We also talked about how hunger is part of many people's lives, whether because of choice, eating disorders, or poverty. How even 150 years ago many people needed to make sure their root cellars were full up by now or else they'd starve in the spring. Talked about eating locally and seasonally as a way to reduce energy consumption, or how as energy prices rise we might not be able to afford the luxury of fresh strawberries in October. One woman suggested it might be nice to do this regularly, like every 6 months. Yeah. Fasting is a good place to visit. I want to go back.

But I did enjoy eating again. And this morning, I slowly savored every bit of the eggroll my family saved for me.

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