February 21, 2012 § 8 Comments

Yesterday, I did not eat. It was an experiment, really, spurred by a fantastic article in the most recent Harper’s about the history and practice of fasting. Even if you maintain zero interest in gustatory abstinence, you should read it. It is written by Steve Hendricks and contains possibly the best sentence in the history of sentences: “Several years earlier, for reasons now puzzling, I had been a distance runner, but a pitiable knee injury ended all that, after which the lard came upon me.” After which the lard came upon me. I’d give up food for a week if I could write a line like that.

It wasn’t hard, really. I did get hungry, but not overwhelmingly so; by early afternoon I felt a little shaky, but it did not interfere with my work. I was able to bust out 1,000 words or so on the new book, and they might even be halfway decent (I haven’t dared look at them again, the second reading being my primary litmus test). I suspect I could quite readily have extended my fast for a day or more, although of course that’s entirely uncharted territory for me, so who knows.

Unsurprisingly, I thought a lot about food over the course of the day. But not in the way you might imagine. Oh sure, there were moments when I considered the pork chop, or even just the thick rind of cream that sticks to the sides of our separating bowl. I like to run my finger around the bowl and lap the cream off my knuckle. Sometimes, I even wash my hands first. Still, most of my food-related musing had to do with the enormous, almost overwhelming abundance we enjoy. We work hard for it, we know precisely where it comes from and what it took to get it to our plates – blood, guts, dirt, shit, and all of that – and this feels right to me. But there are times when I’m admittedly a little embarrassed simply by how much we have, the incredible diversity and sheer quantity stored in our root cellar, freezers, and pantry. Lamb, beef, pork, chickens. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. Dried apples, dried chanterelles, dried peppers. Kimchi. Butter. Maple syrup. Potatoes, squash, onions. It goes on.

My participation in my food is complete; I do not doubt that. But that does not absolve me of the obligation to consume it with reverence, and in this regard, I am sometimes lacking. I’m not sure fasting is the best way to maintain that reverence (though there’s plentiful evidence that it might be the healthiest way), but I know one thing for sure: I damn well appreciated breakfast this morning.



§ 8 Responses to Hungry

  • sylvia says:

    One of my dearest friends is a Hindu. She fasts every Thursday and gives the money she would have spent on her food to a local food bank. When I asked her why she did it, I expected some Hindu belief or theological reason. Instead, Mennaxi told me that she had been hungry as a child and a food bank had fed her and her siblings. It wasn’t enough to simply contribute money now that times are better for her, she wanted to REMEMBER what it was like to be hungry so that she did not lose gratitude for what she has.

  • E. Baron says:

    I’ve read recently that routine one-day fasting also improves mental acuity, because of complex neurochemical changes that take place when our bodies think they are starving (my language). I have tried it and have felt this effect, although I haven’t yet made fasting a routine practice. Lots more benefits, too, not the least of which is appreciation for what we have. Perhaps it’s as simple as the lessons that come of shaking up routines, whatever they are.

  • Aspendance says:

    I like this. I’m leery to try fasting due to blood sugar level problems but I have tried to maintain reverence for my food by creating a table prayer that includes the line “bless the farmers that grew it, the hands that harvested and the cook that prepared it.”

    Whenever we use this prayer it instantly changes my awareness and reverence.

  • betsyohs says:

    oh, no! when I go to your homepage, I get redirected to “Nouse was here”. Google thinks that’s a bad thing…and I’m bummed because I wanted to look at your taproot post again, but that link also redirects.

  • Just wanted to leave a note to say how much I am enjoying your writing. While we have a large family (seven children) we do live simply and maintain a connection to most of the food we eat. I have been challenging myself to prepare our family’s meals with more grace, love and care as food is so important.

  • […] Hewitt’s latest post is titled “Hungry“. Who is Ben? “┬áBen was born and raised in northern Vermont, where he currently runs a […]

  • Vonnie says:

    Hey Ben, recently did a 10 day juice fast. Felt AWESOME at the end of it, I think I’ll do it again in a couple of months. I, too, feel humbled and grateful for the amazing food we consume here, so many friends have CSA’s and we grow our own also. Nothing tastes as good as food from the dirt you’ve touched. ~Vonnie

  • Becky says:

    I grew up in a very religious family where fasting was a monthly part of our worship. While I no longer subscribe to the religion I do believe there is something to fasting. Maybe I should take it up again.

    Oh, and I just read the post about your car(s) bit the dust. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud! Laughter is the best way to make it through tough times.

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