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.