Food: A Spiritual Exchange
What is spirituality in this day and age? Some people find it in religion, but it can also be found in so many other places, people, ideas, activities. For me, spirituality comes from the things I hold most dear: bees, family, nature. That is where I find my connection to the world—both in solace and community—and where I find a reason to give back. Spirituality is hard to define, I haven’t come up with a concrete description, but I know that it feels as important as ever. If spirituality is a source that enriches you and, in turn, something you protect and nurture, I argue it’s urgent that we get in touch with ours.
Added to my list of spiritual sources is food! Some of you know that before I was a beekeeper and business owner, I was a chef. Maybe that explains a few things, including my love (obsession) with delicious local produce. And I know I am not alone in this: Australia is a land of foodies, of great restaurants and street vendors, of amazing cultures and people. I would say that food is a necessary daily ritual where anyone and everyone can find spiritual satisfaction.
Recently, I was researching the history of food production—about a time, after World War II, where a reliance on farms in the countryside gave way to what we know today as our consumer landscape: large companies, who can produce food quickly and inexpensively at the sake of quality and nutritional value. There were many things I took from this reading, about how small, food-related business effects the environment and the economy. But there was one thing that stuck with me, a kind of simple idea, but one that I think is really profound. With the big changes in industrialisation and globalisation of our food markets, something human was lost. The positive action of simply making a food product and handing it to the next person. Seems small? It’s huge.
Research says that the more we isolate ourselves from human to human contact (due to technology, overwhelming workloads, fast-paced living) the more our mental health suffers. In fact, the “Australian Loneliness Report” (2018), issued by Swinburne University and the Australian Psychological Society, explained that humans are essentially social animals, and that loneliness occurs when deep connection and an innate need to belong to a group is unmet. How does this relate to buying food, you might ask? From my own experience, the act of shopping at a large supermarket where the registers are self-serve and the produce is unnecessarily packaged can be very alienating and overwhelming to me; I often leave feeling more like I have entered a cold, artificial consumer realm where real people no longer exist.
What feels right is wandering the aisles of the local market, chatting to farmers and local people, and having those tingly, butterflies-in-the-tummy thoughts when you think of where that food came from. The simple exchange—the chatter, the smells, the quality and the imperfection—makes buying from small producers spiritual and human. So, if you sometimes struggle to find the place where you feel real connection (and many people do), I urge you to get involved in the slow and local food movements. We all have to eat, so why not feed your soul at the same time!