The Message in the Meal
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
The Message in the MealThe spiritual side of food.
As Chef Roger spoke, he took out another pan, poured olive oil into it, and lit another burner. He reached over to a bowl that contained six or so eggs, and after waiting for the oil to heat, he gently broke them one at a time into the pan.
“If I had goose or duck fat I would use it now, but olive oil will have to do.”
“I’m amazed at how spiritual cooking is for you,” I said to him. “I almost feel like I’m in church, listening to a sermon on the best way to live a holy life.”
“Food is one of the closest things we have to real spirituality,” Roger replied.
“Why do you think so much attention is given to the Last Supper? In my opinion, most people miss the point of it altogether. For example, Catholics get caught up in the idea that it really is the body and blood of Jesus, and they miss its greatest message. Jesus was trying to teach his disciples a very simple lesson. He looked around the table where they were sitting and picked up the two most ordinary things he could find: bread and wine. They were always there, so much so that people would take them for granted, and this is why he chose those things for one of the most important lessons he ever taught.
“Jesus said, ‘This is my body,’ because he wanted us to see the divinity in something as ordinary as bread and to be mindful every time we consumed it. Then he said, ‘This is my blood,’ because he wanted us to see the correlation between something we have every day and the sacredness that’s always around us. The message was that the energy of love is ever present and can be found in the simplest elements.”
“I thought everyone from France was Catholic,” I said to him, half joking. “Did you ever see it as being Jesus’s body and blood?”
“I see it exactly in that way, but not to the exclusion of anything else. I see the eggs in that way, and the garlic, too. Did you know that in the earliest paintings depicting the Last Supper, there is hardly anything on the table? As our lives became more complex, filled with more ‘things,’ the foods placed before Jesus and his disciples evolved into a feast. That’s what we usually do—complicate the very simple teachings of Jesus so we don’t have to really understand them. We’re more comfortable if it’s abstract or hidden in symbolism instead of being right in front of us, even on our kitchen table.”
“But you do believe that the Last Supper actually occurred, right?”
“I know that it really happened,” he said with more conviction than I expected. “I can feel it deep inside myself, but not necessarily in the way most people think. It was a celebration of Jesus’s life because he was the only one who knew it was his final meal. He knew what was about to happen, and rather than be alone, he wanted to be with the people he loved. He washed their feet when they first came into the room—this was unusual and even unheard of at the time. Then he had everyone sit down, and he fed them physically and spiritually. I sometimes wonder if the apostles realized what he was giving them: an example of how they needed to treat one another.”
“You said that the food was both physical and spiritual. Does that mean we should see every meal we eat in the same way?”
“Well, all meals are physical, obviously,” Roger noted. “But they are also spiritual. It all depends upon the spirit in which we receive the food we eat. If we’re grateful for the entire lineage—meaning, the farmer, the baker, or the animal or plant itself—then it nourishes our soul.
“I think that’s something the French have always understood. We don’t rush through a good meal like people do here. We take our time, relishing every aspect, including appreciating those who are at the table with us. That is what feeds us spiritually. To me, that is what religion truly is.”
I took a long sip from the cup of coffee Roger had poured for me. In that moment, I thought it was the best coffee I had ever tasted, and for the first time I considered the possibility that I hadn’t come to Drew House for any obvious reason. Maybe I was there to learn something deeper—something that could only be appreciated through food and the tutelage of a master chef, as well as a master of life. I sat back on the stool and took a deep breath.
“I really have a lot to learn, don’t I?”