UPDATE: Congratulations to our reader, Lisa, for winning the free copy of "Cravings." Thank you all for participating.
By Sarah Hayes
If you are like me (and millions of Americans), you have made at least a vague resolution to eat healthier in 2013. Perhaps you also want to deepen the connection between your physical and spiritual lives.
A new book — author and blogger Mary DeTurris Poust’s “Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God” (Ave Maria, $13.95) — can help you (and me) with those goals in a uniquely Catholic way. Poust, who has a regular "Foodie Friday" feature on her Not Strictly Spiritual blog, shares her personal journey with food — and those of other Catholics — to help readers understand how they can take a more balanced approach to eating. That includes reveling in a well-prepared feast with friends and family, as well as practicing the discipline of fasting, not to drop a few pounds but as a "simple act [that] can open us up in ways we never imagined."
As someone who has read many of the books that have come out in recent years about Americans and our relationship with food — from Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” to Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” to Mark Bittman’s “Food Matters” — I particularly like how “Cravings” approaches eating from a Eucharistic vantage point. As Poust writes, “We eat of Communion so that we may live. We bless our spiritual food, say, 'Amen,' and silently reflect on the significance of what we have just consumed not only into our bodies but into our hearts. It is possible to give our everyday meals a similar sense of the sacred, thereby transforming food from something that fills us up into something that truly nourishes.”
One particularly insightful chapter looks at how monastics approach food in their communities, and how their meals — cooked with care using simple, local ingredients and shared in a common setting — can inspire the eating habits of other Catholics. Poust interviews Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, author of several cookbooks, about how we all can gain a healthier appreciation of food:
In the Gospel, we read that Jesus, the Son of Man, came eating and drinking. He did have an appreciation for food and moderate drink, to the point that, as Dorothy Day said in one of her quotes, he leaves his Body and Blood under the auspices of food and drink, so it's sacramental. There's such a basis in our theology for food and drink in light of what Christ himself lived and taught. You can expand from there. And we get good principles from St. Benedict as well: Balance in all things. You keep a certain sense of moderation.
Want to see for yourself what the book is all about? OSV Daily Take is giving away a copy of “Cravings.” Leave a comment below to be eligible to win. On Jan. 11, we will select the winner.
"Cravings" is not Poust's only recent work to explore the connection between mind, body and spirit. In OSV Newsweekly's Jan. 6 In Focus, she helps readers strengthen their mental, spiritual and physical health for a better new year. In the In Focus, she explains what motivated her to write “Cravings”:
So often we turn to food — for consolation, as reward or sometimes out of boredom — in an effort to fill ourselves up, but what we’re really hungry for is something much deeper, a relationship with God, a better understanding of our true self, a spirituality that permeates all we do and makes us new.
Thinking we can achieve all that by eating more slowly might seem a little far-fetched, but it really is all connected.
Even one small practice can bring about major change.
When you begin to approach your meals from a place of prayer, a place of awareness of God’s presence in the moment, food begins to lose its hold.
Over time you come to see that eating can actually be a pathway to spiritual wholeness rather than a one-way ticket to the nearest Weight Watchers meeting.
For more information on the "Cravings" blog tour, click HERE.
During the blog tour, which runs through Jan. 20, readers can enter a drawing to win a $100 Williams-Sonoma gift card. Find information HERE.