I’m always reticent to talk about the way we do anything as a family in case people read it as my attempt at being prescriptive. We all have our own path to walk, the way we see as right (for us), the way we think is beneficial, and for each course there is a horse, no? What works for one family will not work for another; what is your life situation is not mine; the experiences we have all had that has brought each of us to this very step today are varied, and so being prescriptive doesn’t work. It never has. It never will.
Saying that, and without really wanting to justify myself a great deal (nor you), I thought we could look at food once in a while?
I’m no expert, I’ll tell you that from the get-go. My food education started a few years back and continues to grow each day. I don’t know why food never interested me; perhaps because it was always viewed as ‘something you have to do’, something to get out of the way, the mess cleaned up, the meal finished so life could happen. I admit that most of my student years were spent eating toast and hummus and I have no idea how my teeth never fell out. I love my vegetables but fruit has always been hard for me. Always.
Since having children (isn’t that the catalyst for so much of our self improvement – that we be the change that we wish our children to mirror?) I have tried to improve my relationship with food. Unless there is an upheaval, we eat around the table as a family each day. And I cannot say enough about this. They say a family that prays together stays together? Well, I think people who eat together from one table eat at a deeper level; there is spiritual nourishment to be imbibed from breaking bread together. I know it because I feel it. I feel the healing in it, the blessing. Food tastes better and bridges are repaired and bonds strengthened. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’ve had, what harshness was spoken or felt, sitting eating as one is something so fundamental to being human. Community is born around food.
Starting, then, as a novice, a babe again into adulthood, I had to learn how to feed my family. And with so many things we do we start with what we know. Me, from the foods my mother made, and my husband from the foods of his culture. And finding middle ground is not easy when you have one person who considers anything not made with chilli inedible, and another who thinks food should not hurt.
In our way of life, Islam, food is such a major thing. The Qur’an says: “Oh, people, eat from the earth what is halal and tayyib“. ‘Halal’ is the Islamic equivalent of kosher, with the addition that alcohol is also forbidden. But even some Muslims tend to be less familiar with the concept of ‘tayyib’ – which means ‘pure/ethical/wholesome/good’. Nearly everywhere that we are enjoined in the Qur’an to eat only of the halal, ‘tayyib’ is explicitly mentioned as a necessary quality as well. But in this age, ‘tayyib’ has been largely forgotten.
Regarding meat there are so many conditions of raising and slaughtering. A few are:
1. The animal must be raised in a humane and wholesome environment.
2. The animal must not be mishandled, stressed, or caused any discomfort during transport.
3. The animal must not feel stress or fear before death.
4. The animal must not be killed using continuous pain or injury.
5. The animal must be killed away from the view of other animals
The more I learned about the way food is brought to our tables in this culture, the more I realised that what we are eating can never be classified as ‘tayyib’. So much of our food is not ethically grown and raised, it isn’t pure, it certainly isn’t wholesome and if by some miracle ‘tayyib’ food were to reach us, the way we cook it would certainly knock the goodness out of it.
And you are what you eat. Whenever a cell in your body is replaced the food you have eaten has contributed towards its construction. Was it any wonder that I constantly felt unwell, drained, tired, and lethargic when what I ate was not wholesome? I was eating badly, and I was becoming badly.
The way we view healthcare in this culture is also seriously weird. We do grow up with the assumption that when we get ill a pill cures it. The fact that we call medicine ‘healthcare’ is also pretty funny, really.
In horticultural terms I’ve learned as my many years as a dabbler at the allotment that if a plant is diseased there is not much you can do; the best thing you can do is make the soil so healthy and pH balanced that the plant heals itself.
And we’re the same. We have an amazing body that does a miracle job every single second of every single day. Our liver takes the brunt of almost everything we eat – every disease that comes our way and every toxin in our body our liver does it’s very best to contain and expel. Those kidneys of ours – gosh, so very little – yet we would need a machine the size of a washer-dryer to do the same thing without them – they clean us up with very little reward. If you give your body good food – food filled with minerals and vitamins and good bacteria and alkaline to balance the acid-heavy diets we eat – your body has got all it needs to deal with almost all illness. When your food is wholesome your body is healthy. It is that simple. And when you deny the body vitamins and minerals in food the first thing it does it takes them from your body itself – it strips your body for nutrients. And when they are out of stock? Well, then, the real trouble begins.
Wholesome, ‘tayyib’, food is healthcare. Medicine is ‘sickcare’. And as the saying goes, you can either pay the farmer now, or pay the doctor later. There is no free ride.