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Eat with Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food Paperback – March 1, 2013
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"The moral imperative of food sustainability has turned many a well-intentioned dining companion into a locavore-vegan-forager scold obsessed with ritual purity at the expense of pleasure. From the Christian perspective, eating biblically should weigh not only the ethical and environmental implications of food production methods, but also such elements as generosity, friendship, gratitude and worship. Stone, a contributor to Christianity Today's Her.meneutics blog, presents a compelling case to tone down foodie righteousness with common sense and awe of the sacred. Confessing to personal struggles with eating disorders, Stone ends each chapter with lyrical prayers drawn from around the world. 'Better the occasional meal shared with friends at McDonald?s than organic salad in bitter isolation,' Stone admonishes the new dietary purists." (John Murawski, Religion News Service, "The Year's 10 Most Intriguing Religion Books," December 22, 2013)
"In this engaging book, Rachel Marie Stone describes what she has explored on her journey of 'learning to eat like a Christian,' which has entailed movement towards the profoundly countercultural practice of joyful eating. . . . Given Stone's honest, disarming, and nonjudgmental spirit, the book will energize readers to take incremental steps away from the guilt, angst, and anxiety that so often characterize our relationships with food and to move redemptively toward joyful eating." (Frances Taylor Gench, Interpretation, 67(4))
"Eat With Joy is an expansive and generous exploration of theology, culture and all things food. . . . Eating becomes a richer act as one considers Stone's reflections; and if we are indeed what we eat, we become richer as well." (Katherine Willis Pershey, Englewood Review of Books, Eastertide 2013)
"Stone's astute volume will nurture readers in a way that few books about food and faith can, helping them to move beyond both the paralysis of food-related knowledge and the didacticism that sometimes accompanies food-justice activism. Eat With Joy carries its readers toward the comforting, joyful truth that God is a 'loving parent, waiting to welcome us home with a hug and a bite of something to eat.'" (Valerie Weaver-Zercher, The Christian Century, July 24, 2013)
"Rachel Marie Stone reminds us that God intends us to delight in food, and she invites us to do so again. Offering up both wisdom and recipes, Stone welcomes us to the table and shows us a way to eat with joy." (Relevant Magazine, May/June 2013)
"Rachel Marie Stone's Eat With Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food takes one of the most fundamental aspects of human life and covers it with remarkable depth and breadth. . . . She offers a compelling vision of how we can spiritually and concretely partake of the heavenly banquet on earth." (Conspire, Spring 2013)
"This is a bewildering world to eat in. Thankfully, Rachel Marie Stone has written Eat With Joy. . . . She draws on wisdom from all the voices of today--from Pollan and Kingsolver to Berry and Capon--and seasons it with a healthy dose of friendly common sense. . . . Eat With Joy is a welcome voice of sanity, speaking into the cacophony, helping readers to integrate and balance the many voices. Stone provides resources to help us eat redemptively, restoratively, communally, creatively, and sustainably. No more culinary stalemates or food comas: instead, we can eat with joy." (Alissa Wilkinson, Books Culture, April 4, 2013)
"Rachel stone calls us to rediscover joyful eating by receiving food as God's good gift of provision and care for us. . . . Combining insightful reflections on food and faith with some tasty recipes, this will not be a book to miss!" (C. Christopher Smith, Englewood Review of Books, Advent 2012)
"This book made me hungry! Hungry for all that is good and beautiful about the art of gathering with others around a table. As a drive-thru mom I have struggled daily with my own connection to food for decades. Rachel helped me understand the true joy and gift of community, culture and a healthy connection to my food. It gave me nourishment, comfort and a deep understanding of the power of my kitchen table to heal and restore. A truly great read!" (Tracey Bianchi, pastoral staff at Christ Church of Oak Brook and author of Mom Connection and Green Mama, traceybianchi.com)
About the Author
Norman Wirzba (Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago) is research professor of theology, ecology and rural life at Duke Divinity School. He holds memberships in the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology and the International Association for Environmental Philosophy. Wirzba is the author of Food and Faith (Cambridge), Living the Sabbath (Cambridge) and The Paradise of God (Oxford) as well as numerous reviews and articles, including "Agrarianism After Modernity: An Opening for Grace" in After Modernity? Secularity, Globalization, and the Re-Enchantment of the World (Baylor).
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Stone's book is more than theoretical, however. It is filled with beautiful stories (my particular favorite is how Rachel took steak to 91-year-old Jack every Saturday night in the nursing home!) and practical advice for how to get started in the practice of joyful eating. There are prayers at the end of every chapter as well as delicious recipes. And for those of us generally overwhelmed with the thought of one more responsibility, Stone's book is more delight than duty. You won't find the book heavy on condemnation for eating food that is processed or trucked in from Argentina. In fact, the spirit of the project and the tone of the book is gracious; I find Stone willingly grants a lot of room for our humanity. We don't get things all right all the time, nor is any of us really capable of overhauling all of our habits today.
"Don't despise the small but significant act," says Stone, quoting from N.T. Wright, and that's just the kind of invitation I think galvanizes courage for change.
Rachel Marie Stone sets her own stage with an aptly titled introduction, “Conflicted Eating: Our Complicated Relationship to Food.” Throughout the book she explores that complicated relationship in a number of ways. Part of the book is autobiographical and concerns what it was like growing up female in the United States and how her relationship to food changed from late childhood into adulthood. Parts of the book delve into history, sociology, psychology, agriculture, and ecology. She also gives us reflections on scripture and excerpts from both the Old and New Testaments, and recipes too! Along the way she brings in writers, including Wendell Berry and Anne Lamott; movies like “Babette's Feast; and critiques of food culture in the United States as old as Sinclair Lewis' landmark book _The Jungle_ and recent documentaries like “Fast Food Nation” and “Food, Inc.” There's more, but you have to read to book, as I did, to enjoy how she connects so many things so well. But I will let on that she writes from Africa, teaches writing in the same seminary where her husband teaches theology, and that they have two young sons.
Each of the seven chapters has a two-word title, the second of which is, not surprisingly, “eating.” They are, in order: joyful, generous, communal, restorative, sustainable, creative, and redemptive. She does an amazing job of taking a topic that is so stressful for so many and showing that it doesn't have to be. With style and grace she shows how eating is at the same time about us as individuals but also about each of us in relationship with everyone from our family and friends outward to the entire world and even ultimately with God.
I really appreciate the effort put into making the Kindle edition an amazing value. It includes a “For Further Reading” list; a group discussion guide with questions for each chapter; endnotes; and indices for name and subject entries, recipes, and scripture quotes. This is good work.
This is one of those rare books that I think really is for just about everyone. I look forward to her next book. But in the meantime, I have her blog bookmarked and visit it often. I encourage others to do the same.
Top international reviews
In writing about food and theology, I've constantly been frustrated by how little emphasis is put on the role of eating together in our understanding of how we approach our relationship to food. One of three things usually occurs. Either the author gives idea of eating together a token acknowledgement, before the authors move on to their real point, whether that be localism, veganism, eating all bread, eating no bread, food justice, and so on. If not that, eating together is referenced to recall supposed halcyon days of yore when the nuclear family gathered around the dinner table every night. Last but not least there are the books that jump on the latest dieting gimmicks and then seek to put a "Biblical" or "Christian" gloss on them.
Slowly, this is beginning to change. We can in part, thank the "New Monastic" writers such as Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove who included the significance of eating together as one of the chapter in his recent book, The Awakening of Hope.
Sarah Miles has also tackled this subject in her book, Take this Bread, which among other things, chronicles her adventures in learning to eat with others. As well, people seem to be rediscovering the pleasure that eating and eating together affords, as put forward by Robert Farrar Capon in his book, The Supper of The Lamb.
Still, the pickings are slim, and the introduction of Eat With Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food, by Rachel Marie Stone, is a more than welcome addition to the table, so to speak. There are many reasons to like this book.
If you have never give much thought to what you eat, how it's produced, and what it means to eat together, this book is a very accessible primer on those subjects. This is not a scolding book, you will not be made to feel guilty about your actions or inaction in how you relate to any of the topics, particularly those relating to issues of food justice.
At its heart, what makes this book such a great new contribution is how it views eating as an extension of the grace that is offered to us in the Eucharistic meal where we feed on and are sustained by Christ. As the author says: Thus every meal is sacramental: a tangible, tasty reminder of Christ's sacrificial love, especially when we take a moment before eating to consider the potato casserole or Pad Thai (or whatever!) as God's sustaining love made edible.
It naturally follows from that, that when we eat together we extend that same grace to those whom we share our food with. Stone is also very clear that this isn't meant simply to be done with those who live under the same roof as us, but with(not to) those who are most alone and in need of companionship as well.
Such an attitude has great implications for the ways in which we offer food to those who have little. Too often, food is simply something we give rather than something that we partake together. One result might even be that when we eat together more, we cease striving after new diets, because we learn that the important thing is that we are created, loved and sustained by God and we already know God's opinion of us as God's creation. (Genesis 1:26-31).
Eat with Joy is a great new addition to the field of food and theology, and we can only hope that there will be more books like it, following soon.