Friday, March 30, 2012

Food, Culture, and the Direction of Civilization

Food is usually not the most grand thing to our view. Except for the wreckage of Pop culture, food is domestic and personal. Even in Pop culture it is a firm part of life, outflowing from who people are. A great deal made be said of us by the food we decide to eat. A keen observation was made by theologian Robert L. Dabney in his essay, The Uses and Results of Church History (1854), concerning this very thing. Writing of history in general, he makes the following comment:
"Those things which are the most operative elements of social, national and religious welfare are just the things which historians have been least careful to record. The knowledge of them has, in many cases, perished away for ever from our search. In secular history, battles, sieges, coronations, conquests, treaties; and in ecclesiastical history, councils and their canons, controversies and anathemas, have been the favorite themes of the story. But the food which nations ate, the clothing they wore, their domestic life, the state of domestic discipline, their arts, agriculture and amusements, the method of their devotions, their superstitions, the hymns they sang, the preaching to which they listened, the books they most read, the color of the national and social passions, the pecularities of the national spirit; all these every-day and homely influences are the causes which potentially form the character and compose that mighty current of the age on which kings, battles, conquests and conquerors are but the floating bubbles which indicate its motion. But all this historians have usually left to die with the passing time, as if it was unworthy of the dignity of their drama."

While we ought not to make food our obsession--we must be changed by God's grace before our food can change meaningfully--we ought to realize that the day-to-day influence of our familial culture is a powerful tool directing our civilization.

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