BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day
17th November 1998
A few years ago I had a portentous conversation with a disgruntled farmer. “Soon, people are going to have get out there in the fields for themselves,” he said, “because we farmers aren’t going to bother with it anymore.”
He and his fellow farmers may be somewhat cheered that the government will be distributing 120 million pounds in compensation to carry them through the current tough times.
Perhaps their plight is partly the result of our changing attitudes to food. Particularly, we seem to want to pay as little as possible for such humdrum essentials so that a higher percentage of our hard-earned income can be spent on more important luxuries
Although we may be frequenting restaurants more than ever, the family meal is becoming replaced by TV dinners and eating on the hoof. I believe the less attention we give to the rituals of cooking and eating, the less we will value the miracle of food, and the contribution of those who produce it as well as the ultimate provider.
I have always felt that one of the great attributes of the occupation of a farmer is the constant awareness of our dependence on a higher power – and by that I don’t mean EU regulations or government largesse. As the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, says – “All creatures depend on food grains: grain is produced from rain; and rain is a blessing from God.”
Thanking God for the gift of food is prevalent in all traditions, and each may have their own ways of expressing such gratitude – from Thanksgiving in America to tipping wine from one’s glass in France.
For many Hindus also, eating is a serious meditation. While the meal is being prepared, nothing is tasted. Before it is served to the family, it must first be offered with prayers to God in a simple home ceremony. Food which has been sanctified in this way is known as prasadam– “the mercy of God”. It is said that prasadam takes on a spiritual quality and that both the person offering and those eating benefit from this act of communion with the Lord.
It is sometimes asked “Why offer food to God who is in no need of anything?” As a parent, you may give your children pocket-money to use as they like. But, instead of spending it on themselves, if they returned with something they had bought for you, that gift would warm your heart - even though you provided the money in the first place. What you had received and enjoyed was a sharing of love.
And so it is with God. Although He provides all the things we need for sustaining our life, He is delighted when we acknowledge that relationship and offer a little something of it back to Him.© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.