Grocery stores beat it into our brains that food is abundant. Subliminally we learn to think of meats, fruits, and vegetables as edible objects with little individual worth, as one tomato is grown and processed in the same way as millions of others exactly like it. They’re just sustenance. If it goes bad, we will simply buy some more. It’s a problem that has to do with how we value food and appreciate what it does and is. I was trying to think abstractly about this as I sat outside the door of a small town shaman, waiting to go inside. My professor, Beatriz, who had brought me there was instructing me to open up my mind in preparation for the reading.
We sat on the curb and I gratefully accepted a handful of manna (popcorn) she had bought on the street. She told me how she worked through school after her father died and became an agricultural engineer. My ears perked up when she explained the system they had in the university cafeteria where the top ten percent of students with the highest grades ate for free. They got a whole bowl of soup, one plate of food, and a glass of juice. To some this incentive was frivolous seeing as the contents weren’t exactly top notch, but to Beatriz it was the way to go. She would study hard to get the grades and then take even more soups from those who considered themselves above such mediocre quality. Her stomach wouldn’t make a sound for hours when she worked her hotel night shift every evening, allowing her more time to study for the next day.
I wonder what the effect would be should we choose to apply this same sentiment to our own jobs. So often I feel like we value everything we do in monetary terms instead of what we actually earn for ourselves. If you think about it, in the last few hours at the office you have probably gained two jars of sauce, three cuts of beef, and four gallons of milk to last you until the end of the month. We already do this in terms of pretty dresses or fancy cars, so why don’t we value our foods for the delicious delights they are? We clearly need them more than we do another luxury and I think our appreciation of it should reflect that.
Food for food’s sake demands we remember how lucky we are to have nature’s banquet at our fingertips. Plants, pickers, and all manner of vehicles had to work hard to bring you that one blueberry sitting on top of your cereal. I’m not preaching the meaning in every pea, but next time you pick up a fruit don’t just eat it. Enjoy it for what it is: a really good piece of food. This was on my mind when I asked the shaman if I was going to get a good job and eat well in the future, he peered over the coca leaves lit beneath the dim light of the claustrophobic green sanctuary and said, “Yes, but you will have to go very far, and work very hard to get it.”