Taste Matters


Eileen is one of the suburb interns who took care of us at the Sewanee Food, Faith and Farm Conference last week.  We were driving  back to the airport shuttle and started to talk about wheat, naturellement.  I liked her perspective and asked her to write a post.  Here it is...

Guest blogger - Eileen Schaeffer, Intern at the Organic Prayer Project at Sewanee University...

Some things are undeniable. When you are freezing, a fluffy down jacket feels better than a silk vest. When you are hot and thirsty, a swig of ice water tastes better than steaming tomato soup. These natural human preferences, while obvious, are also quite powerful. It is quite a simple thing: humans like things that make them feel good. We like to eat food that tastes good when we are hungry; we like to get under the covers when we are cold at night; we like to sleep when we are tired. We like to eat wholesome bread instead of cardboard hosts that get stuck in your esophagus at church.

I can’t speak for the entire species with regards to my feelings towards communion hosts, but this is how I feel (and taste).  First, I must clearly express my deep gratitude for the church environment I grew up in. Taking part in weekly mass with my classmates from kindergarten up to my senior year in high school and attending with my extended family on the weekend has instilled me with a solid understanding of community and the importance of prayer. Despite the immeasurable benefits I have received from my churchly participation through the years, I cannot say that I always looked forward to going to mass. This lack of enthusiasm for church was particularly apparent as a child. At such a young and inquisitive age, I really didn’t quite grasp the sacredness of the Eucharist, and neither did my friends. We would make fun of the hosts and how terrible they tasted, how they smelled like old cabinets and how easily they got lodged on the roof of our mouths. Looking back on it, I don’t think that these silly conversations with friends were in the name of profanity or disrespect. We simply did not like the taste of the communion hosts. They tasted bad- hard, cardboardy, and stale.

Despite the sub-par taste of the communion hosts, I still feel a deep connection to my childhood church that first introduced the sacraments to me. I still receive the Eucharist weekly, and sometimes more. I still treasure and uphold the profound glory of the body and blood of Christ. However, I cannot help but ponder the implications contained within my early associations of Jesus Christ and these paper-thin and pale disks. What if I associated the act of communion at Church with the sharing and eating of handmade, hearty and whole-wheat loaves of bread? I am not talking about lavishly leavened baguettes, seasoned with copious amounts of salt and sugar, but simple and rustic unleavened bread- the kind that Jesus and his apostles actually ate during the last summer. Why do we eat these little white poker-chips anyways? If we are recreating the Last Supper when we celebrate communion, why don’t we really try to live into this act?  What if the bread we consecrated and ate at mass was made by members of the church? I do not mean to be stirring up nonsense or condemning the companies that make communion hosts, I am just pondering.  This year, I have taken up residence on the grounds of a small Benedictine Convent on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. This is part of an internship rooted in the agrarian lifestyle and structured around the Benedictine model of work and prayer.  As part of our daily routine, I attend morning prayer with the sisters in their small chapel. Sometimes, the communion bread is made by locals in the community. Starting my days out by chanting the lovely and haunting psalms, sharing peace with the sisters, and consuming this delicious and wholesome bread during the Eucharist has drawn me closer to the sacrament. I have found that I consume the consecrated communion bread with a more thoughtful and thankful demeanor. I may just be maturing from my silly childhood days, but I think the homemade and hearty communion bread has something to do with my greater focus on this sacrament... Food for thought!