Friday Book Giveaway: Bread, Body, Spirit


Have you ever had a meal that completely transcended the food – one that perhaps even bordered on a spiritual experience? What was it about that meal that blurred the lines between sacred and every day? Was it the beauty of the food itself? The fractal swirls of color and texture in a sliced onion or beet? Was it a meal where the food served as a ritual extension of a holiday, like dipping warm challah into salt or honey on Shabbat? Or was it the company and conversation that heightened the meal to the next level?

These are the questions asked in Alice Peck’s new interfaith food anthology, Bread, Body, Spirit.

As someone who majored in Environmental Studies with a focus on Religion (yay, Middlebury!), I’ve read more than my fair share of self-indulgent, eco-spiritual anthologies. Granted I *loved* them, but if I wasn’t entrenched in that world, they would have completely bored me. With an eye for emotion over academia and a collection of powerhouse contributors like Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Thich Nhat Hahn, and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalom, Bread, Body, Spirit offers a completely accessible and engaging set of short stories, poems, and religious texts that made me laugh and feel well equipped with “Torah” to bring to my own dinner table.

Below the jump: An excerpt from Bread, Body, Spirit and a chance to Win a Copy.

bbs.jpgWin your own copy of Bread, Body, Spirit. JTS philosophy professor, Dr. Neil Gilman, has been known to say: “If you need proof that God exists, look no further than a sliced red onion.” Tell us which food or food experience taps YOU into a sense of sacredness. Leave your comment by Thursday, August 7, and be entered into the raffle.

Want further inspiration? Check out this excerpt in Bread, Body, and Spirit, by Martin Buber:

His Table An Altar – Martin Buber

It is told of the Zaddik [righteous one] of Berditchev that while he was still young he was once staying with his friend, the Rabbi of Nikolsburg, and that while he was staying with him, he caused general offence [sic], because he went into the kitchen dressed in his prayer shawl and with the double phylacteries on his forehead, and asked after the preparation of the food; and also because he would enter into talk with the most worldly man about all kinds of apparently idle things, even in the house of prayer; that was profanation of the sacred garments, profanation of the sacred place, profanation of the sacred hour, and it was as such thrown up against him.

But the Master said, “What it is only in my power to do for three hours during the day, this man is able to do all day long, he can keep his mind collected, so that he establishes sublime unions also by the talk that is counted for idle.” The central desire of the zaddik is to hallow that which is worldly. His meal is a sacrifice, his table an altar.

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21 Responses to “Friday Book Giveaway: Bread, Body, Spirit”

  1. S Carrico Says:

    Bread. Most certainly bread. In particular, going from flour, water, yeast and salt, to a heavy, unappealing pale mass, to the the kitchen filling with the aroma of yeasty goodness, to the oven… all of those beautiful holes and crumbs encased in brown crusty goodness [my favorite thing in the world], becoming a meal in itself or a conduit for almost any other food under the sun. Oh yes. It’s bread.

  2. Jess in Boston Says:

    I feel that way about soup — when I can spend a whole day making a pot of chicken soup, it’s akin to meditation. I am rarely as relaxed as I am on those days.

  3. Edith Stevenson Says:

    I believe in the humble carrot! Think about this amazing food, which needs such minimal culinary skill to enjoy: its seed, which practically requires a magnifying glass to see, grows secretly underground, can be harvested year round in milder climates or forgotten about under a blanket of snow, to become an early spring surprise! It can be eaten raw, or steamed, stir-fried or baked, sliced, diced, grated, or pureed………. and can also be made into CAKE!! Perhaps one has to follow the carrot from seed to table to feel the sprirituality of it all, but that first bite while standing in one’s field is unlike any complicated recipe!

  4. chyk Says:

    making challah always puts me in a sacred spot. it is such a love filled effort

  5. Stu Botwinik Says:

    It has to be the gefilte fish balls. Not the odd shaped logs I eat as an appetizer before every major holiday dinner…We break the Yom Kippur fast at my shul with a small herring/gefilte fish/rugelach food orgy (imagine 400 people diving into 4 small tables of the stuff). I’ve spent an entire day in deep prayer and thought without more than an olive size lifesaver to tide me over…oh how that cold fish meatball taps my inner sacred self…

  6. Jess Friedman Says:

    For me, too, it is making bread. In my first year of teaching, I discovered the transformative power of this process. On a Thursday evening, instead of focusing on grading and planning, I focused on bread. The multiple steps, and the waiting time required between each one, require me to plan my evening around the bread. I look forward to the contemplative time I spend kneading, feeling the gluten form between my fingers. Before each rising, I can barely contain my excitement: will it rise? If so, how much? And then I experience the wonder when the dough has filled the bowl, or the disappointment when my faulty yeast or flour has prematurely ended my bread-making. When it rises, and I get to bake the bread, the smell permeates my home, filling me with the feeling of wholeness, the sense of sacred warmth.

  7. Debs Says:

    For me, the simple act of sharing homemade food with someone I love, when I’m lucky enough to experience it.

    Food Is Love

  8. shev Says:

    Pomegranates. They are one of the 7 species of Israel, and they seem infused with holiness, are stunning to look at, special to eat with each tiny pit popping in your mouth, and they remind me of fertility, both of people and the earth. A gorgeous fruit.

    And of course, making challah; when the dough is just so, soft, pliable; and braiding it and placing it, the whole process is its own cycle; we could (maybe should?)create a whole list of tefilot, one for each stage.

    And by the way, I love this question, and I love the answers that everyone is giving. What a great list!

  9. Becka Says:

    Strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar. It’s a slow food, because you dip each one, reqires no cobest when the strawberries are really, really fresh.

  10. Rabbi Shmuel Says:

    maple syrup – for me the best part is once I have collected the sap from the hundreds of buckets which line the forest, I go and lay down in the middle of the sugarbush and listen to the ping ping ping as drops of sap play their sacred song in the resonating buckets like a chorus of divine steel drums.

  11. Sandy Says:

    Honey…collected, diligently by unkosher insects, yet completely kosher. Golden sweetness…The honey comb cut right at harvest time, hot from the uncapping knife is a taste of heaven itself.

  12. Mama Beckala Says:

    I find the act of cooking very therapeutic. Whenever I’m sick, I always feel the urge to cook something – the store bought version will never do.

  13. stacey Says:

    In late autumn and through the winter, I can imagine little better than the process and the results of roasting root vegetables.
    Potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, yams, celeriac (or any combination) start hard and dirty and unfriendly. With some knife work, oil, heat & time, everything gets soft and sweet and bursting with flavor. The home is warmed and smells delicious. All that is needed is a light sprinkling of salt, but a healthy dose of miso-tahini dressing doesn’t hurt either.

  14. hannah Says:

    Berries. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries. For just a few weeks of the year you can eat your fill of berries that come right off the bush, that have grown without human interference. I find nothing more wonderful than quietly, carefully picking blackberries off a bush, steering clear of wasps and thorns, and popping them straight into my mouth (or, if I can control myself, saving them for later, maybe making some into jam so I’ll be able to enjoy the sweetness of the berries during the winter). You can taste the sun that has gone into the berries, that has made them sweet and juicy.

  15. Judith Says:

    Growing, cooking and eating my own food is as much of a spiritual experience as it is a sensory one. It nourishes my body. It nourishes my being. It nourishes my desire to feel connected to the earth and its rhythms. That said – the first taste of each season – the first tomato, the first strawberry, the first new potato, the first peach … is always something special. I also gather new nettles and dandelions in the Spring and add them to quiche. I feel connected to the ancestors who wild-harvested greens to survive.

  16. carol koenig Says:

    Preparing a seder meal….from the shopping, organizing and finally being able to start the preparation of all the special foods. It begins with planning the menu and seeing it all come together…being exhausted but so uplifted at the experience of having everyone at the table, sharing the food and the experience of the holiday.

  17. Ilissa H. Says:

    For me it is a whole dinner: roasted chicken, with mashed potatoes, gravy and peas and carrots. It brings back a lot of wonderful memories. It is a meal that truly makes me feel at peace.

  18. Leah Koenig Says:

    Thanks everyone for sharing your moments when food and spirituality combine. (Rabbi Shmuel, I loved thinking about the meditative plunk of warm syrup into cold steel buckets…quite a symphony you must have up there.)

    Congratulations to Stu Botwinik, who was randomly selected to win a copy of Bread, Body, Spirt (thanks!)

    Keep checking back for more opportunities to win great books, cookbooks, and other foodie goods!

  19. De Herman Says:

    It’s still August 7th, so here’s my contribution:

    36 Jewels

    We take our brisk constitutional up the road
    The forest, heavily watered from storm after storm
    And the greenery, filled out, thick and lush all around
    Make for a sensuous visual and olfactory delight

    But the crowning achievement from my point of view
    Are the stunning red and black fruits on thorny bushes
    They beckon: Look at me, taste me, savor me
    Let me sweeten your being with the riches of mine

    We pick, bless, and eat the wondrous gems one at a time
    And let them pierce our tastebuds with a flavorful burst
    While gentle breezes wash our faces
    And Baltimore Orioles sing sweetly in our ears

    I pick more berries, but rather than lap them up,
    Hold them gently the whole way back to the cabin
    Guarding the small treasures from bumps and bruises
    Imagining the delicious breakfast to come

    Cheese pancakes dripping with maple syrup
    Orange juice spiked with cranberry
    And summer’s peachy toned cantaloupe, bedecked with the 36 jewels I’ve carried
    Mouthwatering gifts from the Source of Life and the mountain we love

  20. bibliochef Says:

    Hey, I just reviewed it too; I agree with a focus more on emoting (I think the verb) than academia, and I am a bit allergic to the touchy-feely sort of tone.But there’s good stuff here too. And certainly a good lineage of authors. I wonder what a more academoc version would feel like? read like?

  21. soft play Says:

    soft play…

    The Jew and the Carrot » Blog Archive » Friday Book Giveaway: Bread, Body, Spirit – Voice of the New Jewish Food Movement…

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