Was it enrichment? Or gluttony? I’m prompted to ask by my experience at the FGC gathering of the food service at the dining hall as well as the spiritual riches that I felt in my workshop, singing, and other activities.

Was it just all too much?

For now, I'll leave the question of spiritual riches off the table. However, I previously posted about the “simple meal,” the lunch where rice and beans or peanut butter and jelly are served. The ice cream machines are turned off. There is no salad bar.

But there was as much as one wanted of what was offered. There were two kinds of rice – plain brown or Spanish rice with sauce. So, we certainly weren’t deprived.

While it felt in many ways like a token effort, one dad I spoke to said it gave their family a lot to think about. His ten year old had been extremely unhappy with the meal, didn’t like the two choices, and wanted to know why he couldn’t have ice cream. So it sparked discussion for them.

Especially because I blogged during the gathering about the idea of having 3/4 or 5/6 of our meals be “simple,” at meals throughout the week I tried to take only as much as I needed, not as much as I wanted. It grew more challenging as the week went on. At breakfast I usually eat two bowls of cold cereal, so that’s what I started with early in the week. Yet later in the week, when they had pancakes or waffles, I found myself getting one or two of them, as well as a bowl of cereal.

At lunch and dinner I usually helped Five Year Old get an ice cream cone. And usually I helped myself to one, as well. Sometimes only at dinner, but sometimes at lunch, too.

I wasn't alone in piling a fair amount of food onto my tray. Midway through the week a large handwritten sign was posted asking us to be mindful of quantities, and to eat all we take. The amount of food waste was apparently high. It’s especially true for the children, who will take what seems like a reasonable quantity of one item, but the number of choices was so big that they keep piling on one thing after another, until it’s too much to eat in one sitting.

The rumor or urban legend in the dining hall through the week was that someone had heard the staff say, “These Quakers have eaten more ice cream in one week than the students do all semester.” I’m sure it’s exaggerated, but it’s telling that we were repeating it to one another.

There was a simpler eating alternative. The food co-op group of about 40 people was headquartered in the basement of the dorm we stayed in. Perhaps more co-op clusters could be provided at the next gathering.

What is the balance between providing a sufficient variety of healthy food while also meeting a variety of dietary needs and restrictions? Where does enrichment end and gluttony begin? It may be harsh to call it gluttony, but it seems close to my personal experience on some days.


Liz in the Mist said...

Thank you for this post, which has made me re-think some of my own eating habits.

Suzy said...

Enrichment or gluttony? That's a good question ... There was an over abundance of food at River Falls, and I found myself taking way more than I usually eat because of all the choices. They were confounding. Ice cream at breakfast, lunch and dinner? Pie or carrot cake? Hot food or salad for lunch? etc. etc. Ironically, I missed the simple meal; that was the day I crashed and realized that hey, I don't HAVE to go to the dining room just 'cause it's on the schedule. I made my own simple meal in my dorm: p-butter on a whole grain cracker and it was good. It was normal. I like the idea of more simple meals. Maybe one each day. Or fewer choices. Just sandwich makings for lunch, for example. I wonder how it could be made more simple for those who prepare the food. I don't envy someone who has to cook for 1500!

I realized how I have the luxury to have what I eat matter to me. I missed color and texture. I missed preparing my own food (says the woman who at this moment is waiting for the pizza to be delivered.)

I think I arrived at Gathering so overwhelmed by everything that I was not mindful of food and eating. I appreciated the reminders throughout the week. I appreciated where I ended up when it was over.

Thanks, Chris.

Chris M. said...

Liz and Suzy: I'm glad the post gave you food for thought. (Pun intended!) I tried hard to write about my own experience, and not cast judgment on anyone else. I hope that came across.

Suzy, I am mindful that quite a few people who attend have a variety of dietary needs and health issues, thus requiring a variety of choices. That said, I do wonder if these needs could be accommodated adequately even with a simpler set of total choices.

-- Chris M.