I never did read this book, as I am instantly suspect of any book with “pray” or “prayer” in the title that is also on the New York Times best-seller list. Prayer is too personal and mystical to be a commodity.
I just now watched the trailer for the Julia Roberts-starring film because it was part of a deal where I got paid to do so. And I find myself staring cock-eyed at the computer screen in a sort of wonder.
After watching the trailer I looked up the book just to be certain. And sho’nuff, it’s true. It IS a book about a woman who finds inner peace by eating what she wants, learning to pray and learning to be open to sacrificial love. Mmmm-hmmm. Yes, it is. And it’s a best-seller.
Because I guess if this is your life and you are some sort of bi-coastal bluestocking who takes this journey in exotic places it is worth a bestseller. It’s a story of note. But if you are an ordinary woman in Tennessee who has always lived this way, for whom family, food and communion with the Divine are a basic way of life–then Jamie Oliver starts screaming about how you have a crappy lifestyle, are too fat and must be shamed into oral submission.
You see, I’m from the farm people of the Midwest. I’m just two generations removed from the sort of folk who get up at dawn to gather eggs from chickens, run a combine in the fields and have a big noon meal they call ‘dinner’ to fuel up for an equally busy afternoon. After the sun sets and the cows are milked they have some soup and toast and play a game or watch tv together. On Sundays they go to church. Every other day they read their Bibles and pray.
Eat Pray Love is a way of life to us. For my grandparents it was all they had–apart from the land and the animals that required constant tending and care. It was the way of life my parents brought with them to us. We didn’t have cattle and our garden was small, but we prayed every day, loved each other fully and ate well to sustain the day.
On the many diets I’ve been on before I gave up that false religion there was always much talk about how to fat people food equals love. It was said shamefully, eyes cast down. How dare you find love in food?!? Over the years I’ve realised that the food itself is not love–never thought it was–but the preparing and sharing of that food is an act of communion, a tribute to the gluing-together of lives with real, abiding love. Food is an expression of care. And that is no bad thing. Even a bought-on meal is acquired with money earned through labour. When you share those meals with people you care about you are partaking in something great. And you don’t have to go to Bali to do it.
I am constantly amazed over these last few years at how people removed from the Midwest Way “discover” it out there somewhere and write bestsellers preaching its veracity. It’d be cute if it didn’t point to a larger sadness in the world that needs someone louder than Jamie Oliver to fix it.