ART OF THE INNER MEAL by Donald Altman


Eating as a Spiritual Path
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Former Buddhist monk Altman investigates the spiritual aspects of eating. Mealtimes, he tells us, can be far more than the rushed, slapdash affair so many Americans participate in today: Dinner ought not be a cruise through a McDonald’s drive-through but a repast. Altman draws on a range of religious traditions in fashioning an alternative to today’s hurried, harried consumption. He shares the Buddhist lesson of the Middle Way—one ought not gorge nor starve, but find a via media —between the extremes of excess and abstinence.— Judaism’s practice of blessing every morsel that enters one’s mouth appeals to Altman, as do the Jewish commandments to feed the poor and open one’s table to strangers on holidays. (His investigation of Judaism would have been bolstered by more on the Levitical dietary laws.) Noticing that some of Jesus— most famous miracles involve food and drink, Altman explores Christian attitudes toward eating, emphasizing the connections Christians draw between eating, communion, and community. Readers are encouraged to take on the Japanese tea ceremony, which both puts one in a position to give and receive and —provides an exquisite model for bridging the gap that exists in our modern lives between harmony and commotion, thoughtfulness and carelessness, aesthetics and coarseness, respect and selfishness.— A constant motif, from Altman’s musings about God’s giving man dominion over the animals in Genesis to his —Seven Steps to Strengthening Your Ecospirituality,— is a concern for the environment and stewardship. He’s concerned with nutritional eating, too, yet does not prescribe a list of do’s and don—ts. Above all, he urges personal responsibility: We don—t necessarily have to give up hamburgers because beef is an inefficient source of protein, but we should be aware of the consequences of culinary choices. A useful reminder of a truth the great religious leaders all knew: You are what you eat.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-251635-3
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999