REVIEWED BY REV. REBECCA CRAVER |
The Spirit of Soul food is a fascinating exploration of the cultural lessons to be learned from the daily practices of food preparation, cultivation and the power of community that is shared around the table. Christopher Carter digs deep into the divide between African and African American food practices. The focus on food throughout history and the ways that it has been used by dominant cultural narratives to demean or to uplift the life of African and African American community in the United States was fascinating and invited deeper questions on my part.
The focus on food pathways demonstrates the present-day impact of historical wrongs and systems of oppression that continue. I would not consider myself any kind of expert on food or practices of food in communities, although I have experienced the power of food in my life and the ways food relates to communal identity and praxis. This book expanded my understanding of the history of food in the United States. I appreciated learning about the ways that food has been and will continue to be at the intersections of race, faith, and justice. The chapter “Being Human as Praxis” brings into focus the work of justice in participating and cultivating foodways “that contribute to the flourishing of Black and other marginalized communities.” (89) As Christians, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper—Jesus at the table with his disciples, friends, calling us to RE-member that his body and blood are given for us. It strikes me that the call to remember is also a call to bring back together that which has been separated. There is power in sharing a meal with others and it is a power that binds together. The challenge to white Christians, like me, is to learn from others’ experience of food and the practices that have sustained communities in the face of oppression and violence. It will likely invite changes to the foods we eat, the things we plant and the people with whom we find ourselves around the ever-lengthening table.
This book was an intriguing exploration about food that helped me to see the many connections to other areas of anti-racist action, decolonization, and the work of liberation. Food is something that all humans need for living, but food also connects humans to more of the meaning of life. I would encourage anyone seeking greater understanding of the history of the United States of America, the history of food, and Christians who want to learn more that will enable them to follow Jesus more faithfully with siblings who have been impacted by the systems and cultures that have participated in creating the world as it is now.
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About the reviewer
As Director of Congregational Development, Rebecca works with congregations and provincial leadership to provide resources and support their ongoing work towards greater health and vitality. She works to cultivate collaborative relationships between and among pastors, congregations, provincial and interprovincial agencies and other partners. Working with communities of faith, her passion for capacity building and innovation have shaped her 15 year career in ordained ministry. She has led communities in reimagining their structures, practices, and traditions as they embrace Jesus’ call, supporting them through organizational change, worship creation, and adult learning curriculum. Rebecca’s evenings and weekends are often spent investing in good conversation over a mocha, making new connections in the community, or delighting in the laughter of her children and spouse. Email Rebecca.
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