Most of us would not call our daily meal a feast. In fact, we take eating for granted unless we are food insecure or live in poverty or are being treated to a fine dining experience. We fast these days for health reasons, not religious ones. Moreover, for many, eating is something that is just done, with little thought and no fanfare.
However this book aims to change our view of food and the lack of it. The format of short chapters with concise conclusions makes this book very attractive and readable. Lyons offers a magisterial history of feasting and fasting, from Cain and Abel to the ascetic monks on Skellig Michael off the coast of Kerry, from the long-term consequences of the Black Death to the challenge of Calvin, and from De Tocqueville’s comments on the American diet. We learn of changes in the design of kitchens and dining rooms, the introduction of the forks, and the histories of animal welfare and vegetarianism.
In clear, considered, and insightful prose, Fintan Lyons weaves together an impressive body of historical and theological literature to argue that ‘the role of food, feast and fast in the Christian life’ must now speak to what he calls ‘the looming environmental crisis’, with answers that are both spiritual and political.
It could be said that no one should be in a leadership role unless they know how to throw a good dinner party. This book explains why.