26/March/2009 Filed in: Jottings
In the last couple of months we have had a number of approaches from the media — radio, press and television — the majority of which have been concerned with food in some way. This has sparked an interesting debate in community about the role of food in the monastery and in the world beyond the cloister. We do a number of things that have worldly approval, i.e. we grow our own vegetables, compost with fervour and favour a largely vegetarian diet where the art of recycling left-overs is taken for granted. "No waste, no want" is our watchword. People are often fascinated by our wine-making and brewing, our making of jams and chutney, our breadmaking and suchlike because it suggests a world that never was, where food was always pure and wholesome and appeared as if by magic in copious quantities in enchanting Quattrocento refectories. The reality is much duller. Like everyone else, we have to prepare meals in haste and juggle conflicting demands. Where I think we do have an advantage is in our linking food to the liturgical year. Our refectory is an extension of our oratory, so the rhythm of feast and fast is echoed in the dishes that appear on the table. A little humour is also a good idea: apples when we read the story of the Fall; lentil broth when we read of Jacob outwitting his brother Esau; scones when we read the Elijah cycle, and so on. No whalemeat for Jonah, though, and not many fatted calves at any time.