by Mallory Naake
This piece was originally published in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps magazine Koinonia. You can read more about Mallory's adventures on her blog, Mallory in Peru.
Food is an essential part of our daily lives. Much of our time is spent harvesting, preparing, eating, disposing of, and talking about food. Every culture has it's specialties that they can be proud of and I feel so lucky to be enjoying the rich cuisine of Perú every day.
At the same time (as I'm sure other international Jesuit Volunteers [JV] can attest to) our community spends a lot of time discussing the food we miss from home. It doesn't help that Mateo (fellow community-mate and teacher of English) and I have been teaching our students about "gringo" food for the past few weeks. After seeing our 70 minute long presentation about the tasty food we eat in the states, I always leave with a longing hunger for the food comforts of home.
But what is important about the food we eat daily? How do we proceed to eat? What are we saying in the Lord's Prayer when we ask God to "give us this day our daily bread"? In our food presentation to the students, we talk about American´s unhealthy habits in regards to fast food and soda that lead to obesity and health problems. Much of my eating time at home was spent scarfing down food in order to move on to my next activity; eating time was less and less spent with friends and family around the table.
And where does our food come from? In the states we have strong feelings about organic food, vegetarianism, how chickens are humanely kept and killed, etcetera. Here in Andahuaylillas my view of the role of food – how I eat, where food comes from, and what is necessary - has been changed by my wasi masis (Quechua for neighbors).
Sharing meals together is an important part of life as a JV in Perú. Our community eats together regularly. Many of our interactions and spaces for sharing with our neighbors takes place around a table. In Perú the biggest meal of the day is lunch which usually includes soup and main course. People take their time savoring the cuisine and enjoying each other. Home cooked meals are something to be proud of and shared.
We also have the joy of sharing every weekday lunch with around 350 kids from Andahuaylillas. Sam (community-mate) runs the parish comedor for kids whose families cannot afford to feed their children abundant lunches. Those families pay only 5 soles (about $1.80) a month for their kids to eat. They can also pay in produce or in labor preparing the food. The comedor is supplemented by entrance fees to our church here in Andahuaylillas; Iglesia de San Pedro – also known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.
We have the great fortune here that our community dinners are supplemented by leftovers from the comedor. We buy the rest of our food at the market in a neighboring town or from the greenhouse on the campus of our school. It's amazing! During or after school, we can walk back to the greenhouse operated by the parent (Marco) of two of our students and literally pull our dinner out of the ground. It´s fresh and delicious without any chemicals…and it`s great to support our wasi masi.
Additionally, we have been supplying scraps and leftover food to another student's family for their pig. They're planning to slaughter the pig in the next few weeks (which is huge now) and we've been invited to partake. It feels right share in the cycle of raising, feeding, and eventually using the animals for sustenance.
In Perú food is an important and dominant part of everyone's lives. We all participate from the process of growing to the time of sharing meals together. Nothing comes in plastic. Hardly anything is wasted. God has blessed us with our needed daily bread without the unnecessary excess we're so used to in the states.
So the next time you drop by a super market I challenge you to think about where your food comes from and what you are putting in your body. And when you return home, take the time to share in the preparation and consumption of that precious gift for which we so often forget to give thanks for.
Mallory Naake is a young United Methodist from Sacramento, California. She was involved with the Sierra Service Project for twelve years, and was the Youth Director for the FUMC Loomis for three years. She was part of the OnFire Borderlinks delegation in 2009, which you can read about here. Mallory is currently serving as a volunteer for two years with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Cusco, Peru. She blogs at Mallory in Peru.