and Tomato Pasta
What would Whitehead think?
Dr. Stella M. Čapek, Professor of Sociology,
and Dr. Milič Čapek, Whitehead Scholar
How To Make It?
New York Times Video
Whitehead would remind us that the preparation of roasted eggplant and pasta is a process; that each ingredient contains within it the whole of the universe; that we ourselves are a process as well, also containing the whole of the universe.
In order to explain this he might appeal to Process and Reality and the principle of relativity, or quote Catherine Keller and call it "entanglement." Or he might quote Thich Nhat Hanh and call it "inter-being." The point is the same. We can see the universe in each juicy, ripe tomato and each caper berry.
Since we are preparing the food for others, he would remind us that the act of preparing food as a gift to others unlocks a basis level of our existence which is deeper than all others, the impulse to compassion. Always he would say, we are feeling the feelings of others in an unconscious way, and our feelings of the feelings of others are part of what makes us "us." We are, to use the language of theologians, open and relational in our existence.
This doesn't mean we always express our openness and relational ways in constructive ways We can do so harmfully and often we do But food preparation is one way we can move in such positive directions. One of the purposes of food preparation, he would say, is sharing: and sharing is itself an expression of our empathic depths.
Whitehead would remind us that the embodied Mind of the universe -- God -- is likewise open and relational. He would remind us that every ingredient, and we ourselves, embody countless potentialities that are part of the very mind of God, such that we bring God to life with the preparation of food. The primordial nature of God includes the potentials but is lacking in concreteness until they are actualized. One way that we help God become God is by making food for one another in hospitable ways.
Whitehead would further remind us that there's more to the universe than God. The food we prepare includes its material and social sources (the past actual world) and carries those memories within its textures, such that the very act of eating connects us with a wider world upon which we are dependent and to which we are responsible. He calls this "experience in the mode of causal efficacy."
It is the physical part of our openness and relationality. Accordingly, we can never eat alone, even if no one is present at the meal with us. There is an ethical side to eating and food preparation that we cannot and ought not ignore. We can, and should, eat lovingly and responsibly.
He would remind us to remember our environment, the human and the more than human. He would say that the table on which we eat the food, and the kitchen in which we prepare it, is not simply an objective space but also, and perhaps most importantly, an affective space that includes and evokes feelings and memories for all who walk within it. He would encourage us to remember that each person will experience this affective space in a physical, bodily way, but differently relative to issues of race, age, ability, sexuality, gender.
He would remind us that the very enjoyment of food, the pleasure, is an end in itself, and not simply a means to an end, so that we can and should savor the pleasure. See Patricia Adams Farmer on The Art of Savoring. And he would remind us that this pleasure becomes part of God's ongoing life, adding to divine joy, such that, in a way, we "release sparks" into God, albeit of our own making. As we savor the food, the very Soul of the universe savors. Thus being present to our food, enjoying it, is a spiritual act in its own right: a way of being with God.
He would remind us that the pleasure of the food lies in the contrasts it offers: contrasts to the tongue, to the eye, to the nose, to all the senses He would encourage us to remember that contrasts are one of the eight categories of existence and that contrasts become beautiful through enriching tensions as well as harmonious complements.
He would remind us that the contrasts we enjoy in the food mirror contrasts we seek in our own hearts as we concresce our way through life, forever seeking to weave wholes out of the parts of our lives. Contrasts make the world go round. They are the very "stuff" of satisfying life.
He would remind us that the pleasure is itself determined, not only by the food itself but also by the imaginative feelings we bring to the eating of it: the social imaginaries that lead us to think of it as "our kind of food." Eating food is a bodily act and an imaginative act, neither to the exclusion of the other.
He would remind us that the enjoyment of the food brings with it a perishing of immediacy, such that no meal lasts forever, and thus that, in a life well-lived, we must learn to let go of things as they pass away.
And he would remind us that we are bodily beings, such that, after a meal we might take a good walk for the sake of digestion, after, of course, having cleaned up.
Yes, all of these things, and many more, would come to Whitehead's mind as he helps prepare and eat the roasted eggplant and tomato pasta.
"What 10 principles characterize Whiteheadian thinking in 2017?” (by John Cobb, reposted from Homebrewed Christianity)