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A Happy Hen is a Tasty Hen

I was brought up by a muesli-mother. She grew, milked and bred most of what was placed before us at meal times and what she couldn't produce herself, she ordered from a whole food delivery company from where she obtained her muesli by the sack load.

My childhood memories are filled with food production. I remember the sight of jam being made in the kitchen. Mum poured stewed fruit into a hammock-like structure made of a sheet of muslin tied between two chairs. The juice from the fruit would drip slowly through the muslin into a bowl. It was delicious. Less fondly I remember the taste of soil in the vegetables and the pungent stench of goat's milk which filled the house.

My earliest rebellion—before cigarettes and booze—was to eat fast food whenever I went out to lunch. All my mother's hard work in getting me to eat healthily was lost as I gorged on big macs and strawberry shakes (I never liked the fries). But, her influence in how I see food is appreciable to this day. My mother's axiom, “a happy hen is a tasty hen” led to a vociferous hatred of battery farming and what can only be described as organo-snobbery. For the latter I repent as I am now a poor college student and am unable to afford such luxuries as organic food.

Above all my mother led me to appreciate food for more than its material value. For my mother, food was more than fuel. It was an object of beauty and making it was a process of romance. In the face of the efforts to industrialize farming, my mother made food production more artful. Not fine art, as her crumbly bread would attest to, but beautiful nonetheless.

As thrift makes a comeback, it is likely that there will be a reemergence of musli-mothers who, whilst looking for cheap food, will reject industry's produce and begin to look to their mothers and grandmothers for some advice on self-sufficiency.

Food, however it is produced, is not the result of human efforts alone. It is the result of a gracious God who supplies our needs. Our physical need is met by the nutrition which attests to his providence. As the psalmist writes, “He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-bringing forth food from the earth” (Psalm 104:10-14).

The creation also points to beauty and our desire to worship. That is because the beauty of food attests to the beauty of God. Our response to him should be gratitude for the nutrition and worship for the beauty. In fact our worship joins in with the creation's worship of God, “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds” (Psalm 148:7-10).

We have significantly twisted these two attitudes. Now we either treat agriculture as a work of man without giving credit to God, or we bow down before nature in idolatry. But God's creation is a witness to the creator, “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17).

Consequently, his anger is aroused when we do not recognize him either for his providence or for his nature. For this, we are without excuse: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:18-23).