The World on a Plate

What is it that is before you each time you sit down to eat? For what are you giving thanks?

Every Saturday morning I take Ben to his guitar lesson at Crossways Music in Beeston (above the Christian bookshop). In the half hour the lesson lasts, I head to the Flying Goose a few doors down, and enjoy what I think is the world’s best Welsh Rabbit.

But this morning, as I gave thanks, I stopped to reflect on what I was thanking God for.

  • The people in the shop who had prepared this for me—their expertise and their service.
  • The products themselves—the bread, the cheese, the milk and the other ingredients—ultimately gifts from God, the giver of all.

So far, so good—but I realised that there was a lot more to it.

  • The cheese that I was eating was one of 700 varieties produced in Britain alone. Behind the activity of those who made this cheese, and brought it to me, lie generations of expertise and experimentation.
  • As Neil McGregor points out, both the domestication of cows, and the adaptation of humans to drinking milk, took thousands of years. So the milk the cheese is made from represents a complex process of human development.
  • Similarly, behind the processes of actually growing the wheat, harvesting it, grinding it to flour, making the bread and baking and transporting it, lies thousands of year of cultivation, from wild grass to the wheat varieties we have today.
  • I also thought of those who had carefully planted, tended and harvested the spring onions which gave the Welsh Rabbit its ‘zing.’
  • And of course behind all this is the gift of God in rain, sun and fertile earth which allows all of this to happen.

So, as I was thanking God for my Welsh Rabbit, I was in fact giving thanks for this complex, interconnected, developed web of relationships that led to its production—the whole world of human activity on a plate.

But it is a world and a web that is looking increasingly fragile; perhaps saying grace is more important than we realise.

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