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Liquid food can’t fill your heart

Viewpoint Columnist | Monday, October 7, 2013

One of my housemates has a subscription to New Scientist magazine. We’ve been getting it since the summer. Old copies have found their way into our couch cushions, desks, bookshelves, coffee tables and the wheeled plant holder in our bathroom.
Since I spend at least some portion of my day in the bathroom, I’ve found myself reading about frogs with thorny moustaches, North Korean volcanoes and many other interesting occurrences on a daily basis. The other day, however, I came across an article that was most troublesome.
As I was relaxing on my porcelain throne, I read about a new drink that, allegedly, provides one with all the nutrients of a normal meal. Supposedly, this liquid can completely replace food.
I then pictured the library full of messy-haired, baggy-eyed students staring blankly at their LCD screens and mumbling into a plastic bottle of liquid-food. After reading over their class notes for the 16th time, they down the last milliliters of fluid and toss the empty bottle in the small plastic mountain growing by the recycling bin. I saw a world without food. We were liberated from the oppression of three square meals and flossing – delivered to the promised land of met deadlines and ever increasing productivity.
Although my imagination got a little carried away, I don’t think my worries were completely unfounded. Sometimes it seems like amidst the deadlines, events and lectures that saturate our schedules, we forget that we are human. We get bits of food stuck in our teeth. We use toilets. We spend some part of a 24-hour day in a completely vulnerable state – eyes closed, mouth drooling and limbs unfurled. This is important.
It can be easy for us, especially as students, to be consumed by our end goals. Whether it’s a perfect GPA or simply getting a paper turned in on time, it is second nature for us to justify cutting back on sleep and turning up our intake of caffeine without any remorse. I’ve found myself, many times, avoiding conversations with friends or ignoring my mom’s phone calls because I need to finish an assignment. Just last week, I tried to eat lunch while doing a problem set and skimming a book before class. This liquid-food is made for people like me, the over-committed student.
I have heard many friends recite the mantra, “school is most important.” While our actions may reflect this idea, in reality, it is simply not true. We are not primarily students. We are primarily people. We have a different set of necessities than those that are purely academic. We require more nourishment than the daily recommended vitamin and calorie intake.
Simply put, liquid food can’t fill your heart.
As some of you may know, I live in a house where the members try to live intentionally. To us, this means we try to be loving in our actions to each other as a community and to the other communities of which we are a part (school, city, clubs, etc.). This year, one of the ways we do this is by sharing meals.
Eating with others is a really surprising thing. All seated at the table, we are brought to the same level. We get to see the humanness of everyone’s grinding teeth and growling stomachs. Whether you are with best friends or worst enemies, you have something in common: you must eat to live. This commonality fosters more honest conversation.
During the day, it is easy to only speak in small talk. But at the table, there is space to share something deeper. For example, when Chris cooks, we learn about his love of his hometown New Orleans and about his childhood meals. When we use food from our garden, we may talk about hopes for next year’s crop or come up with new ideas for meals. These seedlings of conversations then grow into blossoming thoughts, worries or joys that we’ve been silently pondering throughout the day.
These moments make the extra effort of cooking, dishwashing and schedule compromising worth it. The table becomes the space where friendships are strengthened and people are accepted for who they are. This is something that we all need as people and something that time-saving liquid-food can’t provide.
I’d like to conclude this column by inviting you all to share a meal. A group of students have reserved space in Geddes Coffeehouse this Friday for fellowship and food. We’ve invited campus musicians and poets to create a nice coffeehouse setting from 2 to 7 p.m., and then we will eat supper at 7:30. Sorry, we won’t have any bottled liquid-food. But coconut-ginger-butternut-squash soup, lemon garlic kale sauté, toasted cashews, apple cinnamon crumble, vanilla ice cream and honest conversation will be there in abundance.

Jon Schommer is in his fifth-year studying Civil Engineering and the Program of Liberal Studies. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.