[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1594713057″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41vo4qTug-L.jpg” width=”222″ alt=”Mary DeTurris Poust” ]What are We Hungry For?
A Brief Review of
Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God
Mary DeTurris Poust
Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2012
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Reviewed by Sarah Winfrey
Food. For many of us it’s simultaneously a source of sustenance and one of frustration, of joy and consternation. So many of us have known the power that food can hold, how enjoying food can cross over into hating it and yet we continue to overeat anyway. We’ve experienced how we can use food to try and fill empty places inside of us that are not our bellies, and how we feel afterwards.
As we try to develop healthier attitudes about food, we become more aware of the origins of the food we’re putting into our bodies, we learn about whole foods and organic ones, clean foods, dirty ones, and the evils of high fructose corn syrup. The more we learn, though, the harder it becomes to actually eat, to consume foods that we love without worrying about whether we’ve made the best choice and, honestly, whether we can afford the best choice.
In all of this, we forget to ask God what He thinks, assuming that our attitudes toward food are something we messed up and, therefore, something we should fix all by ourselves. When we attack the problems this way, though, we forget to ask many of the deeper questions that could help us overcome our food issues from the inside out.
There are parts of my own story in this narrative, and parts of Mary DeTurris Poust’s, too. Fortunately, though, she doesn’t stop there. Instead of leaving her readers trekking down the wrong path, she works to help them readjust their courses.
The book begins by asking readers to investigate when they’re actually hungry for. While she makes some suggestions as possible answers to this question, she does leave it open for readers to disagree or have their own, different, responses. Next, she asks readers to examine their deep beliefs about food and prayer and how those interact in the practical aspects of their lives. She also requests that readers examine their beliefs about their bodies, even asking them to look at old photographs that make them cringe.
After that, Poust begins to discuss some of the pieces of her solution to the food problems she’s discussed and that readers have had revealed in their hearts as they’ve done her exercises. She introduces what she calls “sane eating” and gives readers solid and specific ideas to incorporate into their foodie lives. Poust then asks readers to reflect on their personal and family patterns surrounding food, keeping in mind a question of whether there are practices they can incorporate that would lead them to further physical and spiritual health.
To conclude, Poust highlights some monastic practices and ideas regarding food, and discusses ways that prayer and eating can be combined, making both necessities the richer for the combination. Finally, Poust discusses food rituals, both individual and in community, that can turn eating into something that not only benefits the body, but adds to the soul and to community life, too.
While Poust does not say much about food, self-image, and God that has not been said before, the book has a gentle and insightful way about it. It seems willing to act as a reminder, to nudge gently until the reader is able to truly listen. It is a poor-in-spirit book, not attacking the ideas readers hold about food and God, but simply giving them space to listen to themselves and helping them take tiny steps in healthier directions.
Still, the book is packed full of truth. Occasions where people are called upon to name, hold, and discuss their deep hungers are few and far between, and so the fact that Poust uses this as an opening point is remarkable. That she manages to ask these questions in a way that is respectful, gentle, kind, and still probing for truth notes not only her skill as a writer, but her calling to write such a book.
While there have been many books on food and its role in life written from a general Christian perspective, this is one of the first (if not the very first one!) written from a specifically Catholic perspective. Poust doesn’t write in a way that makes the book irrelevant or difficult for an evangelical, but the truth remains that someone outside of her tradition will not resonate or connect with as many portions of the book as a Catholic will. This is especially true when she discusses the Eucharist, which is a point of Catholic doctrine that is difficult for many non-Catholics to understand, and which is central to some of her ideas.
Still, Mary DeTurris Poust’s book is a valuable read for anyone who is ready to examine their ideas about food and God, and who is willing to begin making small changes to these. It is practical and insightful, abstract and solid at the same time, and so will help readers examine their ideas and then move beyond these into the realm of making practical changes in their lives.