With the New Year comes the New Year’s Resolution. Polls say 45% of all Americans make at least one resolution, the most popular of which is to lose weight. But according to Opinion Research Corporation, one out of every four people never follow through on their resolution because they set a goal they can’t achieve. I believe the whole process of goal-oriented resolutions is a bit dangerous. Goal-type resolutions set behavioral patterns that are often out of character for who we fundamentally are, and they risk our self-esteem when we miss our mark or give up. Think of it this way: If you resolve to lose 100 pounds but only lose 50, did you achieve your resolution? If you are too goal oriented, then your achievement (50 pounds!) is for naught. Resolutions based on goals are too flat. We need something deeper.
Elsewhere I wrote that the core problem of our food system is that our food has become flattened into mere objects or commodities to be consumed. The solution to this flattening is the reclamation of the depth our food represents. More than a mixture of ingredients, our food is freighted with values, memories, and political processes. When we place a morsel in our mouth we immerse ourselves into these depths. I called this process Deep Kashrut. When it comes to making resolutions for the New Year, instead of thinking of resolutions as flat goals, let’s think of them as life-adjustments to deepen ourselves.
In that spirit, here are five Deep Kashrut Food Resolutions for the New Year that are achievable today:
Eat More Sustainably– The Midrash speaks of the great balance between humanity, land, and rain. Without all three, say the rabbis, prosperity could not exist (Genesis Rabba 8:3). Ask yourself how this food sustains the balance between you (the consumer), the land (the producer), and rain (that is, the greater environmental web). By resolving to make sustainable choices we can be a counter-weight to the overwrought nature of our food system. Choose local, organic produce that has limited or no impact on the environment.
Eat More Spiritually– I remember once eating a fresh peach right off the tree. The yellow flesh, warm from the sun, melted in my mouth like a sun-kissed pudding. The second emotion I felt when eating that peach (the first was total bliss) was gratitude. Thanks for putting me in this place at this time to eat a wonderful fruit. In rabbinic tradition, the connection to food and to its depths through giving thanks is blessing. By reciting blessings, you bring the spiritual dimension into your food life and embed yourself in the natural world by connection to the Life Force that undergirds all of creation.
Eat More Communally– When you share your food with others, you share your life with others. Most people I know have a family member with a signature dish, something that they are known for. That’s part of the depth of food. Resolve this year to share your signature dish with others and ask them to share their creations with you. When you open your kitchen and table to families, friends, and strangers alike you build more community. As a Jewish Food Movement, it is not merely our recipes but our relationships that will change the way we eat.
Eat More Justly– We cannot understand our food if we do not understand how food empowers of impoverishes those who produce it and those who eat it. From international hunger to the farm worker who lives in Steinbeck-like conditions to those who live in areas without access to fresh produce, the food choices we make everyday effect their lives. Resolve this year to support Jewish campaigns that seek to change the political system that uses food as a social weapon. Organizations like (AJWS)[http://www.ajws.org], (Mazon)[http://www.mazon.org], (Rabbis for Human Rights)[http://www.rhrna.org], and my organization, (Netiya)[http://www.facebook.com/NetiyaLA], are all looking at different aspects of the same problem.
Eat More Joyously– Celebrate the New Year by taking joy in your food. Relish the tastes, textures, and smells of each and every bite. By savoring the food on your plate, you can find one of the few keys to real happiness— what you have already is a wonderful thing. “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.” (Psalm 128:2)
This year rather than making flat goals, resolve to make these simple life-adjustments, and you will grow deeper spiritually and help create a more restorative, just and environmentally-friendly food system.
Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino is the founder of Netiya, an L.A.-based network of Jewish organizations focused on food education for environmental and social justice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.