Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 100

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 2 2016 FOOD, CULTURE, AND THE ACT OF EATING: A LOOK AT THE ROLE AND VALUE OF FOOD THROUGH THE LENS OF MICRONESIAN CULTURE Grateful Nokar∗ Within the Micronesian cultures, specifically the Chuukese culture, food holds a central place in the daily interactions of the people. As a matter of fact, food is involved in every occasion in the islands of Chuuk so much so that in both our informal (e.g., a friendly chat with a neighbor) and formal interactions (e.g., wedding ceremony), food is always present. Why is this the case? How is food perceived from a Micronesian (Chuukese) lens, and what does it mean when he or she shares food with another? Food is present in every occasion in Chuukese culture because, first, the act of partaking of food denotes openness and vulnerability—highly valued qualities—among people. Second, food symbolizes joy and life. Ultimately, sharing food with one another symbolizes love and relationship with one another. These understandings behind food in the culture are brought to their fuller meaning in Christ who made himself vulnerable and demonstrated his genuine love for us when he shared a meal with his disciples during the Last Supper. Partaking of Food as Openness and Vulnerability The first reason food is involved in every aspect of Chuukese culture is because the act of eating denotes openness and vulnerability. In Chuukese understanding, “to eat” means “to open.” It means “to open” because partaking of a meal not only opens the mouth so that food can enter into one’s body, but also opens up the person’s life to the other person with whom he or she shares the food. Thus, we make ourselves vulnerable to the other person. In a very real sense, we open our lives to the other person in such a way that he or she can either enrich or hurt us. This simple act of sharing a meal with another person can either be a productive experience or a destructive one. DOI: ∗ Grateful Nokar is a student at Multnomah Biblical Seminary and is a member of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins; 97