Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 103

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE generations that follow: our children and their children. Thus, sharing of food is sharing of life with one another. For that reason, food is hardly ever considered as something to be consumed in isolation; it is something that is to be enjoyed communally. In other words, partaking of food is about the participation of the whole community. Since the life of the people is bound up with the land, the food yielded by the land must be shared by all. To rephrase, the food yielded by the land is the life of all who live on the land, and therefore, it is only right that it be shared among them all. By way of illustration, our ancestors chose the term used for the experience of having food stuck in one’s throat to be the term for “children” because it depicts the love that parents have for their children. In a symbolic sense, the food gets stuck in their throat when they are about to eat if their children are not present to share the meal with them. Some even lose their appetite. The mealtime as a shar ing of life between parents and children is so ingrained within the parents’ mind that they need their children to be present and share the meal with them in order for them to be able to enjoy their food. Similarly, this is how a Chuukese person feels when he or she is about to eat and remembers his or her loved ones. He or she can enjoy the food only if he or she shares it with them. In some cases where a relative is not present, those present will ensure that he or she shares in the meal by delivering his or her share to his or her house. For instance, when I arrived in Portland in 2012, I brought food from our islands. Because the food that I brought is not mine alone but it belonged to the rest of my family who reside in Oregon, we ate it together. One of my uncles who lived in Salem was not able to come to the gathering, so we brought him some of that food. This communal outlook on food is deeply rooted in our culture. Furthermore, this understanding of eating as a sharing of life extends into how we view our lives together in community. That we share life together via food means that we will also care for one another in other areas of life. Putting it another way, since we share life through food, we will also bear our struggles and enjoy our blessings together. The needs of each person in the community are the need of the whole community. This sharing of life is not merely a sharing of life in an abstract sense, but a sharing of life that involves practically caring for one another. These two reasons (i.e., the act of eating denotes openness and vulnerability with one another, and food symbolizes joy and life), demonstrate that love and relationship is at the heart of the reason why food is of utmost significance in Chuukese culture. It is our instrument by which to express love toward one another. 100