The Theology of Food—Eating and the Eucharist
by Angel F. Méndez Montoya, O.P., Ph.D.,
[seventh in the series “Illuminations: Theory and Religion”], Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, United Kingdom, 170 pp., 2009, $60.67.
This book’s author, friar Angel Méndez, a brother of the Southern Dominican Province, USA, is coordinator of the Institute of Faith and Culture at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Santa Fe, Mexico.
This 2009 book, The Theology of Food, offers an amazing blend of philosophical theology with the dynamics of eating and Catholic Eucharistic experience. He states that “theology’s vocation is to become a form of nourishment to people, and in doing so imitate God’s nurturing gesture of sharing.”
Angel says that “theology is analogous to cuisine: a complex mixture of ingredients such as traditions, doctrine, beliefs, personal and communal experience of sharing.” And then he states that the Eucharist narrates “an eschatological banquet forever open to mystery.”
In many ways, this book is replete with heavy terminology, e.g., theopolitics of superabundance, alimentary theology, systems of signification, counter ontology of alimentation, apophatic and cataphatic, and succulent semiotics of excess.
In balancing these phrases, Angel uses the paradigm of molli, a traditional Mexican dish from a Nahuatl word with pre-Colombian roots, and the metaphor of mole poblano, a contemporary Mexican cuisine.
Angel visualizes his theme with references to Laura Esquivel’s 1989 novel, Like Water for Chocolate, and to Isak Dinesen’s 1987 Danish movie, Babette’s Feast (which is a central image of life). This eating and drinking is an ecstatic experience which transforms the self and the community—a reflection on the Eucharist and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Reading and pondering this book serves as a challenge for persons who are accustomed to text messaging and one-liners. Its blending of a communal banquet and philosophy and Eucharist and the reality of the body can certainly enrich our appreciation that food is not “just food.” Eating and the Eucharist is a thought-provoking volume on the wisdom of God’s food. Not an easy read—a challenge for those who are willing to grapple with the riches within this work.