Blue tit on the handEating is predatory touch—touch turned into destruction. The first touch is taste, as the molecules of flavor intermingle with the tongue. Then we must grind the food down to a pulp (touching it again and again) before we swallow it. Then we digest (and therefore again touch) the food through chemical hand-to-hand combat. We certainly touch the food as it moves through us, along the length of the digestive tract—the tube that runs through us—in a kind of gustatory massage of peristalsis wherein we are now touched by the reality we swallowed.

Mahadevi, a twelfth-century female devotee of Shiva, suggested another option:

“Finger may squeeze the fig to feel it, yet not choose to eat it” (Ramanujan 1973, 133).

Indeed, why not, every now and then, touch food without eating it? Why not, on occasion, take the predatory element of touch out of eating? Rescue one of the apples you brought home from its digestive fate by tossing it out the window. Let the random chaos of nature do the chewing for you this time. Set a precedent of nonpredatory, nonutilitarian touch.

For a change, let food be something other than food, and let yourself be more than just an eater.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2011).

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar