Even simple food is complex. Ask someone to define “simple food,” and you may get a variety of responses. It may be interpreted as low-salt or flavorless food; food purchased under the constraints of a small budget; food that provides essential nutrients while lacking the excitement of tons of sugar or fat; vegetarian and/or vegan food; raw and/or uncooked foods; organic; non-GMO; etc. On top of all of these interpretations, an individual’s definition of simple food can be further compounded by factors like culture, class, geographical location, and even education.

Building upon a social analysis of food last week at Franciscan Mission Service, simple food can also be defined from the point of view of Franciscan living. Simplicity is one foundation of Franciscan living. Thus, when food is analyzed from the point of view of Franciscan simplicity, a whole other set of definitions of simple food can be offered. These definitions draw upon spiritual and moral issues that are grounded in the practice of social and environmental justice, as well as solidarity with those without both sufficient food and sufficient voice in globalized agriculture.
For example, is a type produce more simple if it is purchased from a farmers’ market or from a grocery chain? Is food more simple if it is grown organically or grown using an array of pesticides? Is food more simple if it is raised in a community garden in the hot summer sun or bought in saran wrap in the air conditioned grocery store? Is food more simple if it is purchased locally in season or purchased in the middle of winter where it was grown hundreds or even thousands of miles away? Is food more simple if it is not eaten due to fasting or eaten in overindulgence? Or, is food more simple if it is prepared from scratch using a stove or if it is zapped from a frozen to steaming state in the microwave? The answers to each of these questions can have a varying effect upon individual health, the health of communities, and even the health of the planet. However, based upon one’s living circumstances, the answers to these questions aren’t always as simple as we would like them to be.
For Reflection: What is your definition of simple food from the point of view of Franciscan simplicity?
Written by: Matt Lorch