Eating Heaven: Spirituality at the Table
Simon Carey Holt
People who bought Eating Heaven have also bought Simon’s previous book, God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighbourhood.
Simon Carey Holt was interviewed by Rachael Kohn on Sunday 8 December for her program The Spirit of Things on ABC’s Radio National. If you would like to listen to the interview, click here (mp3 format).
Eating Heaven was launched on Tuesday 8 October 2013 at Reader’s Feast Bookstore in Melbourne.
Click here to download your free pdf copy of the first chapter of Eating Heaven by Simon Holt.
Please note that this title is also available as an eBook (eISBN: 9780987428646). To purchase this title as an eBook, follow the instructions on our eBook page. You can also follow these direct links:
You can also read more articles by Simon on his ‘Eating Heaven’ blog.
Sitting down at a table to eat is an activity so grounded in the ordinary, so basic to the daily routines of life, we rarely ponder it beyond the simple inquiry, ‘What’s for dinner?’ However, scratch a little deeper and you discover in eating one of the most meaning-laden activities of our lives, one so immersed in human longing and relationship that it takes on sacred dimensions.
A trained chef, teacher, social researcher, minister of religion and homemaker, Simon Carey Holt draws on experience and research to explore the role of eating in our search for meaning and community. To do so, he invites us to sit at the tables of daily life – from kitchen tables to backyard barbecues, from cafe tables to the beautifully set tables of Melbourne’s finest restaurants – and consider how our life at these tables interacts with our deepest values and commitments.
Kate Bracks – Winner, Masterchef Australia 2011:
This easy-to-read commentary on the everyday ritual of eating has evoked memories I’d long forgotten and simultaneously allowed me to sit at others’ tables for a while. I’ve pondered the relationship between food and community, questioned my approach to the tables at which I sit, felt the warmth of each eating experience leap from the pages, and reveled in the ‘realness’ of it all.
Hugh Mackay – Social researcher and author:
In a highly readable blend of the anecdotal and the scholarly, Simon Holt has demonstrated why ‘grazing with the herd’ is such a universal human practice. Our nature is relentlessly, essentially social, and the table – whether in cafe, home or church – is the place where our need of each other is most poignantly expressed.
Tim Costello – CEO, World Vision Australia:
‘Eating Heaven’ is a soulful reflection by a man who savours Melbourne as a city. He explores it through the way people share food and table together. Through stories, reflections and recipes, he warms the heart, feeds the body and nourishes the soul.
Lin Hatfield Dodds – National Director, UnitingCare Australia:
Who doesn’t have a checkered relationship with food? Buying it, eating it, cleaning up after it. We live in a culture increasingly obsessed with ‘food porn’ but divorced from an awareness of food as a daily ritual of connection and meaning. Simon Holt cuts through the froth and bubble to sit us down at a series of tables in which the gathered experience of sharing a meal is the key to reflecting on the good life. Family, culture, community, and place are illuminated through the lens of a coffee, a meal, a feast. Eating Heaven manages to simultaneously ground and elevate, bringing the sacred back into the everyday. It is a book for everyone who eats and wants to think a little about this daily, often unexamined, activity. Eating Heaven will restore your faith in food and feed your faith.
Simon Carey Holt is the senior minister of Melbourne’s Collins Street Baptist Church. Prior to becoming a minister, Simon qualified and worked as a chef. His continuing passions for food, theology and the city inspire his writing.
As we move towards our Christmas Day preparations for the Meal to End All Meals, with expectations heightened by all around you, let’s remember why we do this Every Single Year, even if we are not religious, spiritual or family orientated. Holt’s sweet Eating Heaven is our wake up call. Our herd animals instinct draws us to each other and to a shared space. Eating together is the most meaning laden activities of our life. It’s how we communicate, and how we survive.
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by all around you, this engaging little book is an easy-to-read demonstration of our most social of activities. Author Simon Carey Holt is the senior minister of Melbourne’s Collins Street Baptist Church. Prior to becoming a minister, Simon qualified and worked as a chef. His book is not an ode to organized religion, thankfully, but more a study of humanity through various meal times. He writes about culture, society, and Melbourne. The book reminds us that we live in a community and that our most precious gift to each other is sitting around a table together.
Merry sharing to each and every one of you.
Review by Anne Hamilton
I have the secret at last! Well, half the secret, at any rate.
When there’s a special family occasion, my brother sometimes asks an old Russian friend to bake one of her famous cakes. They are rich, scrumptious confections made of thin pancake–like layers, topped with bouquets of exquisite roses fashioned from icing. We’ve puzzled long and hard over that cake’s construction. She won’t even tell us its name, let alone how to make it.
However, bravo to Simon Carey Holt for not only revealing it’s Baumkuchen, a ‘tree cake’, but providing a recipe from Anna, an extraordinary German pastrycook he met during his professional stint in the kitchen. I wouldn’t want to give the impression Eating Heaven is a recipe book. Far from it. Every chapter however is followed by a recipe which in some way characterises the ‘food for thought’ in the chapter.
I love the unusual mix of heavenly–minded philosophy and practical down–to–earth recipes. I cheer for anyone trying to break down the walls between various subject specialties and integrate them. The world is far too fragmented already and to talk about food is a potential minefield, even if the topic is about something so commonplace. It risks the very thing Holt is keen to avoid in his encounters with fellow consumers of food: exclusion rather than inclusion.
Holt is a trained chef and minister of religion, amongst other talents. He has the advantage of working in the centre of Melbourne with its laneways where the choice of cafés is mind–tingling. To someone from suburban Brisbane who can still remember the first packet of an exotic beverage called ‘coffee’ entering our family home in the late 50s, this is another, almost alien, world.
From the outset, Holt recognises the challenge in writing a book about food and the soul: for many people, eating conjures up negative and even destructive thoughts. Those of a more religious mindset tend to see fasting as more ‘spiritual’ than feasting, though as Holt points out, fasting and feasting are not opposites—fasting and gluttony are. Moreover he also suggests that, in the ordered society of Jesus’ day—in many ways, so much like our own—where table companions define our position in the social scheme of things, he was a supreme iconoclast.
I remain bemused by the variety of cooking shows on television, the celebrity status of the contestant chefs and the viewers’ obsession with following their favourites. I can’t help but contrast the message of this book with that fake world where food is about everything except love and sacrifice.
As Holt moves through chapters on the backyard barbecue on to cafés and then to five–star dining, culminating in the communion table, he has immensely valuable things to say on the dining experience. ‘To share food at the same table is a covenantal act. It always has been. In the Ancient Near East, the incubator of food culture, the sharing of food carried lifelong bonds of obligation for host and guest.’
The older I get and the more I understand about covenant as oneness, the more I see that Holt is right that the ordinary things of life need to be redeemed.
ANNE HAMILTON is a multi–award winning author. Her most recent book is God’s Panoply: The Armour of God and the Kiss of Heaven. She is currently researching threshold covenants (also called cornerstone covenants) which, because they are partly about hospitality, may well account for how much she enjoyed Eating Heaven.