There is a world of difference in the way people eat. Some intent on their food, relishing every morsel, even doing what  we used to be looked at disapprovingly for, wiping up the gravy with a piece of bread so as not to waste a drop. Too precious to lose. Or people having a close conversation, dabbing at the food almost as if it wasn’t there, or was allowed to be there for just as long as it took to eat it.

Food eaters in an institution like a school sometimes look as if communal eating is a matter of grim survival, not enjoyment, almost as if  the food on the plate might jump up and bite the eater. But if the good Lord didn’t want us to enjoy food He/She would not have made food so wonderful. Still, these times we do worry about food, because by the time it gets to us it may have passed through so many hands and processes and got so many additives that we hardly dare read the labels. Food as a danger instead of a boon has become one of those modern botherations our forebears could seldom have felt able to worry about, unless they were very important people with an official taster to make sure they were not done away with by an even more important rival. The way we live now, we can make food an enjoyment, a worry, a grim necessity or just in  the words of the song, “Food, Food, Glorious Food” .

A Talk entitled “Health on a Plate – Nutrition” will be in St Mary’s University College, Falls Road, Belfast on Wednesday October 16 at 7.00pm. It is one of those attractive Talks where the speaker gives more time to the audience to talk than she herself takes for formal talking to them, and aims at an exchange of questions, answers, views and hopes about nutrition between herself and the  audience. One of those interesting – but maybe too rare – events where it is the audience who decide what way the discussion will be about. Nowadays, with eating often teetering uneasily between delight and worry, especially when we read the labels, Health On a Plate just has to be interesting.

Roisin Armstrong, a well-known journalist is the Speaker responding to the views of the audience, hoping for a good conversation about Food between them both. How do you give good food a chance to make good health, how do you make good eating an even more enjoyable experience without becoming just a critic? There is a sad history practically everywhere in the world, and very much in Ireland, of a terrible lack of food which at times destroyed whole populations and always caused unspeakable distress. Our folk memory still has plenty of traces of that, and of how food was controlled to control people. Often when people wanted to express the joys of heaven, plenty of food and drink was one of the greatest of them, because people had been deprived of them so often.

In an old Irish prayer a hermit says, “Would that I had a lake of beer so that I could entertain the Lord”, or words to that effect. We can hardly admire the diet but we can accept the connection between worship and enjoying  the good Lord’s  gifts of Nature. Roisin Armstrong’s talk and conversation are organised by the Belfast Health Initiative;  there is a modest sub of £5 to cover expenses.

Bon appétit !