Susan Teton Campbell
The path to my foodie awakening began when I became a mother in 1969. From early on, my son had debilitating allergies that were reversed with dietary changes when he was ten, yet when he hit his teens, I lost control and so did he.
When I was a teen and young woman, my diet centered on my aspiration to have a slim and beautiful figure. Thank God for vanity because it helped me stay somewhat healthy. My motto was just to “eat less.” I am sure I tried every weight-loss diet available at the time. Those diets were full of deprivation accompanied by some sort of theme that always meant, “Eat less.” When I awakened to the bigger picture encompassing food and agriculture in America, I went from being a foodie in the dark to a hard-core raw food vegan overnight.
But over the years, that changed again as I dug my fork into a steak and began baking my own bread. Somewhere, I found a balance that is still close to my original vegan diet, yet slightly more diverse.
The good news is that deprivation turned into abundance, and eating less turned into eating as much as I want and need. Weight loss never became an issue again, and now at the age of seventy-two, I have vital good health, strong bones, flexible joints, flowing digestion, good skin, and mental clarity (well, most of the time).
But, diet per se is not the point in sharing my journey. My journey in eating is more about how my adventure transformed and connected me to all life, providing a grand view of our social fabric and culture. It started with a prayer at age forty-seven, “Dear God, there must be more to life that this; please show me.” The answer to this prayer catapulted me into discovering my purpose. First, I found myself on Native American reservations teaching food as medicine, camping in the badlands with a small family of buffalo sleeping around my tent, to landing the job of a lifetime with the John Robbins’ organization, EarthSave International. (Robbins is the author of Diet for a New America, and more recently, The Food Revolution.) My mission was to inspire healthier food in our nations’ schools and to write the Healthy School Lunch Action Guide. Fresh off the land, I put on my corporate suit to address politicians in Washington, D.C., speak at national conferences on our children’s behalf, and address students in schools across America. I did this while marching into courtrooms to plead with judges to keep my son out of jail for drug related crimes. And we certainly can’t have all this adventure without a love story.
My journey, which is told in the first part of this book, was not always an easy one; as a matter of fact, at times it was horrifying. There were also times of joy, exhilaration, and deep gratitude, all laced with a profound sense of belonging and being lost at the same time. But, once engrossed in the world of food and agriculture, and witnessing the decline of our children’s health and the epidemic proportions of drug addiction, I could never look back. I was forever changed and, thus, entrenched in the soil of the Earth that feeds us, and the food that shapes our culture.
The first section of Eating as a Spiritual Practice is a reflection of my journey as a means to inspire you to connect to the larger world around the food choices you may be making. In my work, I find people are confused about diets; many are sick and know that diet plays a huge role in our wellbeing. Many know better but don’t do better. I understand. We get caught up in our daily lives and just go along the best we can without connecting to that expansive part of ourselves and the source that gives us life. We don’t take time or spend extra money on certain things that might be good for us because they fulfill no immediate need we can see. Yet when a life-threatening disease or circumstance pops up, we become powerful stewards to whatever the situation demands. We drop everything that gets in the way of saving our life, including draining our bank accounts, borrowing money, staying up late, or working like a slave. We will show up fully with every resource we have to reverse a life-threatening situation. Many of us will even start praying when we never prayed before because deep down in us lives the belief that a greater power will assist and save us. We have this power when we need it, and most of us know it.
What if we accessed that power without it being fueled by an immediate life-threatening challenge? What if we accessed it through our daily actions just for the love and appreciation of the gift we have been given? What if we became acutely aware of our choices today, fully aware that they are creating our world of tomorrow? Would it make our lives more meaningful, more fun, and healthier? Would it help us easily manifest our dreams and live without fear, sickness, or deprivation?
If you have strayed far away from the connection you need to steward yourself with daily appreciation and nourishment, it is not your fault. Somehow, in the last few centuries, we lost one of the most sacred relationships we have to the environment and our Earth, and that is “eating.” Eating is, arguably, one of the most intimate acts we do on a daily basis, and yet most of us are absent in the presence of its potential pleasure, nourishment, and the incredible results it provides for the quality of our ride here on Earth.
Since we cannot be well if the Earth is sick, we must also come face-to-face with the rise in life-threatening diseases and what lies ahead if we continue down our current path, specifically around eating. While this situation may be difficult to relate to, understanding it is vital to your health and future.
Now, we can’t talk food without some delicious recipes. The second section contains those. The theme is a lively combination of “raw, cooked, and cultured” foods. I call my method “Essential Cuisine.” Knowing what must be raw, what is best cooked, and the how and why cultured/fermented foods are powerful will help you simplify and end confusion, no matter what diet you choose. The recipes, mostly vegan, can and should be enjoyed with any dietary protocol. They offer all things essential for a good foundation of excellent nutrition, affordability, and simplicity, and let’s not forget pleasure.
Knowing that fruits and vegetables are healthy foods has not been enough to motivate the masses. When our blind spots are removed and we see more, our will is strengthened. Most want to do well, to aspire, to love, and to give. But we can’t do more, be more, and love more if we are sick. So I am hoping that along with my story and some yummy recipes, I can serve up some inspired motivation for you.
The results you may be striving for—weight loss, energy, better digestion, strong bones, and glowing skin are, for the most part, yours easily with the right foods. Acting with purpose presents even more radiant results like self-discovery, bonding, intimacy, friendship, inner authority, and joy. This is not a stretch, but the real truth about living with purpose and connecting to your sacred self-care. You may have a lot more fun too.
Please don’t think for a moment that this book is about putting your bowl of food on your altar and praying, smudging with sage before your meal, or falling on your knees before you enter the grocery store. My wish is that the facts and parallels between my story and your own will bring illumination to the bigger picture of your spiritual practice and daily choices for self-care. My intent is that in sharing my experience and perspective, you might awaken a part of you that you have not yet witnessed. Perhaps you, too, can let go of dieting and turn your focus toward love and stewardship, abundance and deliciousness, and pride and devotion.
A New Day
Our bodies are in danger, as we witness the decline of human health for the elderly, middle aged, and now, our youth. Food, we know, is at the center of building hormonal balance, mental clarity, flexible joints, flowing digestion, and emotional equilibrium. Taking care of our bodies is a must, but not enough. We must now take into consideration the land that nourishes us. We must heed the call of the Earth, the very place our food and water come from, the very place that cleanses us with the breath we breathe, the place that gives us life and takes us back. Clean air, water, and soil are at the heart of our life and health.
Healthy food can no longer be a temporary diet, eaten merely to lose weight, cleanse our bodies, or heal a sickness. It can no longer be the occasional meal at the health food restaurant, or the meal-for-a-day when on a diet. Now, like exercising, meditation, or yoga, healthful, nourishing foods must be integrated into our lives as a practice—a daily discipline that requires focus, innovation, quality, convenience, and consistency—one fueled by love and respect. Healthy meals are essential to the new way of life calling us home to the table.
Eating as a Spiritual Practice is a way of life—with nourishment, flavor, love, and respect for the Earth, and health and vitality as the essential ingredients. It is a dietary practice, but also an inner spiritual practice since it involves daily action, which we shall explore in the following chapters. It is a practice that awakened me to the power of food and introduced me to a wonderful new way to connect to the larger purpose behind my life, which is inspired by the strongest force in the universe, love.
Like most journeys, there is no clear, definitive end to my own. I am still on a path of discovery, laced with challenges and insights that reveal how the human garden is grown. I can see more clearly now that we reap, sow, grow, and maximize our God-given potential according to the choices we live by. What is clearer to me now is that this single act of reconnecting to what really matters, and merging our body and our soul, has to start now…
…and it starts in the kitchen.
Want to read more? You can purchase the ebook on Amazon.com HERE.
Read what people are saying about the book:
While typical cookbooks and dietary programs center on culinary instruction, Susan Teton elevates her food message by first sharing her epicurean life story – an unforgettable series of relationships, situations and serendipitous shifts that led her to an awakening of her life's purpose and a "remembering" of the foundational truth about food that she passionately advocates today: "eat from the Earth, not from the factory."
Most cookbooks tell you the what and the how; Susan connects with us emotionally through her story so we can understand the why – helping to open us up and stir in us a desire to deeply understand her gems of wisdom about food sources and choices.
In "Eating as a Spiritual Practice," Susan masterfully melds stories of her lifelong struggles and epiphanies with food. She shares the moment she made a pivotal realization that "our convenient food supply was consuming our natural resources and killing our ecosystems, both planetary and personal." She helps us remember that, somewhere along the line, we lost our connection with ancient wisdom. Indigenous cultures like Native Americans and Native Hawaiians have a profound understanding of our interconnection with nature, all of its creatures, our ancestors, Spirit, and each other. We are all connected. As Susan so beautifully reminds us, when we respect and care for the Earth that feeds us, it nourishes us in so many ways.
It's no surprise Susan now lives in Hawaii, immersed in an epic natural environment that is respected and protected by its people and where the beautiful Hawaiian culture permeates all aspects of life and the wisdom of our ancestors is revered.
Susan's life journey is rich, riveting and inspiring. When she manifests then mobilizes a national movement to improve school lunches, years ahead of its time, then hits the wall when it becomes clear that corporate sponsorships control the school cafeterias that dole out sugary allergy-inducing food options, we feel outraged with her. When she receives another late night collect call from her drug-craving son (whose processed food-induced allergies as a child were the catalyst to Susan's food activism), we feel her anguish as she realizes the roller coaster ride has begun again. When she stands at wit's end alone in a moonlit forest feeling a profound sense of being lost in life, we are uplifted with her when she hears the whisper ask: "Will you surrender?"
One of my favorite memories from Susan's story involves eating and a transformational spiritual awakening moment in her life – of course! It's the time Susan stood dazed and awestruck in a movie theater lobby eating an ice cream cone on a hot L.A. summer day after watching Dances With Wolves for the first time. She recalls how she felt inexplicably connected to the Native Americans depicted in the film, her tribe. Their wisdom and respect for nature and their understanding of the interconnection of all life felt so familiar... It was as if she was recognizing a long-forgotten Truth. She said in that moment: "I forgot everything and remembered everything, all at once." It was poetic, really: there she was eating a frozen processed food item (a symbol of her past self and old habits, dripping away) in the exact moment she awakened to a whole new path and purpose in life that would help nourish her body and her spirit, and eventually help others do the same.
Just as most cookbooks relay recipes as rules to follow, self help books tend to teach and preach. By simply sharing her story – in her distinctly witty and light yet soulful and deep personal style – we begin to see why Susan is so devoted to the food message and simple, approachable cooking lifestyle she is sharing with us. By the end of her story, we want to learn more. We crave an understanding of the food truths that she has come to know. And, we remember that eating is a spiritual practice.
– Joy Wynne Galatro
Knowing Teton and walking with her though a part of her journey makes my reflections spot on! This book is deeply moving, truthful, humble, brilliantly inclusive, scholarly, and spell-binding. I could not put it down. I have recently come to largely plant-based eating with a profound spiritual connection to our earth and all creatures. I've known for some time that the terrible abuse inflicted on our animals creates unspeakable stress that is deeply embedded in all their cells. When we eat them, we eat the stress, murder, and horror. Is it any wonder our current world view is hungry for a more loving way to eat and be together. I'm buying lots of copies to give to my friends and families. Teton's work is brilliantly written and totally congruent with Susan's walk. Teton has circled the sun enough times to be very believable and deliciously loving in her acceptance of others. Be brave and take a big juicy bite of this much needed work of art. Teton is deliciously mad, maddeningly exquisite, exquisitely demanding, demandingly rigorous, rigorously challenging, and challengingly excellent! She is integrity in motion.
- Dr. Scout Cloud Lee