MFA Faculty Leslie Leyland Fields Publishes The Spirit of Food

A hearty new book offers the chance to enjoy an amazing selection of work by some of our favorite people! The just-released The Spirit of Food, an anthology edited by SPU MFA creative nonfiction faculty Leslie Leyland Fields, contains thirty-four essays on food and how it nurtures both the body and the spirit.

While there are probably as many ways to approach this topic as there are people in the world, this collection does anything but fall short of complexity. From Hollandaise sauce to vegetarianism, organic farming and gardening to Handi-Snacks, soup kitchens to childhood memories, the secrets of bread baking to the poetry of Isaiah, in these essays, chefs, doctors, teachers, daughters, sons, and churchgoers celebrate and explore as many versions of fasting and feasting as one book can hold.

Lauren Winner describes a kosher kitchen; Wendell Berry the food industry. Andre Dubus meditates on sacrament and death; Alexander Schmemann on the meaning of the Eucharist. The writing is personal, theological, political, and often lyrical.

The Spirit of Food also includes essays from MFA poetry faculty member Jeanne Murray Walker and fiction faculty Gina Ochsner, as well as from SPU MFA alumni Alissa Herbaly Coons, Denise Frame Harlan, Nancy Nordenson, and Brian Volck.

Other SPU faculty and staff contributors include Suzanne Wolfe, executive editor of Image and SPU English faculty; Mary Kenagy Mitchell, Image journal managing and adjunct faculty; and Hannah Notess, managing editor of SPU’s Reponse magazine.

The book is already garnering critical praise.

Novelist Bret Lott writes: “The most important act of community we can observe is the breaking of bread—the communion of the saints—and I can think of no more moving book that illustrates this integral element of the believer’s life than The Spirit of Food. Leslie Leyland Fields has put together a gift as warm and fragrant as the fresh-baked loaves of bread she herself writes of, and I have been nourished by it.”

Debbie Blue, author of Sensual Orthodoxy, adds: “I loved reading all these wise, honest, and funny people writing about eating—the conundrums and efforts and delights involved in our relationship to food, and God, and God-as-food. It’s a beautiful and inspiring collection of essays. I’ve been praying and eating better since reading it.”

We at SPU are delighted to share this lively and eclectic book, a testament to the type of writing we want to nurture in our creative writing program: that which combines an open-eyed exploration of human experience and a respect for transcendent mystery.

You can order your copy of The Spirit of Food here.