Jeremy Saffron is a slight, boyish-looking man, with tired, smiling eyes. His farm in Haiku, on the island of Maui, is populated by goats, chickens, horses, and several other men who, like Jeremy, love living with the land. The road to his farm begs for a pick-up truck: rutted, puddled, with steep, muddy climbs, and treacherous looking rocks.
Jeremy wrote the book on fasting, a gorgeous, approachable book, written in a no-nonsense, almost cookbook-ish way, about the ways and means of fasting, called “Eating from an Empty Bowl”, and I was going to have a conversation with him. It seemed like the thing to do, given my circumstance.
He practices a form of Kung Fu. He meditates. He eats raw food. I admired him immediately.
He was going to tell me what happens when you fast for forty days. He’d done it. I was enthralled.
He told me that the hunger goes away after four or five days but, with so many meals eaten so habitually over the course of a life, the food addiction, the mental craving, took him almost three weeks to get past. His was a body-purification, a scourging of toxins, a physical reset. He touted the health benefits, the mental clarity, the renewed vigor.
From irritable bowel to breast cancer, he had a roll call of diseases fasting is known to effect. Clearing the intestines boosts immune function. Reduced calorie diets, skipping eating every other day extended the life span of mice to a human equivalent of 143 years. Rids the body of Candida. Restores the brain from depression. Has been found, when followed by a high-fat diet to reduce and remove seizures from epileptics. He was a well-informed faster, yet, being driven away from his farm, I had unanswered questions.
How does fasting prepare the soul? Does it? If it doesn’t, then why bother with such mortification? If you can get the same benefits from a thirty day fast, why go forty, or forty-nine?
He did tell me that the mind goes through a change, however, as it analyzes with that aforementioned clarity.
He said, “You find out that you’re more connected to things. You find that everything is connected.”
Great. Because the date had been set. I was going to a tree in just a few weeks and my goal was to find something, anyth spiritual. Connection seemed like a good thing, especially since I’d been so isolated for so long.
Admittedly, I’d been hoping to hear something that sounded more profound. Intellectually, it’s easy to know that we’re all connected to everything. It’s looking back on his words with the emotional synthesis of that knowledge, from the perspective I’ve gained from four weeks without a meal, that I now see how profound that truth is, the feeling of connectedness is and how sublime the lesson.
I’m still thinking about food despite trying to write it all out in one big swoop a couple of nights ago. The visions I have of food preparation are meticulous, detailed, refined, and most of it involves breads and meats, pastas and fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Is my body telling me something? Who cares. That I’m deriving some spiritual, soulful sustenance from these food fantasies is almost undeniable, but what I think is really, really interesting is… I’m not eating this food. I’m making it. Preparing it. Sweating over it, rolling it out, boiling it, stewing it, par-cooking it, plating it, serving it. I’ve designed the menu of a concept-joint, breakfast, lunch and dinner, something that could be established in any city in the world; I’ve named it; I’ve designed a specialty tool to patent, cheap to produce. I’ll be making this food during the next year and bringing it to people to try out, so if you live on Maui and like to have friends who cook… I’ll be needing your palette.
It’s time for me to try and nap. My head is all groggy and I haven’t a plan for what I’d be writing next – I ticked all my boxes already – so I’m calling it.