The Catholic Table, by Emily Stimpson Chapman, Emmaus Road Publishing, £18.99

This book should be read by everyone who has ever thought about food or cooking. Even abstemious people, who have never over-indulged or become fixated on a new faddish diet, should read it, simply because it offers a profoundly Catholic vision of what eating (and drinking) should mean.

The author’s subtitle is “Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet”, and her theme is simple: the deeper our response to our faith, the more we will understand how to celebrate mealtimes, including times of fasting and feasting enjoined by the Church.

Chapman came to her understanding the hard way. She spent six years, from 1994 to 2000, struggling with anorexia followed by binge eating. At the same time, not surprisingly, she lost her faith. Aged 26, she returned to the Church and rediscovered a sacramental worldview. This came with the revelation that “God comes to us as food.” Food, the author realised, “isn’t just about calories … It’s about God. It’s about community. It’s about life.”

Cookery and food programmes abound on television. At the same time, we are constantly told that too many of us eat unhealthily and are overweight. There is even a new category of food pathology: orthorexia nervosa, or an unhealthy obsession with healthy (“clean”) eating. Thus Chapman’s book – with its God-centred vision, its common sense, its practical tips on nutritious and economical recipes, entertaining and hospitality – has never been more relevant.

One of the author’s insights is that we have to care for our bodies, not control them. Another is: “You are not good or bad because of what you eat.” It is also useful to be reminded that “All the healthy eating in the world won’t keep us alive forever.”

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