Dr. King and the undoing of foolishness

What can food teach us about reality? (And what if Dr. King had presided over a church here instead of Montgomery?)

Dr. King and the undoing of foolishness
Kale, Crabtree Farms, Clifton Hills, Tennessee

This Saturday, join the Unity Group of Chattanooga for its annual prayer breakfast, part of its 54th annual MLK Week celebration.

Saturday's breakfast is followed by Sunday's gospel extravagance with the matchless Sister Willie McClendon. Then, the memorial march, parade and evening program on Monday; if you have never been, it is one of the most meaningful events of the year.

There's some important history between Dr. King and Chattanooga. In 1960, he traveled to speak here, just months after our own downtown sit-ins, as white Chattanooga was boiling over.

The school board forbade him from speaking at Howard High, so he shifted to the Memorial Auditorium.

"Dr. King attended a banquet at the Henry Branch YMCA, and then spoke to around 2,500-3,500 people at Memorial Auditorium," wrote our outstanding historian John Shearer.

It was not his first trip to Chattanooga. In 1953, he was interviewed as lead pastor of First Baptist on East 8th Street. Church leaders, according to Shearer, said King was too young.

It is one of the most significant what-if's in our city's history.

What if Dr. King had presided over a church here instead of Montgomery?

Not long ago, I came across this line from a 1961 sermon he delivered in Detroit.

Before we can finish eating breakfast in the morning we are dependent on more than half of the world. 

The line comes from the sermon titled "The Man Who Was a Fool." King's message? Unless we admit to the bounty of interconnected relationships that define our world, we remain lost in delusion and foolishness. We do not see clearly unless our sight sees through relationships.

Consider food.

Start with our morning coffee. Just to brew a cup, we're interacting with and indebted to thousands of people across countries and continents.

A few years ago, the delightful AJ Jacobs wrote about his project thanking everyone involved in one cup of coffee.

This year, Food as a Verb would like to try something similar.

How about breakfast? Enjoy toast?

Erik Zilen of Niedlov's Bakery & Cafe estimated that 50 hands stretching from here to Idaho are responsible for one loaf of Niedlov's bread.

Jemichael Wright, Erik Zilen, Niedlov's Bakery & Cafe, Main St., Chattanooga, Tenn.

So, if we only have toast and coffee – not to mention butter, jam, eggs, creamer or milk – then we're intimately involved with others stretching across the country and world.

Oh yeah. Got to plug in that coffeemaker and toaster. So, more connections: EPB, electricians, Mr. Coffeemaker factories. Whoops. We forgot water.

How many people are involved in the process that allows water to freely flow from our tap?

With his sermon, King is trying to remind us that the nature of reality is relational.

  • And so often we fail to see this. Something should remind us before we can finish eating breakfast in the morning we are dependent on more than half of the world. We get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for a sponge, and that's handed to us by a Pacific Islander. Then we reach over for a bar of soap, and that's given to us at the hands of a Frenchman.... Maybe this morning we want to follow the good old American tradition, and we drink coffee. That's poured in our cups by a South American. ... Then we reach over for a piece of toast, only to discover that that's given to us at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And so before we finish eating breakfast in the morning we are dependent on more than half of the world.

When we miss this, we live ignorant, or not-knowing, lives.

"And any man who fails to see the interdependent structure of reality is really a fool," King declared.

Thankfully, food is a delicious doorway that reminds us – every meal, every bite or sip – of the interconnectedness of reality.

Racism does the opposite, undoing this truth, teaching a false view of reality based on hierarchy, innate assumptions and delusion.

Food, however, teaches something else.

Every meal and drink we enjoy is the product of relationships among diverse things: the sun, water, elements, earthworms, insects, humans, all working together in mutual aid.

Each meal or drink gives us the chance to renew again our understanding of the essence of life.

Why do we forget this? And how can we better remember?

This Sunday, we offer you a powerful look at one of the most important places in Chattanooga.

Its past, as a place of tremendous racial violence.

Its present, as a place of cultivated and intentional community.

And future, as a land of healing.

See you soon, Chattanooga.

David + the Food as a Verb team.

Crabtree Farms, Clifton Hills, Chattanooga, Tennessee

All photography by Sarah Unger and Julie Ellison.

All words by David Cook. This story is 100% human generated; no AI chatbot was used in the creation of this content.

All design by Alex DeHart.

Story ideas, questions, feedback? Interested in sponsorship or advertising opportunities? Email us: david@foodasaverb.com and sarah@foodasaverb.com.

Food as a Verb thanks our sustaining partners for their generous support.

Regional Farmers Markets

  • Main St. Farmers Market, Corner of W. 20th and Chestnut St., near Finley Stadium

Wednesday, 4 - 6pm (Note: the Thanksgiving week market was held on Tuesday.)

  • Brainerd Farmers Market, Grace Episcopal Church, 20 Belvoir Ave,

Saturday, 10am - noon

  • Chattanooga Market, 1820 Carter Street

Sunday, 11am - 4pm

  • Ooltewah Farmers Market, The Ooltewah Nursery

Thursday, 3 - 6pm 

  • Signal Mountain Farmers Market

Pre-order online for Thursday pick-up between 4 - 6pm at Bachman Community Center

  • St. Albans Farmers Market, 7514 Hixson Pike

Saturday, 9.30am - 12.30pm with a free pancake breakfast every third Saturday  

  • Walker County Farmers Market

Wednesday, 2 - 5 pm, Rock Spring Ag. Center 

Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm, downtown Lafayette, Georgia

To include your farmers market, email david@foodasaverb.com

Dig in. (It's free)