Its Not About the Food

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

At breakfast of my first day in the Scottish Rite, a Brother welcomed me and said: “don’t you worry, you’ll make back your dues in the meals…the food is great.” I thought to myself: “I didn’t come here for the meal.” Later the same evening in recounting an amazing day of deep insights and new friends to my partner and sons. I explained with slight dismay of my newfound Brother’s welcome serving. It was disappointing the first fare of the day was the extent of his and my conversational fodder. My spouse exhorted: “Erik. You know this: it is notabout the food!” Light. In her inimitable way, Corinna conducted me with laser precision to the heart of what is my problem, not his: our breakfast banter is my bread and butter.

Food is the metaphor for the nurturing, Love, we never received in our families or denied in our co-construction of society. In every culture, we have traditions, ceremony, and rituals around or about food. The Seder plate has foods with metaphoric meanings. We eat specific foods on designated days to remember aspects of divinity, honor ancestors, and celebrate the ample freedoms we enjoy. We break fasts with specific foods. Certain foods are used as medicines. In traditional Chinese Medicine, Vedic and Tibetan medicinal systems, foods are prescribed for myriad ailments. A doctor with an integrated approach prescribed warmed garlic oil for an ear infection I kept having, along with the standard amoxicillin in case the natural method didn’t work. I never had to fill the penicillin prescription…

Foods are sometimes misused as a substance for emotional management or control. People restrict intake to feel a sense of control over their body. Some over indulge regularly or at intervals in order to generate strong bodily sensation to mask emotion, divert attention from emotion, and create an emotion to manage another. Often, anxiety creates an empty sensation people try to fill or blunt with food. When sad, lonely, or depressed, we use foods that boost positive feelings: chocolate, carbs, fats, and sugars. We use food to fill emptiness and its encouraged through marketing. “I’m an emotional eater…” is a common phrase I hear. This can be a difficult pattern, habit, or symptoms to change since we can’t simply encourage abstinence as we can with alcohol or drugs/substances used recreationally or to self-medicate. Food is essential for life, so other approaches to change problematic eating are needed.

Food has always been a part of Freemasonry—as it has in every tradition. It is both material relief and metaphor. In our second degree, part of our traditional wages. Lodges set aside days of the year or month to serve those less fortunate. We provide meals to brethren with thought and care. Men, cooking or providing for, and nurturing, one another…and cherishing every moment. To be clear, at the core of every meal is not always about the food. The primary ingredient is quite often, Love. I can’t blame lack of coffee the morning of my initiation for the fact I wasn’t ready to ascertain the meaning in my newfound Brother’s gift to me: “Welcome. You will not be taxed or punished for getting what you need here. I’ve felt welcomed and cared for by the fraternity. Don’t worry Brother, it can happen for you, too.” He is getting what he needs for his development through the way he serves and is served-literally-in the Scottish Rite. Who am I to disrupt or disparage his path? 

 I may not see what he gains through the degrees or deserts. I may not need what he needs to be nourished towards perfection. Labor, physical, psychological, or spiritual can be draining and requires sustenance. Just because he doesn’t reflect his experience back to me in an esoteric or philosophic frame does not mean he isn’t affected in the ways I may want for me and would like to discuss. Growth can take time and our path cannot be everything to all men at the pace wethink they need. Nor should we try to be so for everyone. It seems we offer a tremendous amount to some; for others our overtly esoteric and philosophic explorations may go unnoticed, for now and we remain persistent. So, the problem is my own. He welcomed me in his way and I missed the chance to engage him: due to my insistence on a particular mode of communication, we both lost out…or maybe it was only my loss. Thank you, Brother. I hope to see you at the next reunion’s wonderful breakfast.


Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email:

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