According to SN 12.11 (=SA 371), the Buddha teaches four kinds of food/nutriment (ahara) for the maintenance or support of creatures/beings seeking to become. The four nutriments are:
Material nutriment (kabalimkara-ahara), contact nutriment (phassa-ahara), mental volition nutriment (manosancetana-ahara), and consciousness nutriment (vinnana-ahara).
Of the four kinds of food/nutriment, through practice we learn about the transience of consciousness, volition and contact. These three nutriments all have an unsatisfactory fickleness to them. Yet although we can somewhat do without food, our bodies do require that food. And that requirement presents a bit of a dilemma.
Sariputta and Udāyī once had an argument about food, and by implication, craving for food and therefore the link between food, suffering and enlightenment.
AN5.166:1.2: “Reverends, take a mendicant who is accomplished in ethics, immersion, and wisdom. They might enter into and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling. If they don’t reach enlightenment in this very life, then, surpassing the company of gods that consume solid food, they’re reborn in a certain host of mind-made gods. There they might enter into and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling.
Udāyī protested three times:
AN5.166:2.2: “This is not possible, Reverend Sāriputta, it cannot happen!”
Deadlocked, Sariputta and Udāyī appealed to the Buddha…
…who scolded Ānanda.
So I think it important to understand our relationship with food, its provenance and sustainability in order that we may better understand and relinquish our cravings, eating with care and gratitude for all.
The following yogi, we are told, lives without eating or drinking
The Buddha’s perspective on such practice is quite fascinating:
MN36:27.1: Then it occurred to me, ‘Why don’t I practice completely cutting off food?’ But deities came to me and said, ‘Good sir, don’t practice totally cutting off food. If you do, we’ll infuse divine nectar into your pores and you will live on that.’ Then I thought, ‘If I claim to be completely fasting while these deities are infusing divine nectar in my pores, that would be a lie on my part.’