Far from the usual explanation of the story as the miraculous multiplication of a small amount of food into copious quantities, performed by the son of God and demonstrating his power, a much more straight-forward explanation was offered to me.
Apparently at that time in history most people travelled with food in their possession. The real miracle was that those people could be persuaded to share their precious food with the rest of the crowd. Shades of Philip Pulman I think. See below.**
OK - so a wise traveller would have had some food with them. But surely most of these people were not planning to be travelling at all. They followed a crowd to see what was happening and found themselves on the side of a mountain with nothing to eat.
Aside from that, I think it would be only human nature - not miraculous - for people to share some food with needy and hungry folk around them. In other words, when we see need, we often engage in altruism. That is not the same as the obvious waste that would result from giving all their food without seeing the need. The biblical account suggests that such waste was the result of the event.
Doesn't this explanation relegate the son of God from a miracle worker to a master rhetorician. Surely that undermines the whole point of the story. It is all about the miracle
And on the subject of miracles, I like to quote a famous atheist:
If science and religion really are 'non-overlapping magisteria', then religion must give up miracles to the magisterium of science. -- Richard Dawkins
Small note**: In Philip Pullmans 'provokingly bold' book "The good man jesus and the scoundrel Christ" a similar theme arises. I might say more about this when I finish the book. 100 pages into it, I think it seems like a tale for 8 year-olds. Maybe I will change my views before I get to the end.