There are many things I love about my mother-in-law: the fact that she loves and admires my husband almost as much as I do; the fact that she insists on my taking naps when I come to visit and gets mad when the kids or Jim wake me up; the fact that she is a brave and strong woman who is, nonetheless, as afraid of mice as I am. But up there on my list of her lovable qualities is her love of food which borders on obsession and rivals my own. During our visits, she and I camp out on the couch and watch the Food Network until we get hungry. I then tear myself away (not really, she has a TV in the kitchen, God bless her.) and begin to prepare one of the many special recipes I have spent weeks collecting. After this, we leave the dishes for Jim and sit on the couch eating our yummies, analyzing every nuance of flavor and watching more Food Network. For me, this has always seemed perfectly normal but recently I have begun to question the healthiness of my food preoccupation. I give more attention to meal planning than housecleaning, laundry or bed making. I am not sure when I crossed the line between meal maker and food junkie but I am pretty sure it had something to do with being locked in a house with four children for years on end with only a stove to express myself.
In an attempt to justify the amount of time and energy I spend thinking about, making, and consuming food, I have begun to think more seriously about our relationship to food. (Of course, this is actually adding a new category to my food obsession—food philosophy, but who’s counting?) For me, while living a life with seemingly endless restrictions, food has become an outlet, a way to vary the monotony of my day. Anyway, you are what you eat (or so they said in elementary school, and then they ironically fed us chicken patties and Sloppy Joes, but that’s on their conscience, not mine.). Just as what you watch, read, or listen to affects your beliefs, it seems reasonable to assume the same is true for food. The biblical writers use food as a metaphor for various truths and realities. And at the center of our lives as Christians is a meal—the Lord’s Supper. The reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and atoning work is represented in the action of eating and drinking. So why can’t there be other meanings in our daily consumptions? If we carefully evaluate the films, books, and music we experience, shouldn’t we also consider how the food we eat affects not only our physical well-being but our spiritual health as well?
So here are three exhortations in hopes that others will join my pursuit of excellent flavor. First, before you put something in your mouth, ask yourself this question: “Does this food in any way resemble something that natural occurs or is its point of origin more likely to be a scientific laboratory? I love a bag of Cheetos as much as the next girl, but shouldn’t we strive for more fresh less synthetic options? If your lunch is unlikely to biodegrade in the next decade, then go now and leave your life of sin. If nature is the first book that God wrote, His first revelation of His character to us, then shouldn’t we partake of it as often as we can?
Second, don’t be afraid to try new things. Variety is the spice of life. Go to new restaurants. Try new recipes. At worst, you have one bad meal. At best, you experience a new part of the world, a new corner of the globe. Eating new foods, whether ethnic food or something your neighbor recommended broadens not just your palate but your worldview. After all, Jesus didn’t eat tuna casserole every third Wednesday of the month and neither should you.
Third, bring others along for the ride. There is nothing like food to enhance our fellowship. I have seen how guests tend to gather in the kitchen and linger over a meal. Jesus didn’t just call all of His disciples together in the morning, break for lunch and go eat in a corner somewhere. Remember the feeding of the five thousand? The breakfast on the shore after the Resurrection? There is something so intimate about sharing in the recognition of our daily need for nourishment, not to mention the act of showing someone you value them by taking the time to provide for their needs as well as your own.
So the next time you step into your kitchen, prepare to worship. It may not be manna, but it is God’s provision nonetheless, food from His hand until we join Him at the great wedding feast.
Hmm…I wonder if there will be cake.