Awareness: Taste and See

This week we are kicking off our church calendar year with our annual Taste and See event. We are Presbyterians of course, so how are we going to get things started right? With more food than you can possibly imagine, of course!

I’ve had an interesting relationship with food over the course of my life. Ever since I was a tiny boy, I have been a picky eater. For a while there I only had a handful of foods that I could consume that would keep me alive. Hamburgers. French Fries. Pizza. End of discussion. Eventually I got married, and Chef Sarah suggested that each night I would have a choice of meals: take it or leave it. So my palate eventually expanded to include a few new ethnic foods, but not a lot by any stretch. Vegetable was still a dirty word. Casseroles were out of the question. She did her best, but some old dogs have a hard time with new tricks.

When I was in seminary, my eating habits became down right terrifying. Frequently I would leave the house at 5 in the morning, and wouldn’t return until 10 or so at night. When you spend that much time on the road, your food choices can all too easily be reduced to what a stranger can hand you through a window. My car became littered with wrappers and cups and evidence of poor choices. When certain fast food servers saw me coming and asked “The usual?” I knew I had a problem.

I think a lot of us have this kind of utilitarian relationship with food. It’s what keeps us moving. There was a sticker by the sound board at the church I attended during college that said “Eat food or die.” Just enough to keep us going, right? But such a relationship with food is not exactly what is envisioned in the scriptures.

In fact, food is a really central theme in the scriptures. When Jesus is trying his very best to get us to understand what was about to happen on the cross, he reached for the bread and the cup. One of the best ways he showed respect and love to the loveless was to invite them over for dinner. When 5,000 men plus women and children showed up to hear him preach, he felt responsibility to make sure they were well fed. And that’s just what Jesus was up to with food. There are countless other examples.

Now that school is done, and there is slightly more free time in the books, I have been trying my hand at eating better, particularly by cooking my own meals at home. I’m no fancy chef by any stretch of the imagination. The most complicated thing I’ve done recently is chicken parmesan. Then, and this is key, after I’ve cooked I make sure Sarah, the boys, and I all sit down together to enjoy the meal at the table. Too frequently we eat while we’re watching TV or something like that, which I think falls into the “eat food or die” category. A meal can be a place to enjoy the company of family and friends, why waste it with the TV blaring in the background?

A funny thing happens when you start to take food seriously, at least for me: you can find God lurking in that delicious meal. When you take time to savor a well made meal at home, you start to think about the fruits and vegetables that God provided for us. You start to be thankful for the life that produced the meat that you’re enjoying. You start to marvel that God would invent so many tastes and flavors and spices, and surely they are here for our enjoyment. These are lessons that are usually fairly absent in a Happy Meal.

The truth is I’m still a fairly picky eater, but I’m doing my best to expand my horizons. Because I can taste and see what God is doing in the world. Through getting serious about the food in my life, I am aware of the goodness of God.

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