My mom is a good cook but growing up we gave her a heck of a time. We called her meatloaf Buffalo Brains and pretended the Tuna Noodle Casserole was made of worms. We complained about burnt edges on grilled cheese sandwiches and gagged on the peas and carrots.
When I got married I was incredibly fearful about being treated the same way by my own children one day. This fear is what motivated me to learn to cook (I wish I was making this up, both the part about Buffalo Brains, and the part about fear of being made fun of by kids that didn’t even exist yet, being a motivating factor in my life). I took the task seriously, and though I was in the trenches of medical school I began developing meal plans and recipes and learning some cooking basics.
Overtime my love for cooking has evolved into something so very distant from its fearful beginnings. Unfortunately, I can only describe it if I go into a discussion about the creation of the world. So if you don’t mind, humor me for a moment.
Do you ever stop and think about the reality that everything we have is made out of the dirt? I mean really, God created the earth, essentially dirt, water and light and out of these basic things everything is made. Not just food, but every material, structure, and body has its origins in the dirt.
And this dirt doesn’t just produce one or two types of plants but rather an abundance of options. Thousands of plants and animals which are turned into a diversity of foods, offering different aromas, flavors and textures. Not only does our food satisfy our biology, our physical need to eat, but food reminds us of who we are. Our foods carry our traditions from generation to generation. Our foods give us a sense of place as they change from region to region and they mark our seasons as they change throughout the year. Eating is one of the most pleasurable experiences in life and (unlike sex or even a hot bubble bath for example) we would absolutely die if we couldn’t have it.
We all know that when a baby is born, it needs to be fed. And in most cases a mother produces milk to feed her baby. The milk isn’t the mom, but it was made out of her, and though she is completely separate from it, you can’t actually take her out of it, you can’t say this part of the milk is mom and this part is the other stuff. It all has her mark, it is uniquely hers. And when her baby drinks this milk he is satisfied, nutritionally, yes, but he is also comforted. His experience of drinking his mother’s milk is part of his experience of her. He can’t separate his love of his mother from his love of his milk.
Okay so you are wondering where I am going, I know. So this is how God speaks through His creation. Every tree, every plant, every person has His mark. Not that He is each bite of food, He is separate from it, but there is a reminder of Him there. It is His creation. And not only did He create the foods but He also allows the ability to collect it, buy it, and cook it. With every bite we are reminded of God’s goodness, His comfort, His rich blessing over us. We remember that He cares that we are a people who have a history, who have a time and a place. And just like a baby, the reality is we rely on Him for every bite.
When you sit down at my table you may still get grilled cheese with burnt edges and meatloaf that looks like Buffalo Brains (I’ve never actually seen Buffalo Brains, I’m not sure how we came up with it, probably my brother). Our meals can be as chaotic and disaster prone as anyone’s. But when we share a meal together we are communing with the Living God. His creation is ministering to us, it is feeding us, our bodies and our souls. And as we gather we are revitalized, physically and spiritually. We walk away full, reminded of His mercy and blessing.
So now I cook for this, so that you will know that God loves you and that you will be reminded that He has you here for a reason and that you are not forgotten by Him.
I hope that I have made you hungry. I’d love to hear your thoughts.