And a partial philosophy of food


Food / Friday, July 27th, 2012

Confession: These four observations really ought to be placed in four separate posts. But I would get sick of thinking about food long before the fourth day came.

So read them in four sittings, if you’re picky that way.

Or mull on them separately.

Or just close your computer and go eat something. I don’t have essential-wisdom-for-humanity to distill.

Here are four tenets of my partial philosophy on food.

1. God giveth us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17)

All that I say in this post is underlined with this philosophy. God made food splendid, and He gave it to us to enjoy.

It was a mistake to judge the television chef based on how she looked to me. Do I know her story? I may be far less disciplined than she.

Everyone draws her battle lines at a different place. Can we offer each other grace? For some, food is comfort, and they eat too much when they’re upset. For me, food is celebration, and I eat too much when I’m happy.

(Which is why I’m losing weight.)

I am lax in thing that others are strict about. I will add all the cream, butter, and sugar I want to the foods I cook, because a) I don’t think milk fat is bad fat, and b) to me, sugar is not the world’s curse.* These are basic one-ingredient items I can measure. But I’ll usually feel unhappy about using boxed mixes, canned soup, and prepackaged snacks, because I don’t trust ingredients I can’t read, and I don’t approve of nonfood items mixed into my kids’ lunches.

*I would have fun substituting other natural sweeteners, but until I can produce my own maple syrup or honey, the cost is simply self-prohibitive.

(I’m not really losing weight. That was a joke.)

2. Our need for such a vast array of food is ridiculous.

Sometimes I just laugh at the impossible combinations we live with every day. Iced coffee, for instance. Nowadays it’s a staple, but think of it—ice of the north, coffee of the south: mutually exclusive pleasures merged by modern technology.

(Check out this article on the near-impossibility of producing a cheeseburger!)

We have come to believe what the experts tell us: that in order to have a healthy, balanced diet, we must rely on a panoramic range of supplies that spans the known world. It’s simply not realistic. Eat this number of this color fruit and that color veggies. Eat blueberries and acai berries and papaya and oranges and kiwi. (Case in point: my spell checker doesn’t recognize the word “acai.” Five years ago we didn’t know what they were.) For thousands of years, such variety was out of reach. You ate what you had. Chinese ate rice, Mexicans ate tortillas, Englishmen ate potatoes, and in general, they did alright.

Of course they all died. But still.

An amazingly forethoughtful God gave to each habitable area of the world all that was needed—a nourishing staple food, meat, a milk mammal, and some fresh produce. But only in season. In the south, you could eat fresh fruit all year long. In the north, He gave you cold weather to preserve what you’d gathered in summer, and you ate it dried, frozen, or not at all. “Fresh” of any kind was not to be had, for months at a time.

Stop feeling guilty for eating what’s available!

3. I think it a cruel, cruel trick of Satan to infatuate the American female mind with two opposites, and keep us caught in unhappiness between the two:

  • a passion for food, now that we’ve gathered earth’s rare Salt and Sweet and Fat into easily-accessible indulgence
  • and a desperate need for the most unrealistic of slender figures.

4. Kosher eating can be an obsession too.

I think of the early Christians, who refused the meat set before them for reasons of conscience. (See also this passage.) Could we be as finicky, for reasons nearly as religious? As I read in one random comment online, “I’m picky too, but it’s because I don’t eat things that are bad for me!

I think of my goal for my children: that they sit down to eat with a thankful heart what is placed in front of them, at anyone’s table, without asking “What’s in it?” and turning up their noses.

I think of C. S. Lewis, writing about the gluttony of Delicacy as opposed to the gluttony of Excess.

Screwtape, a tempter from hell: “What do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern? [We have] this old woman well in hand… She is always turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile ‘Oh, please, please… all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.’

You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others. At the very moment of indulging her appetite she believes that she is practicing temperance… Her belly now dominates her whole life.”

It’s a mistake to assume that a reasonable body weight is indication that I’m in control of my appetites.

I love some really rich foods. Cheesecake. Steak. Ice cream. Portabella mushrooms sautéed in butter. Hot tea with cream and sugar.

I love some really plebian foods. Fried cabbage. Oatmeal. Bread and butter. Cornmeal mush. Tomato sandwiches.

Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things… I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (I Cor. 9:27)

I have much to learn.

What do you think?

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14 Comments
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LaDonna Nice
9 years ago

So I think you are right on!

JessicaD
9 years ago

Thank you for grace.

Mom Coblentz
9 years ago

I yell a LOUD amen to #3!!

Marie
9 years ago

Reads like this make me smile!

Cynthia
9 years ago

Amen, Shari.

The only thing I add is – The mind that God gave man is able to bring worlds together. God is the master behind having fresh fruit from CA or Asia in the middle of the Northern winter because he made man. Man capable of learning, of thinking, of creativity, just as He God is. The call of God on our lives with these added blessings is the same now as it was back then – Temperance, good stewardship and above all one focus in all things – God.

Thanks for writing.

9 years ago

And I yell a loud amen to #4! I love your goal for your children. I need to think about how I can make that happen with mine.

Shaunda Stoltzfus
9 years ago

And I finally figured out why I like being your friend so much…. I agree and affirm each and every point above and again, admire your writing skill!

mama zook
9 years ago

metabolism is the number one reason I do not weigh 300 pounds!! I love to eat all kinds of “very bad for you” food but I do not live to eat!! And I am still learning to show grace where the metabolism is alot slower than mine!!

Rosanna
9 years ago

Well said. I so enjoy reading your blog.

Rosanna
9 years ago

btw – a big reason sugar is bad is because it’s cheap enough to use a lot of it.

Renee S
9 years ago

Well said. I agree with you on many of your points. And I’ve been reminded to give grace. I don’t feel my appetite and eating is totally surrendered to Jesus’ lordship. But I’ve not struggled with my weight much in my life, so it appears I’m disciplined, but really I’m not.

I think our need for variety of foods is ridiculous, too. Chocolate for dessert is all I really need! 🙂 Love my sweets!

9 years ago

“1. God giveth us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17)
All that I say in this post is underlined with this philosophy. God made food splendid, and He gave it to us to enjoy.”

Response: I totally agree. J The one glitch in this philosophy is that some food is essentially reordered chemicals and quite man-created, rather than God-created. Did He give this for us to enjoy? How do we respond to this?

“a) I don’t think milk fat is bad fat”

Response: It isn’t! J That skim stuff is far worse for you than the real deal.

“2. Our need for such a vast array of food is ridiculous. We have come to believe what the experts tell us: that in order to have a healthy, balanced diet, we must rely on a panoramic range of supplies that spans the known world. It’s simply not realistic. Eat this number of this color fruit and that color veggies. Eat blueberries and acai berries and papaya and oranges and kiwi. For thousands of years, such variety was out of reach. You ate what you had. Chinese ate rice, Mexicans ate tortillas, Englishmen ate potatoes, and in general, they did alright.”

Response: Actually, there is a movement afoot in the health foodie group to go back to eating locally. A lot of experts are changing their philosophy, calling not for the variety as much as calling for eating farm-fresh, as-chemical-free-as-possible, local, in-season food. (Oh yes, and the extremists cry, “Organic!”) I am a huge advocate of this. Of course, I am not terribly strict with it myself… (I would never eat oranges, otherwise!)…but as much as possible I try to eat farm fresh, in-season, from-my-own-area-not-shipped-and-sat-in-a-warehouse-for-an-unprecedented-amount-of-time (who knows when?) food. (Don’t get me started on store-bought eggs. Bleh.)

Stop feeling guilty for eating what’s available!

Response: What’s amazing is that pretty much everything is available all-year round. From my point of view, there isn’t much to be guilty about.

3. I think it a cruel, cruel trick of Satan to infatuate the American female mind with two opposites, and keep us caught in unhappiness between the two:
a passion for food, now that we’ve gathered earth’s rare Salt and Sweet and Fat into easily-accessible indulgence
and a desperate need for the most unrealistic of slender figures.

Response: This is a huge subject a whole book could be devoted to discussing. I think Satan is most definitely behind the infatuation, but unfortunately the infatuation is contributed to by many areas of life, and even by God’s own people.

“4. Kosher eating can be an obsession too.
As I read in one random comment online, “I’m picky too, but it’s because I don’t eat things that are bad for me!”
I think of my goal for my children: that they sit down to eat with a thankful heart what is placed in front of them, at anyone’s table, without asking “What’s in it?” and turning up their noses.”

Response: I have a two-part response to this.
1) I am glad that you strive to guide your children and family towards thankfulness of this depth. My mom hosted a very healthy family in her home for three weeks one time and stressed herself out trying to create healthy enough meals for this family. The family was rather insensitive about their standards for healthy eating and I remember how hurtful it was for my hardworking mother when the lady had to go buy her own “healthier cereal”. My mom very keenly felt that “turning up their noses” attitude and it brought more discord and hurt than anything! Bravo to you for steering clear of this and desiring better! Your gracious attitude will build the Kingdom!

2) I have my own confession to make. I react a little defensively to this point. In the last three years of my life, I have almost completely changed how I cook and what I eat. (Let me add here, that I hope and pray I always give and receive with much, much grace.) I feel better than I ever have before, though, and I want to share my good fortune and blessing with others. Therefore, I like to talk about health and healthy food and healthy lifestyle and healthy eating and the practicalities of how a meager budget can find its way through store aisles and avoid things like GMO’s and the like. I think that Kosher food (or ultra-healthy dieting, etc.) can become an obsession. I am agreed there. Kosher foodies or ultra-health foodies can be foodie snobs and that isn’t where Jesus wants us to end up. At the same time, I have quickly discovered that those people who aren’t as strict in their diet, can be extremely defensive themselves, always quick to belittle the point of the health nut, because of their own insecurities. That is equally as wrong (and snobby!).

Lydia
9 years ago

Loved this and felt myself saying a hearty amen to nearly everything!