I love dark chocolate, particularly from Colombia and Ecuador.
I love sitting down with a proper cup of coffee and tasting the way it can be fruity or smokey, depending on the bean and how it was roasted.
I love great food, and nearly missed an international flight once in an attempt to get a slice of pizza from a particular coal-fired oven in Brooklyn.
At the end of a long day, my favorite way to unwind is to toss fresh sweet onions and some garlic into sizzling olive oil, and then decide what to make with it.
Indian food? Italian? Thai? A savory chicken soup?
As I describe food using the word “love,” I’m aware I really should reserve it to talk about the people I’m closest to, but given how much time and attention I devote to what passes my tongue, “love” feels like an accurate descriptor.
And as someone who works professionally to serve the poor, I often wrestle with the tension brought on by my selfish pursuit of gastronomic pleasure.
Don’t get me wrong – I think one of the amazing things about Jesus’ first recorded miracle was the setting. Instead of healing a leper, or feeding thousands of hungry people, He made wine at a wedding feast.
I think God was saying something about celebration, about appropriate extravagance. I think this is an amazing gift to humanity: we are created with the ability to appreciate a decadent dessert or a great party.
But I know that my obsession with food has a serious downside. When most of my day is spent thinking about me — my wants, my desires, my preferences — I quickly lose the ability to care about others.
As Chris Seay writes in his new book A Place At The Table,
“Certainly, our relationship with food is a unique window into our soul. In the days leading up to a fast I committed to a few years ago, a very simple realization broke my will, pride and eventually my heart. I realized that the joy that food and material possessions bring to me is often substantial, but that far too often I lack any sense of gratitude for it.”
In A Place At The Table, what Seay proposes to a reader like me is that I spend 40 days in a fast with a unique twist: eat what my sponsored child eats.
And in the process, recapture gratitude and a sense of solidarity with the poor.
I have an overwhelming number of options every day, but 9-year-old Billy in Haiti exists on small portions of rice, beans, stewed greens and bananas.
So I am going to do the same.
I haven’t read all of Chris’s book, but it is structured as a 40-day devotional, and has accompanying video and other resources for each day.
How would you define your relationship with food? Could a period of eating simply change your perspective?
Will you join me?