How Would You Define Your Relationship with Food?

I love dark chocolate, particularly from Colombia and Ecuador.

cup of coffee

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.”

bags of rice and beans

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?

13 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Kiki March 15, 2012

    My compassion child is also from Haiti. Please pray for her, too. I chose a child from Haiti bcsauee I also have a friend, Dawn, who worked as a missionary in Haiti for many years. She is a musician and works with children teaching them to sing and play instruments. She was just recently moved by the IMB to the Dominican Republic to help with all the Haitian refugees who have moved across the border. She is safe, but she has lost many friends, including the pastor that she worked with for 17 years. She hopes to go to Haiti on a first responder team but is not sure when. I know it will be hard for her to go back. Please pray for her too.

  2. Jill Foley ~ Compassion Family February 25, 2012

    For me this journey means taking away the indulgences – only drinking water and tea, eating very simple meals (plain oatmeal, simple salads, etc.), no desserts. Then once a week my family will join me in eating a simple, rice and beans type meal. We’re only a couple days into the journey, but I’ve noticed all the things I’m NOT eating. And my young girls are noticing, too. It’s been a great way to talk with them about why I’m doing this.

  3. Keith McQuillen February 25, 2012

    I read the book from beginning to Day 1 three times to make sure that I felt that I could do it. Started on Ash Wednesday and am looking forward to the completion of this opportunity. I made my first beans and rice tonight for work lunches next week in honor of my Dominican sponsored child Frenely. Great book and the first four daily readings were very inspirational!

    1. Nate Ernsberger February 29, 2012

      How is it going, Keith? I’m at the end of the first week, and finding that I appreciate the simple tastes of what I am eating… but I also find I am wrestling with my desire for distraction. A consistent diet has taken a lot of “distraction” options off the table, and I have to pay attention to the state of my heart, and my ability to be present for my children and their need for my attention and affection.

  4. Anne Rogers February 25, 2012

    Nate, I am on the A Place at the Table journey too, and am looking forward to reading your posts!

  5. Mike Stephens February 22, 2012

    I could do rice, beans, and chicken for Nicaragua and the philippines, but man I love avacado. I know they eat avacado in Tanzania. I almost can’t imagine a world without orange juice!

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all you anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

    1. Sheri February 22, 2012

      Yes they do!

    2. Nate Ernsberger February 22, 2012

      Mike, I’ve got some avocado on my list for Haiti, and I think for Nicaragua. The best avocado of my life was from Haiti, so I figure it’s fair game!

      Ultimately, this diet for me is going to be about simplicity of choices, rather than establishing a new legalism. Today, for example, I am astounded at how amazing black beans and chicken can taste. Ask me again in three weeks…

      1. Chad Allen February 23, 2012

        The best PINEAPPLE I’ve ever tasted was in Haiti! So grateful for this journey. Our family just sponsored a Lucas from Brazil, as my son’s name is Lucas. I watched one of the thank you videos and just started sobbing. My wife came over to rub my back, and I kept saying, “Nothing else matters.”

  6. Sara February 22, 2012

    I haven’t done anything like this but was thinking about it for this ‘Love’ month of February. I feel bad because of my overeating when Sara and Ravi are existing on so little – Thanks for the book recommendation. I think if we were to do this it would bring great rewards not only in our understanding poverty but in developing a deep relationship with our Saviour.

  7. Kirsten February 22, 2012

    YES! I will join you!

  8. Katherine Miller February 22, 2012

    Any suggestions for Nicaragua?

    1. Jenn L February 22, 2012

      Hi Katherine,

      Here’s a link to the resource page at which lists staple foods for Compassion countries.

      I also found two recipes that I will use for Nicaragua

      Gallo Pinto (beans and rice “spotted/painted rooster” lit. trans.

      repocheta (the recipe is in the comments on the gallo pinto recipe)

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