Category Archives: Christianity

Eating with less science and more joy

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If someone ever told me that some day I’d write anything involving science, I would have done that look-over-my-shoulder thing and assume they must be talking to someone else.

But we’re doing it today. Sort of.

In the context of what we eat, sometimes I think science can get in our way.

I’m not trying to discount science’s place in our lives—especially when it comes to food/nutrition—it is inarguably substantial. Science has brought many blessings to this earth (and is no enemy to Christianity in my opinion).

However, we want it to explain everything. We reduce everything to expiration dates. Calories. Ingredient lists. We want science to tell us so we don’t have to use our instincts or really have to think about what food we’re putting into our bodies.  We want to buy the snack pack of 100 calories because no matter what’s in that bag, we know it’s 100 calories and we’ve been told that’s good.

I hate to bring it up, but 100 calories of Oreos are still just Oreos.

We’ve been told: if you eat more than X calories a day, you’ll gain weight. If you eat less than X calories, you’ll lose weight.

Yes, but doesn’t that sound awful? No wonder our country is one big diet disaster.

I love this quote in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan:

“The problem is that once science has reduced a complex phenomenon to a couple of variables, however important they may be, the natural tendency is to overlook everything else, to assume that what you can measure is all there is, or at least all that really matters. “ (pgs. 147-148)

I would hate if someone reduced me to science:

Some hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and one scientific anomaly: an early riser.

Technically it’s correct (more or less) but the description wouldn’t help you know what I’d want for my birthday (the answer: sweet cooking tools/gadgets). Or, it doesn’t explain that I daydream about excuses for Bryan and I to live in Spain for a year. Or, that ice cream is the way to my heart.

So why do we want everything to boil down to science? It provides answers, but it takes the joy out of things sometimes, don’t you think?

How about knowing our food, so that we use our experience, our feel, to know a tomato is ripe? Using smells, sight, touch, so we know when something has gone bad. (For the sake of safety, let’s not use taste.)

Just because we’ve figured out how to make food shelf-stable (scientifically speaking) for months on end, should we eat it?

Shouldn’t we trust the food God created and intended for us to eat? Shouldn’t we have a relationship with food and the land that isn’t about calories and ingredient lists?

If the food is straight from the earth, it’s likely pretty good fuel for our bodies.

Science backs that up. But don’t reduce what you eat to science.

You’ll only rob yourself of the joy of eating fresh, simple ingredients from God’s creation.

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Food Revolution Day

Image via Jamie Oliver's website.

Image via Jamie Oliver’s website.

Today feels a little like Christmas to me.

Chef Jamie Oliver created a day to literally bring the world together on an issue that no single human being can avoid: the food we eat.

He calls it Food Revolution Day, and today is the day. He’s imploring anyone and everyone to “Cook it, Share it, or Live it” in hopes to shine a worldwide spotlight on the quality of food and cooking around the world (hint: it’s not great).

For Food Revolution Day, Oliver wants us in our kitchens cooking from scratch. Or, shouting as loud as possible on social media. Or, signing petitions to get more food education in our schools, or better lunch meat at schools.

I admire Oliver so much for taking up this important cause and using his platform as a celebrity chef for something so positive.

What do I mean by platform?  Have you ever read the book “Platform” by Michael Hyatt?

The official title of the book is: “Platform: Get Noticed in Noisy World” which pretty much sums it up.

It’s a fantastic, practical book that teaches you to use the proper building blocks to increase your audience; to build your platform.

For some of us, we want a platform to grow our business. Or our blog. For Oliver, it’s a cause. A cause that in so many ways could save the world.

He built a platform on cooking shows and cookbooks. Now, he’s one of our leading voices in changing what we eat. In getting back into the kitchen and (re)learning the cooking traditions of past generations.

But what about the rest of us? What if we don’t have a NY Times bestselling cookbook? Or a blog that gets 80 bazillion page views a day?

Our platform is with our friends. Our family. Our communities.

Are we using our platforms for good? Are we trying to make a difference in and around the people we can influence?

We need to be.  As Christians, using our platform for good is the best thing we could be doing.  Yes, there’s been plenty of negative stories that have come out about Christianity in the last few years. But what if we all used our platforms—however large or small they may be—for good?

How many people could we bless? Could we change the world?

For me, I care about food. I know first-hand about how good food makes a difference—sometimes a miraculous one—in your life (I’ll post more on that topic next week).  For me, I want to use my platform to engage people of the Christian faith in the same fight that Jamie Oliver is leading; get back to the earth. Get back to eating foods that come from the earth and not a box. Get back in the kitchen.

What do you care about? And how could you use your platform for good?

 

The Good Soil: Part I

Our church community garden as of May 11, 2013.

It started with a small idea.

Now it’s growing.

An idea popped into my head one day and I asked my husband, “what if we started a community garden at church?”

We have land that we’re not really using to it’s fullest extent at church and I felt we had an opportunity to do something that benefits our church community and possibly the community surrounding us, if we can grow enough food.

So I asked a couple of women at my church what they thought, and they kind of ran with it.

Here is where we started, March 24.

The "before" photo of our community garden.

The “before” photo of our community garden.

And here we were April 20 with some corn popping up.

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We also cleared (well, some of us super-strong women pulled up the first two and then we mostly left things to a chainsaw) these shrubs and have planted some basil and hope to have a fruit tree or two here:

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As of May 11, you can see what it looks like at the top of this post and below. It’s a little weedy, but awesome! Corn, tomatoes, zucchini and bell peppers.

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I’m so excited we’re starting to see our crops grow, and I hope we can be blessing to our community in this way.

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what is sown.” (Matthew 13:23)

 

What Would (Ancient) Egypt Do?

Image by listentoreason via Flickr.

Image by listentoreason via Flickr.

My memories about what I learned at church about Israel and Egypt in Biblical times goes something like this:

Egypt is bad, and Israel is good.

We talk a lot more about Israel than Egypt. God has to keep reminding Israel to follow Him.  He forgives them, but they need a lot of reminding.

The Israelites even wander in the wilderness for 40 years, where God only provided manna and quail for them to eat. Ellen F. Davis says the following about the Exodus in her book “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: an Agrarian Reading of the Bible”:

“…this story makes it clear that manna is both a gift and a test, like the land of Canaan itself. It is given on certain conditions and thus is meant to reveal whether Israel will walk by God’s teaching or not.”

Davis echoes in that passage what God said to Moses in Exodus 16:4 about testing the Israelites in this way. Davis discusses that God wanted Israel to live in direct contrast to how Egypt lived; a huge part of that goes back to how and what the Israelites ate.

“These were highly stratified, strongly militarized societies in which the whole land belonged (at least in name) to the monarch. In practical terms, that meant the wealth of the land flowed upward, away from the small farmers, serfs, and slaves who composed the overwhelming majority of the population, to the large landowners, the nobility, the great temples, and the crown.”

Sound familiar?

Egypt had such an abundance of resources they stored up food in huge silos. Egypt had one harvest per year, but they had such a surplus they traded on the international market, which just put more money in Pharaoh’s pocket.

We see Israel in ourselves; we feel like the oppressed.  We never want to think of ourselves as big, bad Egypt, throwing our weight around on the international market and becoming so wealthy, we think we don’t need any help from God. That we’re doing just fine on our own. But in America, we need to face the truth.

Egypt is exactly who we are.

So the Egypt/Israel/manna story serves as a great reminder that God doesn’t want us to live the way Egypt lived at that time. He felt making that point so important that Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. In that time they learned, or were reminded that God sustains us. God provides.

When we don’t trust that, we hoard God’s gifts. Or worse, we waste them. Or, we create an industrial farming system that is unsustainable and damaging to our health in the name of satisfying our wants. What we perceive that we need.

God gave us what we need, especially when it comes to food. We need to keep it simple, and trust that what God provides is enough.

The cost of cheap food

Image via Tara Whitsitt on  Flickr

Image via Tara Whitsitt on Flickr

My husband’s sermon yesterday served as a good reminder that evil isn’t always some outside force in the world.

Sometimes, it’s in choices we make. Or, we’re perpetuating evil when we stand by and do nothing.

God puts different issues on our hearts to fight for; we can’t solve every problem on our own. Food and what we eat worries me. It’s the cause I can’t ignore.

I argue that we as a country need to be willing to pay for better ingredients. For more local ingredients. For higher-quality meat. Some might say that just isn’t an option for poorer people. They have to buy the cheapest food possible because that’s the situation they are in and we shouldn’t judge them for making those choices.

That’s true. But we’re forcing our poor people into a vicious cycle.

According to this Mark Bittman column, the cost of treating and/or trying to cure preventable lifestyle diseases is more than a seventh of our GDP. If you’re a person that feels the government is spending too much money, think of how much the government spends on programs like Medicare. Our poor need medical care as much as anyone else.

In the same column, Bittman estimates by 2020, Type II Diabetes will cost the U.S. $500 billion annually. Think of where $500 billion would get this country if it was spent somewhere else, instead of going to the treatment of illnesses brought on by what we eat.

So much of this is preventable. Avoidable. It’s not an earthquake or a hurricane. We’re just eating too much crap. That’s it. But, we’ve made it really cheap, so that’s all some people can afford to sustain themselves. So they eat it, get sick and need medical care that they can’t pay for. Sometimes, the government is going to have to foot the bill for that.

“One reason that obesity and diabetes become more prevalent the further down the socioeconomic scale you look is that the industrial food chain has made energy-dense foods the cheapest foods in the market, when measured in terms of cost per calorie,” said Michael Pollan in his book Omnivore’s Dilemma.

He also says in later in that chapter that researchers learned a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips and cookies. A dollar only bought 250 calories of carrots.

With or food system they way it currently stands, we aren’t giving our poor people any other choice. And it’s making them sick.

Whether you care about food issues or not, this does not line up with our call as Christians to help the poor. The Old Testament is filled with laws that require the Jewish people to leave some of what the grow or earn for the poor. In the New Testament, we see many examples of Jesus helping the poor.

As followers of God that this is a call we can’t ignore.

James 2: 15-17: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. IF oen of you says him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

 

 

 

 

Food and the Simple Life

Gelato = eating and being glad

Gelato = eating and being glad

Sometimes, living a simple life feels out of reach.

Maybe it’s living in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s trying to balance a work life, a church life, a family life and still feeling like you have a life.

When I feel my life teetering out of balance, the book of Ecclesiastes is a good place to turn.

Oh sure, it talks a lot about everything being meaningless, so on the surface it seems like a bit of a downer. But this book in the Old Testament gives me great comfort because it simplifies.

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (2:24)

Isn’t interesting that when you really get down to it, the Bible (or in this case, most likely King Solomon, who God happened to give unparalleled wisdom) gives us this simple formula to enjoy our lives.

So often—at least in America—live in complete contradiction to this. We want to eat as quickly as possible because we need to keep moving. We don’t want to spend a long time on food. We eat on the run or in our cars.

And we’re missing out.

My husband and I have been fortunate enough to travel overseas twice, wandering throughout several countries in Europe. What struck me so clearly there is the difference in what a meal means. In Paris, you can’t even really get coffee to go, unless you’re in a coffee shop that caters to tourists. No one is eating or drinking while walking around.

In America, we make meals revolve around our lives. In Europe, their lives revolve around meals.

When I returned home, I found myself wishing I could find the time to live that way. More precisely, I found myself wishing I would make the time to live that way.

If I did that—if we all did that—maybe we could put our food culture in the United States on a better path. We’ve been so bent on getting our food as quickly as possible so that we can move on with our busy lives, our food has suffered. And as a result, our health and our earth have suffered.

As I said here, as Christians our lives should be attractive to others. As in, something should stand out; be different. If we’re so furiously busy we don’t make time to have meals with people we care about it, we aren’t living a life anyone really wants to live.

Eat drink and be glad. This theme reappears in Ecclesiastes five times over 12 chapters. When themes repeat in the Bible I feel like it’s God using a highlighter.

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (8:15)

First things first: eat.

I think I can do that.

 

 

What the World Needs Now is Love…or Cooking

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

My first foray into cooking quickly turned into a cooking failure.

And by “cooking” I mean heating up a can of chicken noodle soup on the stove.

I don’t remember how old I was, but my brother was teaching me what to do. He was the soup making expert, because he wouldn’t eat anything that looked like a fruit or vegetable. So he pretty much lived off a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (one of God’s greatest creations) and Campbell’s bean and bacon soup.

When I tried to pour it from pot to bowl, I didn’t expect the handle to be so hot (insert your own joke here), and I dropped every last bit of it down the sink.

I remember thinking then, in between thoughts of New Kids on the Block: I’ll never be able to cook. I’m terrible at it, and it’s not even fun.

Somewhere after college, I realized that I enjoyed cooking immensely. And not just heating up a can of soup.

While it took me a while to get on that bandwagon, I didn’t realize the benefits to cooking your own food.

Mark Bittman’s column in the New York Times this week discusses just that. He spoke with author/journalist/professor Michael Pollan about the importance of cooking.

“Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself,” Pollan said. “People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.”

What can also get lost when we aren’t cooking? Community.

Obviously, we can go out to eat with people. But cooking with or for someone and sharing food takes your connection to a different level.  You might forget a meal out with friends, but you don’t ever forget when a person cooked for you. There’s some fundamental difference there.

Think of how often God stresses community in the Bible. Much of the Bible is a story of one community, the Jewish people. In Acts, we read the early church gathered and shared meals every day. He built us to need community, and often times we see that community strengthened in the context of sharing a meal.

Passover is a meal people have shared with family and friends for thousands of years. For Christians, taking communion connects us to the beginning of our faith, a remembrance of the meal Jesus shared with His disciples as one of his final acts before dying on the cross. He ate meals with people most did not want to be seen with (Mark 2: 13-17), and He did that to make a point.

Honestly, how many of the problems and misunderstandings could we solve if we would take the time to share a meal with someone?

In the first chapter their book Food: A Culinary History by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari they discuss how cooking food changed civilization from the earliest times.

“The social impact of cooking was no doubt more immediately apparent than were its nutritional implications. It encouraged commensalism, or eating with others, and led to a greater division of labor within the group, all of whose members participated in a regular round of activities associated with eating. The result was more complex group organization.”

If we make time for cooking, we’re making time to strengthen our community, to strengthen our relationships with our family, friends and maybe some people we never wanted to put in either of those two categories. We’re making time to live in a way that God intended for us.