I am no chef. My love of cooking in no way guarantees knowledge or skill. I’m not even an aspiring foodie, at least not in the educated sense. I have no real ambition to delve into the deeper mysteries or technical proficiencies of great cooking. Of the many dishes, desserts and other recipes I try, probably just as many will flop as fly. This year, in the container garden on my deck I planted tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and basil. My harvest was tomatoes and basil, a few caterpillars and a lot of experience. Fortunately, I’m not keeping stats. That would be entirely beside the point.
I cook because I love it. And I love eating. Stepping through recipes and coming up with an edible result is for me part therapy, part love, part enjoyment of good food, and part reflection on all that food means to us in the human family. I do it because I like it, and because I like what I discover in the process. The lessons learned tend to cover both cuisine and life.
In preparing food, we touch on something essential; our most basic need is to eat and be nourished. Every culture has a particular cuisine that helps define it and give it color. Our consumption gives us identity even as it draws us toward one another. I can’t think of any recent meeting, gathering or coming together of friends that did not in some way include eating; whether that meant snacks or a multi-course meal. Whenever I cook for friends I am moved by a sense of human togetherness, of taking part in an historic ritual as over the centuries friends have pulled chairs to tables in the sharing of a common meal.
Food also highlights our dependence on one another. However self-sufficient we might imagine ourselves, even the most avid do-it-yourselfers will need somebody else to raise the livestock, plant the coffee or build the Cuisinart. Food production is no country for loners. Whether we like it or not, the need to eat forces us to rely on others and sometimes – even better – to work together.
Finally, as a pastor I love the way food – or more to the point, hunger – can remind us of our dependence on the God who provides it. Ask anyone who has spent time fasting and they will likely tell you that we are built with a battery that needs frequent recharging. We are not creatures who can go for a month on a single meal, but we are drawn to the table multiple times every day. Like baby birds with our mouths open wide, we have a continual need to be fed.
This is no mistake. The need to fill our stomachs regularly can remind us of our dependence on a greater source of sustenance. We are drawn to acknowledge our need for God’s nourishment and grace. This diet comes from a compassionate source well beyond ourselves, but one who draws near and sits at the table with us.
This blog will be as much about life as about eating. Following the format of this project, my next entry – which will be around Monday; I’m shooting for about two a week – will be based on the cooking experience of an actual recipe. (See “About This Blog” for details of the project.) I have picked out the first recipe book and am ready to go.