Guest Post! A Food Lover on the Grace of Taste

{Welcome to the blog, Tim!}

I love the way food tastes, how it feels, the sight of it; the smell of a cooking kitchen. I’ll try just about anything that is standard fare somewhere on the planet, so I’ve tried a lot of foods, and almost always to my benefit. Even though I love good eats, I’m pretty indiscriminate. I can eat pizza every day for a week and still say yes if someone suggests it for the next meal. I love soups from black bean to butternut, gazpacho to garbanzo, lentil to leek. Casseroles? Bring ‘em on, along with steaks, ribs, burgers, and all the fresh fruits and vegetables that, here in California, are abundant year-round.

God didn’t have to give us such wonderful senses of taste and smell so we can enjoy food so much. God could have given us merely moderate senses so that we would eat what we need to for sustenance but not necessarily have the ability to enjoy food to such an extravagant degree.

And that’s what it is–extravagance. Our God has created us with extravagant grace and it’s a common grace for all–like being able to breathe air and enjoy the feel of warm sunlight on our skin and marvel at the sights offered by a walk through a pine forest. To that list I add the experience of taste. And I think there’s a spiritual component to it, too.

Not only does the Bible use food imagery in describing our relationship with God and all God’s goodness toward people, but it  appears also to tell us that we can actually partake of God in a spiritual sense just as we do food in the physical sense. Here are some examples.

  • God invites us to a feast and overwhelms us with love. (Song of Songs 2:4-5)
  • Can’t afford the price of admission? God covers the tab:“Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
  • And both our hunger and thirst are eternally satisfied:

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35.)

With God the functional and the spiritual are always inseparable, so can these word pictures that use food perhaps be more than mere metaphors?

Yes, and Jesus – the Living Water and Bread of Life himself – showed us how.

At the wedding reception in John 2:1-12, the host feared disaster, having miscalculated how much wine he’d need. What did Jesus do? At the urging of his mother, he turned water into wine. Not some boxed red, as some of us might have done, but a notable vintage.

God’s food isn’t only spiritual.

And our enjoyment of food isn’t only functional.

Our ability to taste is God-given–perhaps so that we can understand what it means to taste and see that God is good. In the miracle at Cana, the disciples believed–not merely by seeing, but by tasting the wine as proof of his goodness.

One day we’ll all celebrate a feast that will allow our spirits and our bodies to experience together God’s sustenance as it is truly meant to be enjoyed.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the good food God gives me to taste here and now as a reminder of the great banquet to come.

{Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids now in college, his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California.}

Weekend Eating Reading: Ellyn Satter

…the Saturday post!

Weekend Eating Reading briefly discusses at least one good book that’s somehow related to ‘joyful eating,’ and is, throughout the weekend, updated with links to notable or newsworthy articles on topics relevant (I hope!) to readers of Eat With Joy. Feel free to point out (and link to) others in the comments!

This week I’d like to highlight the work of Ellyn Satter, a dietician and counselor who’s a recognized authority on the issue of “feeding,” particularly when it comes to feeding children and families. However, her model of “eating competence” is also highly relevant to adults. It is based on the twin concepts of permission and discipline–in her words–

“The permission to choose enjoyable food and eat it in satisfying amounts.”

and

“The discipline to have regular and reliable meals and snacks and to pay attention when eating them.”

(Bet that’s not the kind of “discipline” you expected…)

Weight, for Ellyn Satter, is not the big issue: comfort with eating is.

Her diet plan–which is no diet plan at all–looks like this:

  • Context: Take time to eat, and provide yourself with rewarding meals and snacks at regular and reliable times.
  • Attitude: Cultivate positive attitudes about eating and about food. Emphasize providing rather than depriving; seeking food rather than avoiding it.
  • Food acceptance: Enjoy your eating, eat foods you like, and let yourself be comfortable with and relaxed about what you eat. Enjoying eating supports the natural inclination to seek variety, the keystone of healthful food selection.
  • Internal regulation: Pay attention to your sensations of hunger and fullness to determine how much to eat. Go to the table hungry, eat until you feel satisfied, and then stop, knowing another meal or snack is coming soon when you can do it again.

[from Ellyn Satter’s website]

Remarkably, people who follow Ellyn Satter’s “eating competence model”–whether intentionally or by natural inclination–are happier and healthier, according to published research. Her therapeutic model–which is easily accessed in her clear, easy to read books, is as relevant to those who overeat and binge as it is to those who diet and otherwise restrict.

Much of Ellyn Satter’s work focuses on feeding children, and, in particular, on the feeding relationship between parents and children–parents, she says, get to decide the when and what of eating; children, the whether and how much.

My impression from reading Ellyn Satter’s books is that her approach aims to return people to the instinctive joy that most of us have in food. Food is good! Most cultures appreciate that and nurture joyful trust in eating, but ours–for reasons too complicated for this post–doesn’t. However, gratefully and joyfully accepting and enjoying food is, to me, what people are created by God to do. Eating is pleasurable–one of the great pleasures of life “under the sun,” as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it.

In fact, that’s why this site is called “eat with joy”–it takes its name from Ecclesiastes 9:7-10. Life’s hard–and one of the delights God has given to us is eating. Our right response, then, is joyful gratitude!

my competent eater

I don’t know if Ellyn Satter is a person of faith or not, but I think her work does a great job of helping us get to that place of joyful gratitude. To my mind, it is a ‘Biblical’ diet.

{You can see Ellyn Satter’s full catalog of books here; you may also be able to find them at your local library.}