Food V – Conclusions

Several of my classmates are in the armed forces. They are self-sufficient, deliberate and masters of time management. I used to manage my time, I found it exhausting. I usually ignore their military banter and haircut talk but my ears perked when they began to discuss eating schedules. It makes me cringe to even write the word "schedule" next to the delight that is eating, but those were their words, not mine.

"I read a book last year that teaches you how to prepare all your meals for an entire month in one day." Nightmares of Sunday afternoon's "chef's special" from my college cafeteria flashed through my mind. An entire week's leftovers casseroled and renamed. The Horror.

"I am not quite there yet. I prepare all my food for the week on Saturdays, but a month, that would be beautiful" he says as he unwraps and bites into a cheese stick. A cheese stick for the love of all things holy! --- At this point I blacked out. I vaguely recall images of a freezer and 60 containers each bearing a date and meal-time. I closed the freezer and opened the refrigerator. It is filled with cheese sticks. I awoke to the teacher calling my name asking my to translate the next verse. Sometimes our mind tries to protect us by blocking out memories of traumatic events. It took me a few weeks to piece this episode together.

For some people food is fuel. If they could eat one meal that would last them for an entire month, they would. Taking time to eat is just as annoying as stopping for gas. This fuel mentality is really just an effort in efficiency. Work and productivity are the goal and food is only a means to an end, that is, it keeps you going. Time spent making food, consuming food, etc., is time wasted. These people would be happy having nutrients fed to them through a tube, if it were socially acceptable. (In rare cases, however, the fuel mentality may be the product of an anti-establishment bent. "Only suckers need to eat!" Like I said, this is extremely rare, and usually short lived.)

I believe meal times are a heaven ordained break. No matter how much we eat for breakfast we will still be hungry for lunch. Don't try to fight it. If you prepare your meals for the whole week at once so you can nuke it and continue to work while you eat you are missing the point. Why not take 52 Sabbaths in a row so you don't need to be bothered with it the rest of the year? No, take a break, rest. It is meant to be this way. Some people are so driven they actually feel guilty or lazy taking time to make good food and enjoy it. I believe peace is better than productivity, and peace follows close on the heels of a meal well enjoyed. It turn, who knows, a peaceful mind and soul may yield the output you desired to begin with.

Many of us have so ordered our lives that taking time to cook/eat is either impossible or undesirable. Enter fast food. Is it any wonder that food called "fast" is likely to kill us just as fast as we can order it? Many will feel I am hypocritical here, knowing my family has a Sunday McDonalds ritual. Do not be fooled. We do not eat there because it is "fast" and we are cramped for time. It is written into the Bottig genetic code, in several important places I am sure, that no seasoning, sauce, or natural or artificial flavor can make food as savory as knowing it was a good deal. Any place can make a double cheeseburger, yes, but how many serve it with a side of dollar menu? When we gather together in the sacred halls of golden arches and red shoes we do not rush but linger for several hours in delightful conversation and reminiscing over times and friends both present and past. If church once a week isn't enough to make a man spiritual (and you and I know it isn't) then fast food once a week will do us little harm, I am sure.

Eating is the one thing we all have in common. As strange as we thought our parents were when we were in middle school, we still had this. Let us take advantage of this commonality. There is more in life than American Idol that can bring us together. There we days I did not want to be home for dinner, sure, but those times together shaped who I have become. I remember listening to my older brothers tell stories at the table and how my dad would laugh. "I need to learn this skill" I thought to myself. The dinner table was the first place I experimented with humor and witty conversation. Here I did not get pity laughs, but I did not get ridiculed either. I leaned my place as a member of the family, and I understood as I matured how my role changed. The way I talk to my father at McDonalds today is not the way we spoke when I was young. Our conversations have changed because we have changed. The way we converse around food has always been an accurate indicator of who I am and where I stood with him and the rest of the family. I was always accepted, loved and fed. I had things to look forward to as my brothers shared their lives and the adventures of dating, driving, and general mayhem. I learned important lessons as they were punished for revealing too much information. Through humor and casual conversation we opened the doors of our hearts to each other as we scarfed down chicken, mashed potatoes and canned corn.

We can spend the rest of our lives with this burden of food and the annoying hunger that disturbers us every three to six hours, or we can accept it for the gift it is and make the most of it.

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  • Mary Relph

    I agree… mealtimes as a family are very important in that they give special time together and it is a good time for interaction and relaxation. It is also very hard to come by during certain seasons of life….I speak from expierance with having two small children and being in full-time ministry it gets hard to sit down together for a meal…..but I have to say that the fact that we are not always able to have every meal together (in fact it usually ends up that we get 2 nights a week that we are able to have dinner together) makes the times that we are able to eat together that much more special and anticipated….it also has an impact on what I decide to serve for that meal…..since I do not get to cook dinner for my husband that often when I do I want it to be the best that I can prepare….not leftover surprise.

  • I think you’re the first person in the history of the world that has a compelling argument for eating at McDonalds. For some reason I want a cheeseburger now.

    Also it’s nice to have all my meals planned for me.

    Breakfast – Bread and tea

    Lunch – Some kind of starch some kind of bean or lentil

    Dinner – Repeat Lunch.


  • Amira

    Your defence of McDonalds is somewhat confusing in light if the ealier pot luck blog. What you are saying is, the food is irrelevant, it’s the occasion and the company that are important. Yes, I know, and the price. Isn’t that what lots of people said about pot lucks?? If you go to a church function for the food, you’re probably missing the point. In fact I think Paul in Corinthians says something very similar about communion where he told them off for turnung it into a feast instead of recognising it for the symbolic and relational event Christ meant it to be.

  • Amira,
    I think that food is meaningless in the same way that beauty is meaningless, that is, it has no power in itself to bring us closer to God. Beauty is not like righteousness in that it is pleasing to God in and of itself, and food is not somehow better in God’s eyes if it tastes exquisite rather than poor. Even still, beauty in worship may help open our minds to the wonders of the Almighty, and food, because it is universal to all people, has found great utility in both relational and spiritual matters. Of course the relationships are more important than the food we eat! But I also think that food is great way to be hospitable, and this applies directly to the potluck. For a guest you serve the best, bring out the china, kill the fatted calf (or goat if you will). It is not somehow wrong to eat bad food, because food is meaningless, but it is in poor taste to serve bad food. One comment said that he is willing to suffer through the bad food for the sake of the relational time. I think he is right to say that, but at the same time I wonder why we subject our guests to bad food to begin with. Perhaps most church goers are New Yorkers and so a potluck is the thrill of a lifetime. If this is true, that all church goers are New Yorkers (see Food IV), than a potluck is very much like the time my family spends at McDonalds. The food may not be good in even the broadest sense of the word but everyone enjoys it and it opens the doors to communication. However, in the real world, most people are not New Yorkers so maybe we should substitute more classical dishes, like mashed potatoes for example, for our highly experimental Aug Rotten potato and lunch-meat casserole topped with sour-cream, salsa and raisins. We don’t go to church looking like slobs and stinking to high heaven, so why do we bring dishes that do?

  • Jodie

    As I read your thoughts on meal time and food I find myself remembering many nights till 2 am that were started at dinner. Discussions of right and wrong, lessons in church history, and general insight into how one should proceed in love, life, and annoying boyfriend problems… Then I think on the day that Jeremy and I closed on our house and Jason took us out to eat. It was celebratory!!! The original intent was sustenance and traffic avoidance, but we stayed many hours listening to amazing stories as only our brother can tell. I think that he entertained the entire staff. Or a recent lunch with Roland after a yo-yo show where I was advised in the ways of money, life, and using my time efficiently while in school. The food in these cases was not the most important thing on the table…it was time. The time for me to learn from people who want to love and protect me in the best way that they know how….knowledge. These last few holidays have not been the same without you here. We all still sit at the table for many more hours than in necessary to eat…but your input and humor is sorely missed. I can’t wait for you to come home!!!!! I miss the meals that we share. Maybe this time we can come to my house!!!!

  • MOM

    Adam….Adam…..Adam…..You never fail to touch my heart strings. All the years of struggle to get you to eat…….FOOD……looks like it payed off finally. I just realized it wasn’t the food you hated it was the smell. If you had tried the onions you would have liked them. Mayonnaise only makes you fat anyway. I don’t like lunch meat either. But I still love it when we can all get together and sit at any table and share our stories and our love and our laughter and our tears, your wisdom, (some may question that statement) RJ’s humor, Jason’s fantastically funny and detailed stories and Jodie’s excitement about whatever is happening in her life that day. Many more wonderful meals are always anticipated as our family grows and blossoms with each new member. See you in May. Your chicken, mashed potatoes and canned corn will be waiting for you.
    I love you, MOM

  • Stephen

    I want to be asain. Meaning, I want to take their philosophy of finding beauty in all the world around me, while living simply. I have our cheap and flimsy culture substituting production and entertainment for satisfaction and family.

    It is really frustrating to try to live different culturally than the one you live in. I fear I am hoplessly trapped able to make only small changes in the directions I would rather go.

    Adam, our days of conversation, tea, and writing are as close as I get. Thanks.