Category Archives: Food and Eating

… and the rich get richer…

Let’s face it… most anyone with access to a computer is among the richest people in the world.  So just the fact that you are reading this qualifies you as privileged.  I know I am.

I have to admit that Psalm 16 is right when it says that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”  I whine way too much.  I complain and bemoan various things in my life… but I have a sweet life, a life that 99.9% of the world would want.  The problems I have can be classified as “rich people’s problems.”  And that’s why I’ve been writing this blog, or more accurately I’m writing the blog to hold myself accountable to my very real desire to examine my life, to become more grateful for it, to change it according to Jesus’ ways, according to the Old Testament jubilee principles fulfilled in Jesus’ new covenant for us.  I want to be part of redemptive efforts, if only in my own small ways, that His kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven.

So I was doing one of my rich person activities recently, shopping at a Whole Foods store.  I could write multiple blog posts on that choice alone, for it is one fraught with ambivalence for me.  But let me just stick to this one story.

Last week I went to Whole Foods to buy groceries for several dinner parties I was having (batching them all together over several days so the flowers and food could do double-duty… thrifty huh?).  And the check-out woman rang up all my food (very slowly I might mention), bagged it all, and then she realized her computer wasn’t working right.  So she told me I’d have to wait a while as she rebooted and tried a few things.  She asked me if I was busy.  Have you ever heard an American say, “Heck no, I’ve got all day to wait here.”  My mouth said no.  My crossed arms told me (and her, probably) otherwise. Though I wasn’t all that busy or time-pressured, really.

Then she decided that the only proper way to pay me back for the loss of my extremely valuable (!?) time was to give me some free food.  Let me repeat that I already had a cart full of just what I “needed” (which is a spurious term in these circumstances anyway), and that included about 20 peaches.  But she insisted on giving me a new bag full of peaches, special “doughnut peaches.”

Which I told her would go to waste, which I told her I did not need, which I told her was unnecessary for I really didn’t deserve or require more food as a prize for waiting patiently.  But it only escalated.  She then insisted I should have some Odwalla juice for free.  I told her I don’t really drink juice, sticking generally to water or coffee (or margaritas, but that seemed excessive to report).  But she wouldn’t rest until she had given me a carton of freshly squeezed orange juice, which I don’t really love.  And then she wanted me to try it right then so I’d know how good it was.

Anyway, you get the point.  It was ridiculously excessive, born of the very reality that Americans can’t wait, don’t expect to, won’t do it patiently.  Is that it?  Is it really not an option for me to have to wait 15 minutes for the register’s computer to get fixed so I can pay for my expensive groceries and go home to prepare for my dinner party?

I guess what was hardest for me to think about is what would have happened if a hungry person walked into that store, looking bedraggled perhaps.  Would that person have had the option to say “Can I have a bag of fresh peaches and a carton of freshly-squeezed orange juice for free?  Just because I am hungry.”  Likely not.

But I got all that because I was deemed too important or busy to wait.  And then when I told a couple of people how much it had upset me, they said that they thought I should’ve gotten something free for my trouble.

It makes me rather sick.

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How Much Is a Portion?

I don’t remember where we got the phrase, but our family often asks when serving food, “Do you want a sliver, a slice or a slab?”  That relates to pound cake or just about anything.  And it doesn’t escape my attention that we do actually have such a choice.

We’re a slab country, with slab people.  There are sliver countries with sliver people (who didn’t choose this).  And there are sliver people in America.

Why don’t we all takes slices?  Would that spread the pound cake around a little better?

“Fatso,” by The Story

It’s a frequent theme on my blogs that I love it when artists use their platform and power to say something that matters.  Maybe everyone thinks they’re saying something that matters, and actually music can be great even when it’s not overtly telling a story, teaching a lesson, or doing something dramatic and overt.  When my children were little, we used to listen to classical music and talk about what mood it evoked (“Is this scary or happy?”).  Everyone of my age (50, give or take 37 days) who grew up in America probably learned this lesson via “Peter and the Wolf” (or was that only at E. Rivers Elementary in Atlanta?).

ANYWAY, I do love music that’s just about having fun (thanks Kool & the Gang for “Celebrate good times!  Come on!”).

But today I draw your attention to a song called “Fatso” by The Story.

Here’s a stab at the lyrics:

This is the last time, this time I will win
It took a long time to gain this weight,
It will take a long time to lose it again
I will have only water for a week, then maybe carrots,
and celery, and if I lose then Sunday I'll have brown rice
Because someone will adore me when my ribs show clearly
and I'm thin even when I sit down
Someone will admire my gorgeous arms and legs
when I'm only one hundred pounds
I bought a doctor's scale on sale today
It takes up half the bathroom, and it's really ugly,
but I know it's going to help me reach my goal
I get so dizzy when I stand up fast, and I don't feel like
dancing but I know I'm gonna do it this time, for sure
Now I walk past the fatsos eating doughnuts,
with cream filling, icing, jimmies, and I am so glad I am not
like them
Because someone will adore me when my ribs show clearly
and I'm thin even when I sit down
Someone will admire my gorgeous arms and legs
when I'm only one hundred pounds
Last night I dreamed I ate a chocolate cake, and when I
woke up I was sure it was true so I weighed myself just to
make sure and drank a diet coke
I want to be skinny (Oh I am so hungry)

I find this song hysterically funny.  And ridiculously sad.  Funny because I have lived it, and it's a joke.  And sad because I have lived it, and it's a joke.  

What's with a lifestyle that can have us needing to obsess like this?  The Story captures something important.

Gluttony and Theology

Meat and three (plus a few)

I’m reading a very interesting book, called “Food and God, A Theological Approach to Eating, Diet and Weight Control.” Joel Soza wrote it, and it has nothing to do with another currently popular book with a similar title.  I’ve really enjoyed thinking through the themes of the role of food and eating in creation, in temptation, in Israel’s law code, in Old Testament case studies (Esau, Eglon and Eli), in the life and teaching of Jesus, and in the New Testament church.  It’s convicting, but then again I rather expected that since I know I have a problem in this area (being a typical American with a weight problem, knowing I live in a world where much of the population doesn’t have enough to eat), and I want to grow beyond that problem and act on convictions that are only somewhat recent.  So bring on the conviction!  Which Soza has done for me.

I’ll be doing a lot of posts on this, I think, as the use of food is definitely a jubilee principle (How much is right for me? Who and what do I owe for its production? How can I share?).

I want to start with a conversation around Gregory the Great, pope from 590-604 AD, who talked about the “seven deadly sins” which included gluttony.  Quoting Francine Prose’s “Gluttony,” Soza writes that “According to him (Gregory), gluttony could reveal itself in one of five ways: “too soon, too delicately, too expensively, too greedily, and too much.”  What do you think of those?  Have you commonly thought of gluttony that way if you think of it at all?

I’ll continue with some of Soza’s reflections: “By ‘too soon’ Gregory meant that one eats before there is real need to eat; by ‘too delicate’ he meant that one is too fussy or too dainty about one’s food choice and preparation; by ‘too expensive’ he meant indulgence in costly foods, by ‘too greedily’ he meant self-centered eating without regard for others; and by ‘too much’ he meant, well, exceeding the obvious measure of refreshment or need.”

I am guilty on all counts.  Good stuff to think about and — God, help me — to change.

Everything Has an Impact; I am what I Eat

This is a vulnerable post to write.  And I’m not a big fan of super-intimate, public confession.  Yet for the sake of accountability, which is a big part of what my Jubilee Year project is about, I need to talk about this.

It’s really not right to say that my consumption is a private matter.  I’m talking about food.  I’ve certainly been paying more attention lately to what I eat, where it comes from, the cost of producing it, the cost of transporting it, the ethical side of the purveyors thereof.  I’m making some small changes as a result.

Yet I also need to think more about how much I eat.  Today I am looking over our family budget, paying some attention to where we spend excessively (probably almost everywhere, truth be told), where we downright throw money away (usually because I’ve used my time poorly and use money to get out of a mess I’ve created   (“Oops, no time to make dinner; grab takeout” being the most common version of this tendency).

And as I look at the budget I see two things.  First, I spend more money than anyone else in my family on clothes.  And this is convicting in that I consider myself really “low maintenance” and often brag (to my family’s consternation) over my thrift store finds.  I have a bit (okay a lot) of (apparently falsely placed) pride over being low maintenance, not falling prey to trends, not needing to waste a bunch of money on excessive clothing.  Only I’m the one spending the money on clothes. And the only reason for that is that my weight fluctuates a lot, and I therefore regularly buy clothes — inexpensive ones, mind you, but frequent purchases that add up.

I struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, and yet the extra money spent on my clothes is a pretty big chunk.  And that’s money that could be spent on something better, on someone else, on some of the problems of the world that I regularly bemoan.

And the second thing I discovered is that I spend a lot of money on restaurants.  I knew that.  But I didn’t know quite how much, and you’re not going to find out either (someone would have to lock me up or lecture me).  But the bottom line is that as fun as it is to eat out, as much of a bonding experience as it is to meet a friend or go out with my family, the bonding could happen just as easily at a cheap joint or at a coffee shop or on a hiking trail even (imagine an outing without food!). And yet I spend money in restaurants, even as I try each day to adhere to a limited calorie diet.  I’m shooting myself in the foot — or in the gut.

Ah inconsistency.  You are my constant companion.

Weight problem + restaurant meals = excessive consumption (food and money) that is then exacerbated by the need to spend more money on doctors + medicine + new clothes.

I am what I eat.  I am a product of where I eat it and how much it costs and of the chain reaction set off by the choices I make.  My choices have an impact on others and on the world.  More resources for me = less resources for someone else.

I’m not a math whiz but I do see some opportunities for “new math” (< for me = > for someone else; < less directed to my girth = > for my brain and heart to direct elsewhere).

Accountability is hard.

Is This the Most Loving Way to Do Life?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to live every day wondering, “Is this the most loving way to do life?”

Obviously that would encompass how we relate to God and it would include how we love our neighbors.  And that’s everything.

But what realms would it apply in given that it should apply in all realms?

  • What do I drive?
  • What do I eat? Where did it come from?
  • Where do I live? Who shares my space?  Who does not?
  • What do I waste? Why?
  • Who do I spend my time with?
  • What do I do when I am hurt?
  • How do I treat enemies?
  • What do I think about? read about? dream about?
  • What do I watch?
  • How much do I consume, and where does it come from?
  • Am I stepping on others?  What’s so important to climb up to?
  • Where do I shop and what do I buy?
  • What do I do all day?
  • Do I love myself well?
  • How do I use my influence?
  • Do I claim God or deny him?
  • Am I willing to be part of the answer to the things I pray about?

I hope it all starts with the questions for I don’t have beautiful answers to these questions in my own life.  Lord have mercy.

Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer

I’m enjoying a book called Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer.  You can follow his interesting blog and learn more at: http://www.divinenobodies.com/blog/.  No I am not a paid sponsor.  A friend loaned me the book, and I’m enjoying it (Thanks, Laura).  In fact a bought more copies for others; mailing ’em out now.

ANYWAY, I digress (as usual).  I loved this line:

“… got me thinking about whether any theology can be ‘right’ if it doesn’t motivate you to treat people with love and respect.  Let’s just hope on Judgment Day that God doesn’t leave it in the hands of waitresses, cashiers, and all the other invisible people in our world who are on the receiving end of what’s truly in our hearts.”

I once witnessed a meltdown of a lot of people in a line at a fast food spot on the New Jersey Turnpike (Clara Barton perhaps?) when a woman whose command of the English language was minimal was moving very slowly and with not much efficiency… and people had to wait and didn’t receive exactly what they ordered (“Where are my curly fries?”).  It was chaos. It was war.

I do wrestle with my own lack of kindness when people in service roles are slow or not great at their jobs.  It’s like I have some sense of entitlement that my day go smoothly.  Today a grumpy clerk snapped at me when I attempted to spell my last name, unbidden.  I wanted to cry.  I felt it was my right to snap back.  Help me, God.  It’s not.

It’s my privilege, instead, to show her mercy and kindness and patience and to not be concerned with what she gives back. I know that’s not the way of the world.  But the way of the world isn’t working.  Jesus recommends countercultural measures.

I’ve got to de-escalate.

I appreciate the window into my own heart when I’m less than loving and merciful.  And I appreciate Jim Palmer’s excellent book and thinking.  Read it!