OK, I admit it. I’m a picky eater.
As a kid, I never ate salad. Abhored onions. (My kind mother used to blend them to put in sauces – it was the texture, not the flavor, that choked me.) And I really didn’t like trying new foods, especially if they had foreign-sounding names!
And then God sends me to another country. (Don’t even try to tell me He doesn’t have a sense of humor!) Thankfully, I’ve learned to love Filipino food. In fact, many days nothing satisfies like a steaming mound of rice and ulam.
I confess, though, that when stress hits, so do the cravings for first-culture “comfort food”. In my case, that would be macaroni and cheese. Chicken and dumplings. Biscuits smothered in sausage gravy. (And some days, what I wouldn’t give for a big mess of soup beans and cornbread!)
Our family has noticed another weird thing about food and culture: when we’re in one culture, we tend to seek out food that affirms our belonging in the other culture. When we lived in the province, for instance, it was a big deal to eat at Pizza Hut and even *shudder* McDonalds on trips to the city. Yet, we almost never ate at those places in the States!
But when we’re in the U.S., it’s the other way around. Oh, sure — when we first arrive, we’re pretty much like kids in a candy shop, rediscovering all the foods we’ve missed. But after a few weeks, we start longing for some good Asian rice. Cooking up pots of chicken ginataan or pork adobo. Eyeing the Chinese or Thai restaurants we pass by. (On one furlough, our delight practically knew no bounds at discovering that not only was there an Asian restaurant in tiny Hyden, Kentucky, but that it was actually owned and run by a Filipino family!)
It’s pretty hard to separate food and culture, isn’t it? Food, it seems, serves as both an affirmation of our roots and an expression of our identity.
I wonder if that’s why Jesus said “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34
In a culture that offered only perishables — forbidden fruit, stone-ground bread — Jesus chose instead a menu that affirmed his belonging to Another. A diet of sacrifice that called him to become the Bread. So that we, satisfied in him, can bear fruit that will last.
What physical food says “home” to you? What keeps you satisfied spiritually?