Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the Importance of Being Eaters

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating or drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.

I have an eating disorder. Actually, I think we all do. Maybe it was best said by  Lillian Calles Barger in an interview for Mars Hill Audio I listened to recently where she called it "disordered eating." We have taken what is supposed to be not only a necessity, as Voltaire stated, but a beautiful pleasure as well, and have made into, well, here's a couple pictures to get 
you thinking...

I remember a coach I had in high school who talked about her years as a college ball player and how she literally thought about food merely as fuel for the machine that was her body. She was in such a high level of fitness and training that she ate exactly the amount of nutrients and carbs to sustain her body at the level of performance she wanted it at. Sometimes that meant she could get what she needed merely from a power bar and since she dedicated so much time to training and to her sport- a power bar was often all she had time for (hmm... can't really relate much to that scenario).

I  know someone else who desires to lose some pounds and struggles to keep from eating too many sweets. As a result this person finds something that fits the "low fat" calorie count- like fat free microwave popcorn, and eats 10 bags a day. 

We all have some sort of "disordered eating" habits. And by disordered I mean, out of the orderly way we were designed to be in our God-given bodies. Whether it's feeling weary with small children at home and resorting to easy meals full of pre-packaged foods, or coming home to an empty house and eating in front of the TV, or eating in the car on the way to or home from work, we often eat in a way that defies the God-given plan for us to experience our human-ness in it's fullest and most glorious way (I think that way includes Sumatra coffee by the way)

Here's the idea behind it: we were made to live in physical bodies that require physical food, but in the beauty and complexity of that design, we are also affected by how we go about doing that very task of eating. We are not animals. As I'm sure Oprah or some health guru will tell you, our eating habits are closely connected to and tied in with our emotions, our intellect, our psyche and moods and of course our actual physiological well-being. And surprisingly, Oprah did not actually come up with that idea on her own... it's really an age old "Eden concept." Made from the earth, we were made to eat the earth as well. And we were made to eat together.

So, I've been thinking a lot about this whole "way we eat" thing quite a bit recently and there are four areas that are sort of (I hesitate to say goals though that is in fact what they are) some things I want to work towards and maybe they are things you could work towards as well.

Here they are:

1. Eat fresh.
I know it's hard. I know it costs more. I know there are challenges because even when I eat fresh, which is actually quite cheap here in China, I know that what I am eating is actually pumped with who knows how many litres of steroids and is about the furthest thing from "organic" outside of being grown in a laboratory. But back to fresh... it is what we were MADE to eat and we need it! Not only that but the more we eat in delicious, fresh, mouth-watering ways the more we will enjoy the food we were made to be sustained by and to (what a gift!) enjoy to the fullest! Isn't it interesting that so much of celebration in the Biblical tradition is centered around eating. And this is true eschatologically as well. We don't lose our bodies... they are made new, made to enjoy things to the fullest- including food.

2. Eat slowly.
I do not mean to chew your food 20 times or some other crazy diet plan to help you get full before you eat too much. I simply mean that it takes time to make good food, and we need to make the time to do that. I don't know all of what that means, there are probably a million arguments against it for each of our particular lives and schedules. But, if the way we eat is really important, I think the way we prepare for it can be equally so. What we care about, we take pride in. And I think we should care about how we eat, not in a self-consumed diet conscious kind of way, but more in a wanting to eat the way we were ordered (as in designed) to do so: nutritiously, in community with people, enjoying every minute of it. 

3. Eat local.
I'm not a member of the Slow-Food movement. I think it's a great idea but at this point the closest I can get is to buy from my little vegetable man-friend inside our front gate. He's awesome by the way; speaks a tiny tiny bit of English which he likes to practice when I come in, always has a little magic trick to wow the boys with, is cute as a little Chinese button, and I get to see him almost every day. That's what I mean when I say eat local- support your local farmers if you can-- but more importantly, I think you should use the means of getting your food as a way of being a part of the community you've been placed in. And that means getting to know the people who grow or sell you your food. Shop at a farmer's market, or at the very least, try to talk to the man nicely stacking oranges at your local grocery store.

4. Eat together.
To me, this is one of the most important. Maybe you really can't feasibly attempt the other three, but this one you should strive for. I heard something said the other day to the gist of, one of the things that distinguishes us from animals is the way we eat together. We converse, we share, we laugh, we learn, we give and take in conversation. 
People lament the loss of family dinner times and one of the biggest reasons is because that is where the family talked and shared about the day, their lives, the things that mattered in the world. But I don't mean just your family- maybe you don't even have one at this point. Eat with others, including friends or people who need care, or someone you're wanting to get to know. One of the beautiful things about food is that not only is it something we were given as a means to sustain us and to find pleasure in, but also for the purpose of giving to others. The film "Babette's Feast" is one of the most profound pictures of someone literally laying down their life for their friends through the service of a meal. And through this gift a community experiences redemption. You should watch it and then think about how much eating together and preparing food for someone can actually mean! My interview friend, Lillian, said" ...the fact that people eat alone, they eat in front of the television, people eat out of boxes in their cars, eating out of vending machines; this kind of eating is disordered because it is disconnected from a communal nurturance that is needed. People over-eat and under-eat when it is disconnected in this way."

So, I'm going to lay off the food lecture circuit for awhile now. But before I hang my hat I'd like to share one last thing... a recipe. This is my latest favorite bread to make, whole grain hearty goodness. There are probably way better recipes out there but this is one I have that I can actually find ingredients for and tastes pretty good too! Here you go:

Mixed Grain Bread

3.5 to 4 cups all purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
1.5 cups milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup cracked wheat
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cooking oil
1.5 tsp. salt
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (shelled)
Rolled oats

1. In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and the yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan combine milk, water, cracked wheat, cornmeal, brown sugar, oil, and salt. Heat and stir over medium-low heat just until warm. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. using a wooden spoon, stir in whole wheat flour, the 1/2 cup rolled oats, seeds, and as much remaining all-purpose flour as you can.

2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining all-purpose flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 min total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (about an hour).

3. Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes Meanwhile, lightly grease two 8x4x2 in loaf pans.

4. Shape dough into loaves by patting or rolling. Place shaped dough halves in prepared pans. Cover; let rise in a warm place until nearly double (about 30 minutes).

5. Brush tops of loaves with water; sprinkle with additional rolled oats. Bake in 375 oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately removed bread from pans. Cool on wire racks.

1 comment:

  1. man I miss you guys . . .
    also, I can tell this was fueled by someone who's family doesn't particularly enjoy food like her husband does. Just kidding. I remember one of the conversations we had while we were eating TOGETHER, and I was cheating you out of the rent for Park Place in monopoly.
    Hoping this is funny and not obnoxious. If it was the latter then I'm sorry!