Melissa D'Arabian

Does God Care about Food? (My 2 new food videos!)

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Dear Readers,

I am wearing part of summer. It sits around my middle and if I grab it just right I can make out the last piece of kielbasa roasted over a beach fire, hunks of smoked salmon, the raspberry shortcake with chocolate drizzle. But I am not repentant. When 23 people jump out of a plane onto your beach (in July), and you’re all cooking, eating, conversing together about Important Things, which include FOOD and all the ways it matters——-you just have to pull on your fat jeans and celebrate, you know??

Here’s how we did it in July, here on Harvester Island. It’s our First ever Spirit of Food workshop and retreat.

You know the answer to my question already: “Does God care about food?” But here are some answers that might surprise you. And they are just the very beginning of so many ore answers and reasons God cares so deeply about (your, mine, the world’s) food:

 

Would you share with us all a special food memory from this summer?

And—-other thoughts on how food matters to our faith?

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P.S. We had SO much fun, we’re doing it again next year! Stay tuned here for further news:

http://www.leslieleylandfields.com/the-spirit-of-food-workshop-2019

Eat, Pray, Love, (Smoke)

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“ . … you gave them bread from heaven for their hunger.” Neh. 9:15

I know many of you wanted to come.  To come to this island in the Gulf of Alaska  to to eat, to pray, to love, to think about food. So let me bring it to you. We lived a whole month in this week so I will show and tell now---and again next week. This is not about what you missed. It's about what you can do now to eat, love, pray (and swim?) right where you are.

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What did we do? 20 of us flew out on float planes to Harvester Island, Alaska, where my family and I live and commercial fish for salmon. I had a plan for the week, a schedule of sorts. Norman Wirzba (prof of eco-theology at Duke) was ready with his notes. Melissa d’Arabian (Food Network star) with hers. Me with mine. And the plane was filled with boxes of food, all kinds.

And we did it. We sizzled and grilled, sliced and roasted, rolled and stirred our collective way to feasting lunches and dinners every day. We taught and talked and sang and adventured and prayed around it all. And we smoked——-salmon. The smoke from my smokehouse joined the smoke from 100 fires burning around Alaska. We’re praying for rain.)

 I could say we tasted heaven through the food, the bisque, the crab, the  ceviche, the salmon, the potato-bacon torte. We did. And we were tasting earth, too. There it was on every plate: pieces of the field, the sea, fruit fallen from trees, plucked from the ground. Our plates a garden. Our plates a map of creation, the goodness of the earth given to nourish the first earthlings and all of us after.

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 God didn't have to make it so, as Norman reminded us. He could have given us gruel every morning----like the gruel I grew up eating every morning: Lumpy, cold, gelled, leftover.  Like the gruel the parishoners ate in Babette's Feast: Food to make us brave for choking it down every morning. Food to make us strong  in self-denial. Food that punishes, that teaches our appetites are sinful and wrong, that the body must be endured. Food that leaves us hungry and wondering if we are loved.

 

But when God rained food from the sky those forty years it was white, light, sweet like honey, wafers on the tongue. It wasn't gruel. It wasn't cruel. despite their disobedience and constant complaint, it was still lovely and delicious,

 

God is like that.

 

This week God fed us and we fed each other so very well. We needed it. We were starving, I think, all of us. Tired of snatching a mcmuffin and a coffee on the way to work. Sick of counting calories and carb. Sickened by media and drive-thrus urging us all to "Super-size" it. Worn out from perching alone on snacking stools in coffee shops. Weary with being overfed and undernourished. Lonely from being cut off from the earth and sea beneath us. Exhausted from fearing food, from idolizing food. From believing it will save us or kill us. Our culture teaches us all these things.

How has the goodness of food turned so bitter?

How has the blessing of food turned to bite and consume us?

 We've lost our way. We all know it. But there are so many ways back. Here is one way to start this very week: Feed people. Open your doors to people you know and people you don't for one meal. It doesn't have to be expensive. Just colorful. Something that has come from the earth or the sea, that has passed through your hands. Something you offer freely, without asking for anything back. Something you make because of love.

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 As Norman shared this week, God did not have to make the world so beautiful, so delicious. But He did: "Food is God's love made delicious.”

Gather the hungry. Feed someone that love this week.

When you invite them all to your table, you will see heaven, earth and its people returned to one another.

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(Norman, Melissa and I are hoping and planning to do it again next summer. I hope some of you can come?)

Your turn! What was the most loving meal you ever made or you ever ate?

 



 

Eating with the Chinese and God (AND---special invitation!)

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It is a week of harvest. My eldest son and his beautiful wife are here. We are twelve at the table now. But yesterday we were 26. Twenty-six people including 10 from China, seafood professionals here on a tour to see Alaska wild seafood at its source. 

What do I feed them? Salmon, yes of course, but how? I fixed "Peroke" (per-awk'), a traditional Russian-Alutiiq fish pie that is the signature dish of Kodiak Island and other coastal areas where the Russians settled. 

It's a messy, tactile, glorious multi-day affair that starts with putting out a net, wrestling the salmon from the net, then knives are involved, pie crusts, steamed rice, sauteed vegetables, rhubarb, a lot of smoke (I use smoked salmon in mine) and a host of aprons. There is blood too. Creatures die for our table. But many are fed. 

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If God made this whole ball of earth and wax, and if God is watching the daily news, surely he is too busy (and too angry) to care about food. Jesus came down and he had a lot to do in a short time. Surely he was too busy to care about something as trivial and earthy and earthly as food!

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But no. Of course. 

Jesus came as "the bread of life," and he spent a lot of his time feeding the hungry loaves of real barley bread. He taught us to pray for "our daily bread." He ate and drank so freely he was known among the disgruntled as a glutton and drunkard, as crazy about food as they were about their own brand of righteousness.  

He spent his last  hours on earth at a dinner with his friends, where he chose homely bread and local wine to mark his death and his promised undying life within us. He told us to eat and drink remembering him. 

When he returned after his death, he cooked fish on the beach for his astonished friends who did not know of any body who could rise from the dead. And who among them could even dream of a God who could kill death then show up calmly after as their breakfast cook? 

Food matters.

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I'm saying this to myself as much as to you because food is . .. food is not always my ally. Food consumes so much of my time, my life. Especially this week with my hands and arms flesh deep in fish flesh. Yesterday I filleted 35 salmon, and then there will be berries and rose petals and so many jams and jellies to be made. I will be busy all summer with this work. 

But God doesn't tire of feeding us, thank God, and he feeds the world through us, at least in part. It is work to be sure, but it is joy to take part in God's feeding of the world. God allows us to be the answer to others' prayer, "Lord, give us this day our daily bread." 

For that, for that great joy, yes, I will dirty my hands with blood, go to bed with fish scales in my hair, remembering each night the gladness at my table, which is your table, Lord.

Thank you for feeding me the daily bread that feeds others theirs.

Amen. 

 

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Would you like to join me on Harvester Island next summer to make peroke, smoked salmon, and whatever else our hearts and appetites desire? I am hosting the first ever "Spirit of Food Retreat" July 14 - 20 with world renowned theologian of food and ecology, Norman Wirzba and Melissa D'Arabian, a chef on the Food Network. We'll forage, fish, gather food from our gorgeous wild environs. We'll cook together, learn about the theology of food and creation care. We'll eat out on the beach, watch whales, go ocean touring and just generally celebrate food and our loving Father who feeds us so well. I can't wait! I hope to see some of you here! Couples welcome. More here: (Space is limited. Taking applications now. ) 

 

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