Thursday, February 28, 2013

Food and History

When we consider food we should examine it as part of life. We live in a world that is interconnected, not necessarily put in neat, isolated boxes. One example is the connection between history and food.

Our culture, the way we do things, is greatly influenced by who we are around and with whom (or what) we have relationships. After spending time in an area where people speak with a particular accent, you will start to notice yourself speaking like them. So with food, if you spend much time with your co-workers you will start to eat like them. If you have your firmest relationships with your friends at school, you will start eating like them. If you have strong family relationships, as the Bible promotes, you will eat much like your family. (If your co-workers, your friends at school, and your family are one and the same, that is all the better.) If we honor our parents, we will do it not only in thought, but in deed as well. Ideally, our culture will be influenced by our ethnic background(s), and hopefully our culture will grow like a plant that adapts to its surroundings and matures, while firmly growing out of and formed by its past.

And not only is our food influenced by the past, but our food can be used to teach us about the past. In Deuteronomy 6:7-9 God tells the Israelites to teach their children as they go about life, in their walking, sitting, etc., in other words, to make their teaching a familiar thing of life. The Bible continues this mode of education in commanding certain feasts to celebrate and remember the past. Speaking of Passover, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD” (Ex. 12:14; also see Deut. 16:3, Es. 9:20-32). In Christianity this is applied today in a sacramental and spiritual way in the Lord's Supper to remember and unify with Christ, but also in a lesser way in common celebratory meals to unify with God, His people, and our forefathers by remembering their acts in history. We see that in various celebrations, such as Thanksgiving and Independence Day.

So whether you are a Norwegian and eat lutefisk at Christmas, a Scot and eat haggis on Burns night, a Japanese and eat sushi, or a Bringe and eat the Thanksgiving meal wrapped in lefse, you are expressing honor for parents in tangible culture. This multi-generational culture teaches some humility and stability in our progress and growth, and calls to remembrance the fact that we are part of a community that includes past generations. It helps us remember where we came from and where we are going. It keeps us humble in times of plenty and joyful in times of want. And as the nations are discipled, all these rich cultures may continue to be claimed and reformed for the glory of Christ.