Tag Archives: food

Loving the Secular for its Secularity

Episcopal priest and author Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013) died yesterday. He wrote a splendid book on food called The Supper of the Lamb, which has been significant for me. Here is a passage from the book that I quote in the food section of Gray Matters:

“The world exists, not for what it means but for what it is. The purpose of mushrooms is to be mushrooms; wine is in order to be wine: Things are precious before they are contributory. … To be sure, God remains the greatest good, but, for all that, the world is still good in itself. Indeed, since He does not need it, its whole reason for being must lie in its own goodness; He has no use for it; only delight. Just think what that means. We were not made in God’s image for nothing. The child’s preference for sweets over spinach, mankind’s universal love of the toothsome rather than the nutritious is the mark of our greatness, the proof that we love the secular as He does—for its secularity. We have eyes which see what He sees, lips which praise what He praises, and mouths which relish things, because He first pronounced them tov. The world is no disposable ladder to heaven. Earth is not convenient, it is good; it is, by God’s design, our lawful love.”

And here’s another lovely passage from Supper:

“For all its greatness (trust me—I am the last man on earth to sell it short), the created order cries out for futher greatness still. The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company, arouse more appetites than they satisfy. They do not slake man’s thirst for being; they whet it beyond all bounds. Dogs eat to give their bodies rest; man dines and sets his heart in motion. All tastes fade, of course, but not the taste for greatness they inspire; each love escapes us, but not the longing it provokes for a better convivium, a higher session. We embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows of its nature, discloses cities more desirable still.

You indict me, no doubt, as an incurable romantic. I plead guilty without contest. I see no other explanation of what we are about. Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers, why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry, or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half of earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is anoutlandish place, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself—and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetittes, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.”

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9 Tips for Eating Christianly

For the last 10 months I’ve been writing a book about Christian approaches to consuming culture, and one of the things I discuss in the book is food. How can Christians be better consumers of food? It’s a topic pertinent to anyone of faith (we all eat), but maybe not one that is discussed as much as it should be (though a number of great books have been exploring it of late–such as this, this, and this.)

The subject of a “theology of food” is one I recently explored in a cover story for Biola Magazine: “Soul & Stomach.” Though it’s hard to cover such a massive topic in a four page article, I’m proud of how the piece turned out. For a more expansive treatment of the subject, check out my book when it comes out in 2013.

In the meantime, here is a sidebar from the article, listing nine tips/suggestions for how me might approach our consumption of food more thoughtfully and Christianly:

  1. Slow down. Try to find time to truly enjoy food. Prepare it yourself. Savor it.
  2. Give thanks. For the food you have, for the hands that prepared it, for the land and animals it comes from; above all, for God the provider and sustainer of life.
  3. Show hospitality. Invite others to dine with you. Follow Jesus’ example. Share food with strangers. Throw long dinner parties.
  4. Eat in community. Enjoy food with others. Let it be a unifying source of social pleasure.
  5. Be sensitive to those around you. Many people struggle with food-related issues (dieting, food addiction, eating disorders); keep this in mind as you eat. Know there are many Christian resources available if you or a loved one need help.
  6. Eat justly. Recognize that your eating affects others. Try to support ethical and just food practices through discerning consumer choices.
  7. Fight global hunger. Remember that nearly 1 billion people in the world do not have enough to eat. Keep that in perspective and do what you can to feed the hungry in your communities and across the world.
  8. Develop taste. Expose yourself to new things and expand your palate. Learn to appreciate quality food, unique flavors, textures, combinations.
  9. Eat humbly. Rather than eating food to show off your culinary sophistication, eat with humility and thanksgiving, awestruck by the beauty and goodness you are privileged to enjoy.

Best Food of 2011

My year-end listmaking continues today with my recap of the year in food, an area of culture I am particularly fond of. God gave us taste buds and he made food tasty, and enjoying food is just such a blessed thing; something we shouldn’t take for granted. To celebrate the preciousness and artistry of food and the many ways it can be prepared, here is my list of the 15 tastiest things I ate in 2011, followed by a list of the 10 food trends I’m most excited about this year.

Best things I ate:

  • Blueberry crostata with lemon gelato (Gjelina, Venice, CA)
  • Braised Pork Meatballs with Tomato & Grilled Bread (Gjelina, Venice, CA)
  • Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter & Truffle Honey (Gjelina, Venice, CA)
  • Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream Tart with smoked Mexican salt chocolate sauce, bacon pecan crust (Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA)
  • Short Rib Mac & Cheese (KO Prime, Boston, MA)
  • Gluten-free Strawberry Pie (Gluten Freebird, Fullerton, CA)
  • Grilled truffle and cheddar cheese with arugula (Charlie Palmer’s, Costa Mesa, CA)
  • Fig Bruschetta Pistachio Butter & Red Wine Figs (Barbarella Bar, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Jamon Iberico, Spanish cheeses, bread and olive oil (Cafe Roja in Altea, Spain)
  • Pressed chicken, bacon, brie and carmelized onion sandwhich (Joan’s on Third, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Boeuf Bourguignon Déconstruit: Braised Short Rib, Thumb Nail Carrots, Pork Belly, Candied Garlic, Potato Lace & Chives (Perch, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Bacon-wrapped dates (Lola Gaspar, Santa Ana, CA)
  • Crispy lentils with Serrano ham and balsamic (Phlight, Whittier, CA)
  • Piquillos Rellenos: Stuffed Spanish peppers, Chorizo, Golden raisins, gruyere (Rivera, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Prosciutto di Parma pizza, with rucola, bufala mozzarella and certified organic tomatoes from Los Gatos, CA by Robert DiNapoli and Chris Bianco (Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles, CA)

Favorite food trends of 2011:

  • Brussel Sprouts. What were formerly perceived as the nastiest of all nasty vegetables have enjoyed a renaissance in popularity in recent years. I, for one, have become a believer.
  • Good gluten-free. Who says wheat-less food need be dry and bland? The surge in good gluten-free has been a definite blessing for those whose bodies don’t do well with gluten (and those, like me, who have close relationships with those who are g-free :)
  • Fine fried chicken and waffles. The Southern staple is now a fixture on the menus of fine dining establishments in the bluest of states. Think Paula Dean meets Wolfgang Puck.
  • Sunchokes and other obscure new veggies. Do you know what sunchokes are? Neither did I, until they appeared in an arugula salad I had at a restaurant this year. Turns out these sunflower root veggies are pretty tasty.
  • Artisan meatballs. Meatballs are back in a big way. They might be my favorite part of the “neo comfort food” trend.
  • Gourmet mac n’ cheese. My favorite is at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach, where the mac n’ cheese comes with bacon, green onion, smoked chilis and Gruyere beer sauce.
  • Whoopie pies. If cupcakes were 2007-2008 and macarons were 2009-10, I think whoopie pies are the guilty-pleasure confection of 2011.
  • Bacon: In chocolate. On donuts. In salads. Wrapping dates. Basically, everywhere. As it should be.
  • Pork belly. No cut of meat was hotter in 2011. Boneless, fatty, flavorful… It’s essentially the closest a meat comes to tasting like candy.
  • Manchego. The Spanish import was everywhere on menus this year, and for good reason. It’s a wonderfully distinct and yet mild sheep’s milk cheese. Perfect stuffed in things or shaved over a salad!
  • Sea salt and other specialty salts. Who knew salt was so versatile? Or that sea salt caramel would take the world by storm in 2011, culminating (as trends usually do) with a Starbucks drink?

Honorable mention trends: Cakepops; Burrata and ricotta mixed with sweet things; Exotic meats and nose-to-tail cooking; Spicyness in cocktails (peppers of all kinds, beef jerky, etc.); Savory sweets (avocado ice cream, maple bacon donuts, scrambled eggs cupcakes, etc); Sour beer; açaí; Gastro-molecular food; Gourmet hamburgers; Kale