How’s Your Food?

It was food, not wealth, sex, or blatant idolatry, that Satan used to tempt Eve. In reading a couple books lately (Reay Tannahill’s Food in History and Kate Colquhoun’s Taste: the Story of Britain Through its Cooking), I’m struck by how prone we are to sin in our use of God’s gift of food, and how closely connected food and belief are. Both books reveal that three sins repeatedly come to the surface in man’s use of food: hypocrisy, violence, and extravagance/gluttony. These example’s from Tannahill’s monograph are representative of trends throughout history:

Hypocrisy: “Monks were allowed to eat meat only on a limited number of days in the year…Conveniently, frogs and beavers were counted as fish [ie, not meat], and it may have been medieval monks who first domesticated the rabbit – for the sake of its feti. Unborn or newly born rabbits, once a favourite delicacy of the Romans, were classified (like eggs) as ‘not meat’.” (113)

Violence: Tannahill chronicles much cannibalism, from Brazil to Ireland, which often ends with the arrival of Christianity. She also explains varied abuse of animals at stages in food preparation, from the African Masai who shoot their own cows in the jugular vein and drain off blood to drink, to some Asian cuisines that slice up animals while they are still alive, beside the dinner table to ensure freshness.

Extravagance: “A grand banquet in thirteenth-century China probably consisted of about forty dishes of stir-fried, grilled, and roasted meat or seafood; the same number of fruits and sweetmeats; half that number of vegetable dishes, close on a dozen rice dishes, up to thirty pungent variations on dried fish; and a wide choice of refreshing drinks…” (153)

While I’m not stabbing live animals for their body fluids, I do know that my use of food needs to come more and more in line with biblical patterns of contentment, wise use of sources and resources, and moderation. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10:31)