Tuesday, March 19, 2013

food on stage

While I was writing today's post on foodies (the whole food), a C. S. Lewis passage kept popping up in the back of my head. 

I couldn't use it in the earlier piece, but it deserves a place of its own.

Early on in Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes:

Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?
The food/sex analogy has never worked very well for me.  But his description of food obsession struck home.

Lewis may as well have been talking about me.  At some point in my life, I became infatuated with good food.  I read all of the haute cuisine magazines.  I would read Bon Appetit and Gourmet under the covers with a flashlight.

I bought cookbooks just to enjoy the voyeuristic thrill of reading about ingredients mixing together and climaxing in a heavenly platter of sauced meat over rice.

And I knew I had really slipped into the land of food obsessives when I joined a gourmet dinner club where we monthly swapped dishes.  I looked forward to each get-together.

OK.  Maybe my foodiness was not quite that bad.  But food, for a long time, has been a central factor in my life.  I love good food.

And that brings us back to Lewis, who addresses the same concern from a different spin:

There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.
Living in Mexico has given me a different perspective on food.  Where I live, food is merely a fuel to keep you running through the day.  Most meals made up of the three or four core ingredients of Mexican food.  But it meets its purpose.

When I come north, I really understand Lewis's point.  In most parts of the world, families go hungry every day.  Laurie at honduras gumbo regularly reminds us of that with her missionary work amongst the children of Central America. 

Whenever I watch American or Canadian adults throw away plates of food, I think of the teenage couple I encountered on the Havana
Malecón.  They were selling sex for the promise of a meal because the Revolution had failed their basic needs.

As Kurt Vonnegut would say, here's the moral. 

If those of us who have been blessed with resources would be willing to stop obsessing about our First World problems and voluntarily share our resources with the rest of the world, perhaps our lives would come into better focus. 

At least, that is what a Rabbi taught two thousand years ago.  He was correct then.  He is correct now.

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