Free Food

March 8, 2007

The Old Testament reading this coming Sunday is Isaiah 55:1-9. The first two verses are:

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

What if food were free? What if “buying” simply meant “obtaining what you need and want”? Wine, milk, bread. I like those things. Meat, lettuce, spices, butter. Ice cream, crackers, cheese, pasta, tomatoes. Soda water, beer, juice, apples, bananas. Beans, rice, corn, squash. Oatmeal, raisins, honey, fish, coffee. I do labor for those things, but according to Isaiah, I also labor for things that are not these good things. I suppose so.
I’ve read in many different places now that we are fat because our ancestors adapted a very efficient fat/calorie-storage system. In this era of superabundant food, we grow fat because our genes are worried that we might starve. We eat too much of what is good, and we overdelight ourselves in rich food. I’m not too fat yet, but my doctor has informed me on consecutive visits that my triglyceride levels are too high, and I must exercise more and eat fewer fats.

Can you fast? I’m so bad at it–I haven’t even tried this Lent. I mope around like I’m starving, can think of nothing but food, always crack before my pre-imposed deadline. I’d say Isaiah might be more correct in my case to say that all I do is labor for good food. In the summer of 1995 I worked nights in a factory making the oak floors of semi trailers. I once worked a double shift so that I could use my factory wages to buy a $50 espresso machine from the local Wal-Mart. My fingers grew numb that summer from repetitive work–I couldn’t even hold a pen when I finally quit–but I drank good coffee. Even when I was still in the single-digits, my mother would often inform me that I “have wine tastes, on a beer budget.”

Isaiah’s vision is wonderful to me, though I am hardly his audience (except in metaphor). The exiles in Babylon surely heard these words quite differently. But for me and my gourmandish excesses, these words give me hope that heaven is exactly how I would like it to be: an eternal dinner party with course after course, rich conversation with all the people I love, fine spirits, and joy and peace.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Fine Food

Image is a cartoon from the August 12, 1972, New Yorker magazine by Dana Fradon.

6 Responses to “Free Food”

  1. What you’re describing is what I want to see happening in every church kitchen in America.


  2. Alex Says:

    Do you remember that pizza you made in the kitchen of that little apartment on 30th St. the night we went to see “Being John Malkovich”? I think your motto should be food = love. Isaiah would agree, I think.

  3. sheepdays Says:

    Milton, wouldn’t that be grand? Congregation qua slow food clubs?

    Alex, I do remember, and I remember the bandanna in your hair and the excitement we felt (even though it wasn’t an official “date”.) I love you, and I love to cook for you.

  4. Matt Says:

    very sweet. I love that text, am preaching it this Sunday.
    What I’ve always liked about you Brett was your appreciation of good food. Not just an appetite for it, but the delight you take in it.

  5. Kryna Says:

    Fast? I am pretty sure that is not in the Altena vocab. 🙂

  6. sheepdays Says:

    Matt, I’m preaching on it, too. I remember some good meals eaten with you, including a delicious London broil with homemade chimichurri sauce from a recipe you clipped out a magazine. Yum.

    Kryna, you have a point about our family’s eating habits–fasting is not really our thing. Have you ever tried to do it?

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