By fifth grade I was allergic to wheat, peanuts, corn, and soy, the ingredients found in 99.9 percent of anything a growing boy would want to eat. This diagnosis reshaped my culinary reality. I thought that avoiding these allergens meant I had to give up the joy of eating. I began to approach eating not to delight in God’s creation, but to simply survive.
Years later, a teacher recommended The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon. This half-cookbook, half-liturgical masterpiece helped me start to craft a theology of eating. An activity that involves all our senses, cooking allows us unique, tangible encounters with God’s creation—and in turn offers new reasons to praise his creativity. For humans, food is necessary for survival. But for Christians, it can also be an opportunity to glorify God.
Countless food shows or films can help us see the God-glorifying potential of food—from Chef’s Table to The Great British Baking Show. A new addition to the food TV genre, Netflix’s Waffles + Mochi, is a particularly joyful example.
Don’t write off the series on account of its admittedly bizarre premise. It’s an educational series, geared toward children, about two puppet friends: Waffles, who is part yeti, part frozen waffle (I’m not sure how), and Mochi, an adorable, pink mochi ball. They dream of becoming chefs but are stuck in the land of frozen food (where they can only make ice) until one day a delivery truck takes them to the grocery store and they encounter its owner, Mrs. O (Michelle Obama). She assigns the pair tasks in which they travel the world in a magic shopping cart, learning about food ingredients and cooking techniques from an array of well-known chefs and food writers.
Though never explicitly Christian (nor explicitly political, despite Obama’s presence), Waffles + Mochi can help shape a proper understanding of food and eating.
Food Can Be Worshipful
In our efficiency-driven culture, it’s easy to see food primarily as sustenance. Yes, we need it to stay alive, but do we also see how food is an diverse aspect of God’s creation that can lead us to praise him? Cooking is practical, but it’s also an art. It entails created beings (humans) crafting a new creation (the meal) out of the raw materials of God’s creation (the ingredients). Any time we imitate God in making good things out of creation, we glorify him. Likewise, any time we enjoy the beauty of a creatively concocted meal, with gratitude in our hearts to God, we glorify him by tasting and seeing his goodness (Ps. 34:8).
Cooking entails created beings (humans) crafting a new creation (the meal) out of the raw materials of God’s creation (the ingredients). Any time we imitate God in making good things out of creation, we glorify him.
Staying within our comfort-food bubbles can even keep us from experiencing moments of God’s glory. Mochi and Waffles travel to Peru, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, learning about rice, potatoes, salt, tomatoes, and more.
In one episode, Mochi and Waffles travel to Japan to learn about Mochi’s ancestors: rice. I learned that mochi is made of rice paste that has been pounded, stretched, and molded into a mochi shape. Witnessing something innovative like mochitsuki (mochi pounding) should provoke wonder in our hearts. Whether pounding mochi, baking sourdough, or slicing sashimi, creative cooking techniques bear witness to a God whose image bearers—like Bezalel and Oholiab in their creative construction of the temple—glorify him in their exercise of “all kinds of skills” and “all kinds of artistic crafts” (Ex. 35:31; 33). Excellence in culinary art is a skills and craft we should celebrate as Christians.
Food in God’s Plan
The first sin was primarily disobedience, but it involved eating:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:6)
Eating can become a sin, and many hardships in our fallen world are associated with food—hunger, famine, malnutrition, gluttony, and all manner of sicknesses catalyzed by poor diet. But the goodness of food and eating predates the fall:
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Gen. 1:29–30)
The mandate for Adam and Eve was not solely to avoid eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was also to intentionally enjoy the bounty of God’s creation: tending it, eating it, and praising God for it. When we approach food in this way, we catch glimpses of God’s original purposes for food, both in Eden and in the coming new creation. How can Christians approach food in ways that anticipate a redeemed creation rather than reflect a fallen one?
Here are a few practical ideas:
Bless the Food
“Bless this food and the hands that prepared it.” We often say this without much thought, but the next time you pray before a meal, think and talk about it. What “raw materials” in creation led to this meal? Which image-bearer made it? What creative order out of chaos was involved in its making?
Gather Around Food
At its best, food is communal—an occasion not only for sustenance but for celebration. Feasts have long been a part of Christian tradition, as has the regular ritual of the Lord’s Supper. Food helps us remember and orient life around God. It’s also a way to practice hospitality and charity. Host a gathering with a spread of amazing food. Bring a pie to the family who just moved in. Invite singles and broke college students (like me) over for a meal.
Explore Food’s Diversity
Food is certainly in the realm of Christian liberty, but expanding your palate is an opportunity to glorify God. Try food from a different culture or country, or neighborhood. Every encounter with a new type of food is an encounter with a piece of God’s diverse creation.
Every encounter with a new type of food is an encounter with a piece of God’s diverse creation.
Grow things you can eventually eat. You’ll witness the glorious processes of God’s design, and gain appreciation for the work that goes into cultivating ingredients we take for granted. If you don’t have the space for a planter where you can grow herbs, vegetables, or fruit, make it a habit to visit farmer’s markets or local farms.
Though they are mere puppets and not image-bearers, Waffles and Mochi display an attitude of curiosity and delight in the natural world. Christians would do well to imitate their awe and apply it to the wonders of our Father’s creation.