Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Re-Think Food

I have been on a new adventure of late. (I have been dying to work "of late" into a sentence...sounds sort-of European, no?) I digress--back to the adventure. Baby girl has a confirmed allergy to dairy, and since she is feasting on mommy's milk, that means no milk or dairy products for me, either. Those who know me well know I love cows. Literally. I once collected all cow decor like it was my part-time job. I don't do that anymore, but I still love cows. Bigger baby girl has a cow carseat to prove it. I love milk...and cheese...and chocolately, milky creations...and tiramisu...and CHEESECAKE!! When the pediatrician first mentioned me going on a dairy fast, I snickered and said, "Nah, I don't think so." When she later told me it wasn't an option, I groaned and but-but-but-ed to no avail. "Looks like we are going dairy-free," I told the hubbers. To which I received the following reply: "Yeah, right. You can do it, but I am not giving up milk. If I was going to be stranded on an island and could only bring one thing, I would bring milk. You can't live without milk. Look it up." One dreadful and small fortune extracting visit to Whole Foods, and I came home in tears. There must be something we can do. It cannot be this difficult to find things without milk products. Oh, but it is. Milk products are in bread, chicken broth, NON-dairy creamer, cereal. Even McDonald's fries are cooked in a concoction that contains milk! At first, I began by replacing my highly processed foods with dairy free options--dairy-free Oreo-like cookies, dairy-free crackers, and you know I found dairy-free burritos. But then, I began to do research, and I kept stumbling into Kosher. That's right, kosher, as in the Jewish food laws (kashrut). I was reminded how aware of what they are eating Kosher-keeping people are. Everything is scrutinized and examined. Everything that goes into a food matters. And Kosher tracks what has dairy and what does not--so that the laws of cross-contamination are kept (milk products cannot be in foods with certain other products). So, I've been reading up on Kosher and the various symbols that mark foods, and it has me thinking...What has happened to us as a society when we no longer notice what is going into our bodies? Sure, we're aware of fat and calories and recently, trans fat and whole grains. But most of this is out of a sense of protection--protecting our bodies from fat and disease. What I have found in looking at Kosher foods is that food becomes a way to honor God through the way we nourish ourselves. It is a reminder of the basic supplication, "Give us this day our daily bread." The word "kosher" comes from the Hebrew for "appropriate." Being conscious of what I have been eating has been a way of testing food's appropriateness. Is the order of fries from McD's really appropriate? Is the pizza I ordered out because I was too tired to cook appropriate? Is it fitting to eat? Is it fitting for me to eat? We Methodists have been on an appropriateness kick with re-thinking church. Is how we have been doing church appropriate to nourish the souls of people in a changing world? Is it fitting for the ones we've been called to reach, or just for ourselves?
Through this adventure, there are some who have offered their unsolicited opinion of the appropriateness of what I am eating--or not: "Just put the baby on formula. It is fine." As a mom, I know I can do better than just fine. I can be aware of what I am eating and make sure baby girl is nourished in the best way possible.
There are those in the church adventure who offer their opinions of appropriate nourishment, too: "Feed your soul in whatever way you want, but don't do it in my church. That's just not--ahem--'kosher' here." I'm just wondering if we all might benefit from some old school kosher education?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


During those difficult teenage years when I was blessed with acne, my mother would tell me I was beautiful and lucky. Lucky? "Lucky," she said, "because when you are old, the bad stuff will be gone, and you won't get wrinkles." So, I hoped and hoped for the day I would get "old" and the skin would work itself out: acne-free and wrinkle-free. I'm old-er, and I do have wrinkles--on my belly from the stretching of skin as my children grew within me--and around my eyes from days of squinting at a computer--and on my forehead from thinking too hard and worrying too much. What does my skin say about me? Does it say that I am perfect, that my body is free from flaw? Does it say that I have had nothing hard to deal with in life? If it's either perfection or wrinkles that I have to choose between, I choose wrinkles. People with wrinkles are interesting. They have lived. They have experienced joy and sorrow and somehow made it through both. Wrinkles are a badge of honor for a life that didn't overcome the liver. When faced with harsh realities of life, the liver, absorbed them, dug in, and held on. The very best kind of wrinkles are those at the corners of the mouth--lines that etch the good memories and laughter. These lines keep the beautiful moments alive.