I remember reading Ser y Comer, migajas en torno a la identidad (To be and to Eat, leftovers on the potter’s wheel of identity), by Eliseo Perez Alvarez, a Latin American pastor, theologian and philosopher. I remember especially a quote from a woman who said Americans make an event out of each meal as they sit down to eat, while those with less food simply eat something standing up when they are hungry and then get back to work. One of the benefits of mission travel to other countries is the opportunity to see our own culture from a different perspective.
I remember the people who served us at the Luyano Church in La Habana on our second mission trip to Cuba. We paid for the food they prepared for us, and, as a result, we ate much better than our hosts normally did. Our last night in La Habana, we went to a fancy restaurant. As is the case here, the portions were huge, and of course I could not take the leftovers home with me. I did not want to throw away food, something drilled into me by parents who grew up hungry in the Great Depression. I did my best, but could not eat even half of my entrée. Defeated, I asked Louis, our driver, if he would like to take the leftovers home. He eagerly agreed and said his wife would enjoy them. I felt guilty because I had not thought to set aside part of the dish before eating.
In our fast food culture, many of us have lost the sense of the goodness of food lovingly prepared from natural ingredients and often fail to slow down enough to enjoy food while we eat. One of my favorite parts of our stays at Santa Luz in Nicaragua on our mission trips there has been the food, which was simple, but delicious. CoCo, the head cook, went out of her way to pamper us with treats like pancakes because she knew we enjoyed them. In her tiny kitchen she prepared a feast for us each evening from simple ingredients: rice and beans for traditional Gallo Pinto, fresh vegetables like those we buy here only from a Farmers Market or pick from our gardens, and fresh fruit. Sweets were a rare treat, though there was a Birthday cake for CoCo’s on one of our trips.
I think perhaps we most appreciate things that are scarce. I am aware that there are far too many people in our own country who do not have enough to eat. Too many live in the food deserts in our big cities where it’s a long walk or bus ride, if that is even available, to the nearest grocery store. Instead there are mainly convenience stores with no fresh fruit or vegetables. I’m reminded that life is not fair, but I am also keenly aware that in the wealthiest country in the world, we have enough to go around if we made the eradication of hunger a goal and shared from our abundance. Too often we operate from a position of scarcity in our culture, even those of us who claim to worship a God of glorious, unlimited abundance.
Grace and Peace,