Last night I took a good friend out to dinner for their birthday; it has become a tradition to go out, grab a bite to eat and catch up. We have a good time. This year is different though. While every fiber of my being tells me to stay home, stay quiet, sulk and grieve… The spirit in me says to go out and LIVE. So I ordered a veal chop in a red wine reduction, and it was exquisite.
I know plenty of people do not like veal, or they refuse to eat it due to how the veal calves are raised. That is not an argument for today. Most restaurants when they offer veal on a menu, it is pounded flat to oblivion, breaded, fried, and drowned in sauce. In the end, it could be mutton, it could be Steak-umm. I want to taste the meat, and they’ve killed it twice.
I prefer a good veal chop, because the seasoning is minimal and regardless of the sauce used, the meat is the star of the show. Last night I had one of those moments which makes me love food, amplified by the memories it brought out. I cut a piece, dabbed it in the red wine reduction, put it in my mouth, and closed my eyes.
A flood of memory came back to me in a flash. It wasn’t just one. It was pictures, stories, smells, flavors, emotions, a royal cavalcade of history in a single moment. Growing up, I was blessed beyond words to have two loving parents who were both fantastic cooks. Something my dad made occasionally was a German dish called Saurbraten.
Saurbraten is a traditional German recipe whose name translates to “Sour Roasted Meat.” God I love German naming conventions. Anyhow. It had a fair amount of red wine in the recipe, and tasting the sauce with that veal last night took me back in an instant to every time I experienced the utter joy of having my father’s Saurbraten for dinner.
The tastes, the smells of that simmering on the stove, the memories of my entire family sitting together around the table. I didn’t know how good I had it back then. My dad used to recount a story every time he made Saurbraten. He would repeat a lot of stories. The older he got, the more I loved hearing them again, it didn’t matter how many times I heard it before.
There used to be a restaurant down the street from our home, I think it is a dentist office right now. Back in the day, I believe it was called Warwick Gardens Restaurant. I’m not even sure I was alive when the story takes place. Mom and dad went there for dinner one night, and seeing Saurbraten on the menu at a restaurant with a German owner/chef, he ordered it.
His was better. He knew his was better. So as my dad was a fantastic cook, allergic to sugar-coating anything, and loved talking to people, he spoke with the owner about the meal and promised to make his own Saurbraten for them. Into the kitchen my father went, prepping the recipe as he had so many times before for our small family of four.
Days of marinating. Hours of simmering. Roast and gravy complete, he brought it down to the restaurant. The owner took a piece of roast, dabbed it in the gravy, put it in his mouth, and closed his eyes… you can fill in the rest.
That my friends, is why I love food.
God provided me with parents who loved food and cooking, they shared that love with me, and it greatly helped develop my God given gift for cooking food and creating meals.
10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 4:10-11
Certain meals I’ve enjoyed, like what I had last night, and a few I’ve made myself, I close my eyes and let out an audible “Mmmmmmm.” My dad did that a lot when I was growing up, that is how we knew he loved the meal. It is the sound of not only an appetite being satisfied, but the sound of food bringing comfort to our very soul.
3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.Deuteronomy 8:3
When I was saved, if not for a time before as I was seeking out a new congregation to join, I noticed something from certain folks. Whether the pastor was reading the bible, or during a small group someone was in the word… You’d hear them before you saw them.
Eyes closed. The sound of a soul being satisfied by the word of God. I won’t lie, in those early days I found it exceptionally weird. It made sense to me with food. Food was tangible. Food was a treat for all 5 senses. It looked good, it smelled good, tasted good, the sound of a a pot simmering or a steak searing, the feel of the texture as I ate it.
Food fills our stomach, provides nutrients to our bodies to keep us strong and healthy. When it tastes good it can soothe our soul in oh so many ways. Food does not guide us or make our paths straight. Food does not lift us up when we are suffering. Food does not sustain our spirit or protect us from the temptations of this life we live.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”Matthew 4:1-4
Scripture, the Word of God, it does all of that and more. Through it, God guides us. He straightens our paths. He lifts us up when we are suffering. He sustains our spirit. He feeds our soul. He brings us salvation through the sacrifice of His only begotten son, Jesus, on the cross.