First published July 13, 2016.
I’m becoming my mother. Whenever she comes to visit us, her greatest ambition is to cook for our family. She asks which of her Korean homemade dishes we’d like to eat, and even prior to her stay she prepares in advance by shopping for groceries we can’t find locally. She’s a lady on a mission. Her goal is to cook every dish she knows we’ll enjoy and to freeze extra meals to last us for weeks after. Each morning she’s up before the sun, and when I come downstairs I find her drinking her tea with something new simmering on the stove.
She overworks herself cooking for us, but even when I tell her to rest she has a hard time stopping. She wants to make sure everything is full- our bellies, the fridge, the freezer- and until recently I didn’t understand why this was so important, so inherent in her.
A couple of weeks ago I stepped down as an associate pastor at our church to prepare for our move out of state. It’s the first time being a full-time stay-at-home mom with no meetings to attend, no sermons to prep, no ministry or work obligations whatsoever. So how do I fill up this new space in my life? I cook. Instead of prepping for Sunday services, I plan for meals. Instead of having coffee dates with people, I shop for groceries with the intent of filling my family’s bellies and our fridge to bursting. I am becoming my mother, and I can’t help it.
But I’m understanding now that innate desire to provide food for those around you. The act of cooking runs deeper than merely wanting to satisfy empty stomachs. It is a medium for love. When I chop up garlic and make it dance in hot oil, when I sprinkle salt to season the meat, or when I mix sauces to make a marinade, it’s love. When my mother insists on cooking all the dishes she can despite her lack of rest, it’s love. When she wants us to eat everything she’s made even though we’re beyond full, it’s out of love. It’s for us to know, experience, and appreciate her tangible care.
The joy of cooking, feeding, and eating together bonds us with unexpectedly strong ties because love gets poured into creating a meal, and love is what’s taken in as we enjoy the food. So when we share food and conversation, our hearts and our lives naturally become entwined with those who sit at the table with us. We get to experience connection and intimacy, and we get to have community, whether it’s with old friends or with strangers.
This value in the relationship between food and friendship has been apparent since Old Testament times. We read about feeding others as a means of love all throughout the Bible, but one of my favorites is God’s hospitality toward Elijah in 1 Kings 19. After experiencing a powerful demonstration of God’s power against the prophets of Baal, Elijah goes into utter despair. Queen Jezebel is threatening to kill him, he is exhausted, lonely, and all he wants is for God to end his life. But God meets his needs with tenderness. He lets Elijah sleep and get rest. He bakes bread over hot coals and gives him water to drink. He is gentle. He is motherly. He cooks for him, He feeds him, He is present with him in a gentle whisper because that is His way of caring for His people, His way of satisfying our soul’s hunger.
Even when Jesus is approaching death, He spends His last hours eating together with His disciples. They break bread and lean into one another’s company. They don’t know it then, but they are getting a foretaste of the incredible demonstration of love that would soon be coming. Jesus shares a meal with them to give of Himself, and so He does with us every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. He invites us to His table to feast on His grace, to be nourished by His words, and to be filled by His presence again and again. But I’m learning it’s not only through the Lord’s Supper that we get to experience communion. On a daily basis whenever we cook, whenever we gather around the table, we and the people we feed get to taste and savor His soul-satisfying love for us.
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12 thoughts on “Cooking and the Feeding of Our Souls”
The kitchen isn’t really my comfort zone. But I do love preparing meals for our grown children and preparing our home for friends. Those are times of communion, whether it’s around a home cooked meal or a bag of burgers at the beach. Thank you for the reminder of the sacred value of food. This is lovely.
Yes, the sacred value of food and the table. Thanks for reading, Debby!
Beautiful! I so want to pull up a seat at your table. I used to love preparing meals. Now that I work two jobs and have two kids, I despise the time spent in the kitchen and it is often whatever I can find around. I miss the days of the hours of courses laid out by Middle Eastern friends. It felt reminiscent of Biblical feasting. I hope to get back to that. But no matter what, we do still love our time around the table with our kids!
Wish I could send you food! Two job with two kids is no joke! I want to hear more about these Middle Eastern friends and their traditions! Food brings all cultures together- there’s nothing that bonds us so closely together despite all the differences.
Grace, this description of your mother, and now you cooking to fill hearts, souls and spirits is so lovely. It reminds me of my husband’s grandmother who always asked if we had eaten when we came to visit. Meals had her table groaning with the delicious dishes she knew we would enjoy, and we did eat until we were stuffed and couldn’t move. Your description of God and His tenderness with Elijah made me cry from the beauty of His love and care for Elijah. Shows the practical and the tender. It also gives me new eyes to see Jesus after He had resurrected and made breakfast for His disciples and restored Peter after Peter had disowned Him. I can hear the tenderness in His voice even though Peter was hurt. But, it tells me also Jesus wanted more intimacy with Peter as well as telling him Jesus believed in Peter, and was preparing him for the new life Jesus had in store for Peter. Thank you Grace! Blessings, Joanne
Oh yes! That story of Peter- my absolute favorite one of restoration and redemption. Thank you for that reminder!
Grace, I, too have been pondering the connection between memories of family intertwined with food. My mother passed away over 30 years ago and every time I make a killer pie crust I’m reminded of her.
It’s interesting to me how many blogs and articles I’m drawn to these days that articulate the powerful bridge between food and the soul.
Thank you, Jody! Yes, food is such a powerful connection between people. I love how making a pie crust reminds you of your mother. Totally craving some pie now 🙂
Grace, this is a beautiful post. I know just what you mean, because my mother and her mother before her and now I love to prepare food for the family or friends. It really is an act of love and as we fellowship around the table the love is felt by all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Blessings!
I love that so much! So many good things are passed down and around when we cook and eat together!
I love your picture of a shared table allowing us to experience God’s love for us. Some of my favourite memories and dearest relationships were built around shared tables. Time shared around a table truly is a place where we can most clearly reflect God’s image. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
I was just talking about this again tonight with a friend, and yes! Food brings people together, and we get to see a glimpse of God when we share a meal. Thank you for taking the time to comment!