Bread and Wine

What I’m Into: April 2014 Edition

Linking up with Leigh Kramer again this month for her What I’m Into series.

What I’m Reading:

I actually finished Words of Radiance this month even though I slipped into last month’s round-up, but now I sort of regret doing that because my book list feels short. So I’m just going to re-mention that I finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance this month and it was even better than the first one and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

bread and wineBread and Wine by Shauna Niequist is a book that had been on my digital bookshelf for a few months. This month I finally got around to reading it. Let me tell you, this book was a balm for my soul. Through years of struggling with my “relationship” with food, I have come to believe that there is something deeply significant about what we eat and in the communal aspect of sharing food with others. Niequist’s book made me feel validated in these feelings. It especially helped me to articulate for myself how I feel about food and my consumption choices in a world where more and more people are becoming ardent food-evangelists for a particular way of eating. (I wrote about that here). At it’s core though, this book is about food as an avenue for community and about hospitality, both of which are increasingly important values in my life.

cuttingThe Cutting Season by Attica Locke. I’d seen this book on a lot of bestseller lists and was in the mood for something different. Genre-wise I’d classify it as a literary mystery. The plot is built around a murder, but the book isn’t designed as a classic detective or crime novel. Overall, I thought it was a good book, not a great one, but the basis of its appeal for me was that it’s set in the present day on a plantation in South Louisiana, actually just an hour or so from where I grew up The plantation is kept as a historical site and the main character is in charge of renting it out for events and running tours. I’ve rarely read a book, even one set in Louisiana, that brought me home so completely. This book made me miss Louisiana, which is strange for me since I’ve never felt particularly tied to it

thousand daysThe Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is a YA fantasy book I decided to read this as a quick and relaxing story while I tried to decide which larger book to get into next.. It served its purpose. No great shakes, but it was mildly entertaining. I’m generally a fan of the retold fairy-tale genre when it’s done well.

I’ve just started reading The Wise Man’s Fear which is the second book in the Name of the Wind series by Patrick Rothfuss. So far it is just as enchanting as the first one was.

What I’m Watching:

Divergent: Jonathan and I saw Divergent in theaters a few days after it came out here in Korea. In his words, “I liked it more than I thought I would.” Having read the books, there are a lot of gaping plot/logic holes to the story which can be irritating if you think about them too much. But if you can put all of that to the side and just go with it, the movie was entertaining and the acting was pretty good. And Shailene Woodley’s hair was absolutely the star of the show.

Noah. I know a lot of people have strong opinions about this movie. Frankly, I don’t understand the people who were getting their panties in a wad disowning it because it isn’t biblical. What did they expect? These are secular filmmakers making a movie they hope will entertain people and make money. Their goal was never to make a biblically accurate story. All of that aside, there were a few things I really liked about the movie – like the way that God speaks to Noah once and then he is left clinging to that, forced to have faith that his encounter with God was real and meaningful. There are times when God doesn’t give us constant amazing displays of his power and presence and sometimes we have to trust God and have faith in our past experience of God even when He is silent. What I didn’t like so much is the portrait of this t God who doesn’t intervene even when Noah gets fixated on the idea that they aren’t meant to survive. I didn’t like how the other characters, even Noah’s family, treated the whole thing like it was Noah’s God who only existed in his head rather than a God that they could also communicate with. I heard many complaints about the strong environmental message, but I didn’t find that problematic personally. I think Christians, more than anyone else even, should be concerned about how we care for the earth and could stand to think about conscientious consumption and what it means not to take and use more than we need. All in all, I didn’t think it was a terrible or offensive movie, but I also didn’t think it was a great movie. I was just like, “Meh.” Though the special effects of the actual flood were kind of cool.

As far as television goes, I can feel summer coming as we reach the season finales of New Girl, Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family.  I’ve continued to be hooked by Nashville and am completely emotionally exhausted after this season of Parenthood. And of course, there was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother which I had conflicting feelings about and which left me feeling like I’d lost some of my best friends. Is that sad? I’m also more than halfway through Call the Midwife which I am both fascinated and repulsed by. During ever labor scene I swear I will never, ever do that and then every time they successfully deliver a baby, I cry at the miracle of life, so I don’t know where that leaves me on the baby thing…

 

What I’m Listening To:

Ingrid Michaelson’s new album is wonderful (like everything about Ingrid). I also stumbled onto this gem recently and have become completely obsessed with it. This is an unrecorded song that she sings at live shows sometimes with her husband, fellow musician Greg Laswell. I can’t even deal.

 

What I’m Eating:

I’m still loving the zucchini lasagna, but strawberries being in-season here led me to try a strawberry cream cheese chocolate chunk bread recipe that I cobbled together out of a few recipes I found on Pinterest and then turned into strawberry cream cheese muffins. They were a rousing success. I also turned my love of adding zucchini to things to my baking and tried a lemon zucchini bread. I don’t like using oil in my baking, but there isn’t any applesauce here (which would be my normal substitute) so I used sour cream instead. It made the texture slightly gummier, but it also cut out about 800 calories, so I say worth it.

zucchini bread

Check out my Pinterest boards for the basic versions of these recipes (I always end up changing things). I’m also obsessed with pistachio ice cream right now. I can’t get enough of it. But sadly, I think I bought the last pint from our local grocery store this week. I may be the only person who ever bought it so I’m not confident they will be re-stocking any time soon. So much weeping…

Best thing I’ve read:

One of my favorite writers, Addie Zierman’s, wrote a courageous post about depression.

And Emily Maynard wrote this beautiful, thought-provoking post about God and gender. Parts of this really resonated with me. Parts of this were confusing to me. I wasn’t 100% sure what she wanted us to take away, but i think it’s worth a read. I’m still mulling it over.

Finally, my friend Briana Meade’s post about tricking the YMCA into thinking she works out so that she can take advantage of a few hours of childcare and free coffee cracked me up. I’m obviously not a mom yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing things like that too.

 

Best thing I’ve written:

My most-read post this month was the one I wrote about the sacramental nature of food and why I don’t really believe in Paleo. The thing I am most proud of is probably my spoken-word poem from the beginning of the month that was a guest post for my friend Briana’s blog. I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, but it was way out of my comfort zone and I felt good about trying something new.

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In other news, we are kicking off May in Korea with a bang. My parents have arrived in Korea for a visit! They’ll be here for the next 10 days and we are off of work on Monday and Tuesday for Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday respectively, so we’ll have extra time to gallivant around the country.  And in case you missed them, pictures from our trip to the green tea fields and cherry blossom season are up on Two Sore Thumbs!

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The Sacrament of Eating: Discovering Food as Holy and Why I Will Never Eat Paleo

I love food. I don’t mean that I really like food or that I have a few favorite dishes that make my mouth water when I think of them. I don’t mean that I (like many people) have a sweet tooth or that I really enjoy a nice meal after a long day. I mean I LOVE food. I wake up in the morning thinking about all the things I will eat that day (or even later that week). I spend my free time making lists of the things I will eat when I return to America, drooling over pinterest recipes, and watching cooking shows. During our last vacation, we spent several perfect days doing nothing but moving from one café or coffeeshop or gelateria or restaurant to another- eating, drinking, talking, and reading in each one. For a while my dream was to own my own bakery (though the business side of things always keeps me from pursuing that too realistically) because I am absolutely captivated by the way sugar and butter and flour and eggs combine in endless variations to make a thousand different cakes and pies and cookies and custards and cobblers and crumbles and brownies and sweet breads.

Admitting to loving food feels a little like to admitting to watching porn or non-ironically liking Real HousewivesWhy is that? Because as a woman, I’ve often felt ashamed of my appetite. Because I can easily eat the same amount as my husband even though he’s 8 inches taller and 50 lbs heavier. Because I have never in my life said, “I don’t think I can finish this ice cream cone.” We live in a culture where women are expected to have dainty appetites unless they are naturally very thin, in which case they can eat as much as they want and people are amused that someone so thin can put away so much. But when you’re on the rounder side of things, you are expected to go to restaurants and order a side salad with no dressing, not the bacon alfredo pasta and a glass of wine.

Breakfast Bagel from my amazingly talented fried at "This Wild Season". Click for the recipe and more gorgeous images.

Breakfast Bagel from my amazingly talented friend Asharae at This Wild Season. Click for the recipe and more gorgeous images.

I freely admit that much of the time I don’t love my body. Not because of the way I’m shaped so much as the incredibly fragile balance I have to strike to maintain a healthy weight. I have always lived on the cusp of what is medically considered overweight for my frame and height and I gain weight very easily. I can gain a solid 6 lbs in one week of vacation. I have done the diet thing. I have struggled with self-loathing because of my weight and shed tears over the size of my thighs. For me, the problem with gaining weight is not just being unhappy with how I look or feel, it’s truly a health issue. I believe that my body is a gift and am convicted that I should treat it with respect by maintaining a certain level of health and fitness.

There’s a saying that I’ve heard dieters use for motivation, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. I can think of many things that taste so good I would rather have them than have smaller thighs. (For example, cheese. Could I live without it? Sure. But why would I want to?) For me to have smaller thighs, I would have to consistently say no to some of the things I love most in this life. It’s simply not worth it to me. I’m ready to find another way.

Lemon-Glazed-Blueberry-Donuts_This-Wild-Season-8

Lemon-glazed blueberry donuts from This Wild Season. Click for recipe. Now, imagine not ever eating these. A travesty.

In the past, I thought the crux of my problem was that I loved food and if I could just stop loving food so much I would be able to choose being thin over eating. But I’m beginning to wonder what it might look like if, instead of trying to change this part of myself, instead of trying to curb my appetite or denying myself certain things I’m not “supposed to” eat, I embraced that food is something I love. That creative medleys of flavor make my soul sing the way music moves the violinist. I am coming to genuinely believe that loving food (like, really loving it) is part of being me. It’s part of what makes me uniquely myself, as much as crying all the time and loving words are part of who I am. And that part of myself is GOOD. *

Chicken-Tortilla-Soup_This-Wild-Season-6

Chicken Tortilla Soup from This Wild Season. Click for the recipe.

It seems we all have people in our lives who have been sucked into the Paleo craze. Many of my family members and friends have jumped on that bandwagon. I have heard them use the language of addiction to describe my kind of passion for food. If you aren’t familiar with it, the basic premise of Paleo is that we were biologically designed to eat a certain way and that through modern technology we have come to eat many things that our bodies were never intended to process. All of this “unnatural” food causes a variety of health problems (not to mention obesity) that can be resolved simply by cutting out the foods we were never intended to eat. Paleo diet adherents eat grass-fed meats, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. No grains or starches, no legumes, no sugar, no dairy, and nothing processed. The diet (and it’s a lifestyle, not a temporary diet) is essentially the diet of a caveman (hence the “Paleo”) and is based on eating only things that would have been available to the caveman.

I deeply admire and agree with the concept of eating natural things that have grown from the earth and aren’t full of chemicals. I also am sympathetic to eating less grain and starches as my own body doesn’t process these things well.** Where I get tripped up is the assertion that we shouldn’t eat these things because they go against our nature. Because we weren’t intended to eat them. I reject that. And the main reason is Jesus.

I think about the Last Supper and I envision Jesus and the disciples gathered around that table, coming together for this holy meal that their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers for generations back had eaten, every bite dripping with significance. I see Jesus picking up, not the lamb or the herbs or the vinegar, but the bread and the wine. Holding the crumbling bread in his hands, saying, “This is my body.” Staining his lips and tongue purple with wine saying, “This is my blood.”

I simply can’t accept the idea that the bread-eating, wine-drinking God-made-flesh was knowingly “poisoning” his body with what he ate. I understand that Jesus lived embedded in a particular cultural context. But even still – I don’t think he would have chosen bread and wine as the sacramental elements to represent his body and his blood for all future generations all over the world if they were things we were never intended to eat.

wine and bread

Here is the bottom line. I don’t believe we were meant to live part of a life. I believe in living a full, rich, abundant life. And for me that includes tasting everything. There are times when I choose to cut out some sweets or starches for a while because my body is telling me that’s what it needs in that season. And it is important to me that I honor and respect my body.*** But I will never stop eating those things completely. Not because I can’t, but because permanently removing those things takes away some of what abundant life means to me. Shauna Niequist**** puts it so well when she describes her life on a rigorous diet of no gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or sugar:

“I felt great. I lost some weight, started sleeping better, didn’t ache at all. Success! But at the same time I felt like I wasn’t living in the same world everyone else was living in. It was like choosing to live with the volume turned all the way down, or going to the beach and not being able to put my feet in the ocean. My senses were starving. Eating such a restricted diet on an ongoing basis wasn’t going to work for me…There has to be a way to live with health and maturity and intention while still honoring the part of me that loves to eat, that sees food as a way to nurture and nourish both my body and my spirit.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have come to believe that there is something holy and sacramental about food itself-the way we nourish our bodies with the gifts of the earth that God has provided for us. And the more I’ve thought about this, I’ve been struck by the sheer beauty of food as a sacrament. Could the act of eating itself be worship? Could working with our hands to prepare the gifts of the earth for the table be a form of gratitude for God’s provision that spills glory out into an ordinary moment? Could savoring the common elements of paper-thin pizza crust covered with sweet pears and creamy gorgonzola and spicy arugula, drizzled in balsamic be a way to experience uncommon grace? After all, why do we speak words over our food and call it grace if not because there is grace there to be received?

“You say grace before meals.

All right.

But I say grace before the concert and the opera,

And grace before the play and pantomime,

And grace before I open a book,

And grace before sketching, painting,

Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing

And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

G.K. Chesterton, “A Grace,” Collected Poetry

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*Of course, I don’t believe that any amount of love for and enjoyment of food excuses overeating or gluttony. I would never try to make the case that I should feel free to eat as much as I want of whatever I want unchecked. I think it’s wrong when I eat far beyond what I need, or when I eat to try to satisfy some appetite that isn’t really physical. These things don’t get a pass just because I am embracing my love of food.

**A few years ago after many doctors and a couple of years of tests, finding and removing polyps, and chalking up lots of digestive issues to the all-inclusive “IBS,” I tested off-the-charts positive for a bacterial overgrowth in my small-intestine (SIBO). This was treatable by an unbelievably expensive antibiotic, but according to my doctor, once you have this problem, it almost always comes back. No one knows what causes it, and there is no cure that prevents it from ever coming back. However, the bacteria feeds on starches. So when it is flaring up, one of the best things I can do to manage it is to cut starches out of my diet. Also, like many women, there is a direct correlation for me between the amount of starch I eat and my weight.

***I am learning to find balance by listening to my body. If the SIBO is active and I’m not feeling well, I stop eating starches until the cycle is over. If my clothes are tight because I’ve been letting my appetites run out of control, I treat this as a physical symptom I need to address for my health. Obviously, if you have some sort of serious food allergy, you have to listen to your body in that as well. Believe me, I’m not advocating that someone with celiac should think having regular bread is more important than being healthy. I’m talking about my own feelings for my particular situation.

**** This is from Shauna Niequist’s excellent book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table.