I went a whole summer once eating only rice & beans. No joke.
Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Breakfast was a roll, [warm, fly-covered] pineapple, and insanely sweet tea, while lunch & dinner were almost always rice & beans, some form of greasy cabbage, and an occasional vegetable on the side. The beans always seemed to have rocks in them, so that if you forgot to chew slowly, you would chip a tooth. I'm not complaining, though. I was pretty spoiled, in that I had peanut butter granola bars stashed away in my bag, along with Tang, and a weekly chocolate bar or soda when I went to town.
We were living in a refugee camp in Uganda, and when I say that I was spoiled, I mean it. Although our home was a mud hut, sans electricity or running water... and although we had termite, ant, maggot & cow infestations in our huts, we were living better than 95% of the rest of the village. We had a door that locked. We had cement floors, hammocks with mosquito nets, malaria medicine, bottled water, shoes, several changes of clothes, laundry detergent... I could go on & on.
I remember at one point during our time in Uganda, taking a student to the medical clinic to treat dysentery. Knowing we would be there all day, and having run out of books to read, I grabbed a Martha Stewart magazine from my carry-on bag, and spent the day flipping through the pages of extravagant cakes, meals, crafts & what-not. It was surreal, ear-marking recipes, and knowing that the people around me in the clinic didn't have enough to eat, let alone an oven to bake a bee hive-shaped cake.
The reason I bring this up is because of Lent. The other night (after having eating a huge meal), Chris & I were driving home from campus, and he mumbled that he was the tiniest bit hungry. I agreed that I felt the smallest twinge of hunger, and we began thinking about what we would eat when we got home.
I started thinking about how often I turn to food when I don't need it-- for comfort, out of boredom, because of a random craving, or habit, or distraction from things I don't want to do. I remember reading in The Screwtape Letters about gluttony-- how it's one of those "out-dated" sins that we never really think about anymore. We think of some anonymous slob, too over-weight to walk, stuffing his face with greasy food, when really gluttony is defined as "a misplaced desire for food, or its withholding from the needy."
Now let me tell you something: I love food. I mean, I love it. I read magazines about it. I flip through cook books, plan means, fantasize about hosting parties, think of ways to reinvent old recipes. I get short of breath at Farmer's Markets, think of neighborhoods & geography in terms of restaurants, and plan entire days, weekends & vacations around food. While some people paint, sculpt, or sketch, I create in the kitchen. In fact, a Guatemalan woman is happiest when she is feeding someone... and this is one of those areas where I inherited some strong blood.
Although cooking & eating gives me so much joy, I have started to wonder if I am placing too much importance on it. And so, like everyone else, I am giving up sweets for Lent... but that's really just a small part. The idea behind Lent is to examine the broken parts of us that are in need of healing-- to feel that brokenness & need as we ache for Easter.
I don't know why Gluttony has become a laughable sin-- something that we brush aside as small or insignificant. In Ezekiel, it says that Sodom's sin (as in Sodom & Gomorrah... as in fire falling from the sky) was being "overfed & unconcerned" and not "caring for the poor & needy". I don't mean to get all fire & brimstone over a Bon Appetite magazine or anything, but simply to spend some time examining my own heart & actions and redirecting some of my energy.
So here's my Lenten action point: As I mentioned, no Sweets. My life is sweet enough-- and not in a Precious Moments saccharine kind if way, but in a way that I take for granted and want to intentionally remember. I am setting aside my cookbooks & foodie magazines and sticking to simple meals-- making a point to cook what's there, rather than rushing out to the store with every craving or inspiration. I also want to be intentional about giving more to the hungry-- not just money, but time, resources, and actual physical food to actual physically hungry people. There's a little more detail to all of it, but those are the basics.
I look forward to seeing what grows inside, as I make room for change. More Lenten thoughts & action points to come...