I didn’t really expect this to stretch to three posts, but turns out I have a lot to say on this topic!
In the end, the primary reason for raising little foodies is found in the more intangible benefits of truly enjoying eating. I speak here of fellowship with other human beings, the satisfaction of being able to appreciate fine food, knowing your meal was prepared with love and care, and the connection, I believe, that we make to our spiritual selves when we acknowledge the provision of our food, the bounty of this incredible world, and the care and attention with which we are fed with so much diversity and flavor and fun by God.
And this necessarily must involve feeding others: you cannot fully enjoy filling your belly if your neighbor is hungry.
And, of course, it will involve our religion, for Christians (and those of many other faiths, in differing ways) believe that God has fed us with Godself, and continues to do so week after week, becoming, literally, part of us, as we ingest the Divine.
I feel like, when I feed my kids, I’m not only teaching them about how to taste. I’m teaching them about how to be human – how to be fully human (which, according to Iraneaus of Lyons, is the glory of God). How to interact with others, how to share the deepest bond we have – the very stuff that gives us life.
I’m teaching them to think beyond their own tastes and hunger when choosing what to eat, to consider also the farmers, the animals, the earth. To think about how far their food has traveled and what that’s done not only to the environment, but to its composition and flavor.
All of this, unfortunately, I teach only through example on many days. I’m not yet sermonizing at the dinner table (though that day will inevitably come). But I suppose I preach through their plates.
I do wish they could grow up thinking it’s so totally normal to eat tomatoes only in season that they wouldn’t dream of trying to find one in winter.
I want them to look for all the colors of the rainbow on their plates and protest when there’s no vegetables.
I want them to be lonely if they try to eat alone, to feel it’s not really a meal without company, believing it normative to eat with family or friends and share lively conversation. (I actually feel this way, so kudos to my parents!)
And I want them to see every meal as an occasion: an opportunity to share love, friendship, creativity, and deliciousness.
Every meal can be a feast; every bite, God’s love made edible.