When my wife and I first arrived in the United (when I typed that word first, it came out “untied”–I wonder if there’s some deep meaning to explore there!) States in 1972, a number of people told us how bland the English food was. Not surprisingly, we had no sense of that since English food had been our staple diet from birth.
There has always been somewhat of a difference of opinion between the French and the British regarding their respective national foods. They would complain that ours was a stodgy diet. We would respond by saying that, at least, we didn’t have to smother the food with sauces, etc. to cover the taste!
We soon became aware of what the Americans meant by bland food, however. One of the early epiphanies was to discover the fantastic array of salad dressings on the shelves of American supermarkets. At that time, the English alternative was, primarily, salad cream…a kind of mayonnaise but a little tarter.
Then, we started to discover the ethnic foods. I can never forget the first breakfast I had with Ron Smart and Bob Doctor. Bob ordered some Mexican egg dish that looked atrocious…yellow and brown stuff all flowing and mingling together on the plate. For an eggs and bacon man it was almost too much to bear!
But, over the years, how our taste has developed for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, “you name it food.”
Meanwhile, “back at the ranch” as they say, the United Kingdom population has itself become a “stewpot” of “mixed vegetables” as it were… people from all over the world settling there and having a profound impact in many ways, not least of which is food. A walk down many a supermarket in the UK now is like a stroll down a global highway.
Eating (whether out, or together with friends and family) is certainly a social event where the conversation is frequently as appetizing as the food. I have recently been reading a book called Creativity, written by Matthew Fox, an Episcopal priest, formerly a member of the Dominican Order from which he was dismissed by the Roman Catholic church in 1995.
It is a hard read, but a very enlightening one since he is so well versed in the writings of some profound writers.
He quotes the comments of Jesus Seminar scholar John Dominic Crossan who, in addressing the strategies of Jesus, makes a very interesting observation on food and dining. He talks of Jesus’ strategy of getting persons of different classes and social ranks to dine together. This meal strategy was meant to get people mixing, to mix up the stratified social structures that so often go unnoticed and that perpetuate injustice. Behind this strategy lies a trust in human nature: As people mix and hear one another’s stories, there will be less violence and more understanding, less division and more communion. Healing will take place, or at least is possible to take place. Crossan believes that the “table was and is a miniature model for society.” It is.
Those truly interested in reaching people of different classes (including of different ethnicities) and social ranks in the community in which God has placed them, might seriously consider a meal strategy. Corps that have started cross-cultural ministries by first building relationships over a meal, where both cultures share food and conversation, have found it to be a potent tool.
It’s better than a bland excuse to do nothing!