Memories of food (good and bad).

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I’ve never really recovered from the time I ate take away sushi in Singapore and managed to get wasabi in my eye. Fear and loathing set in as a result of such unbearable burning and watering of the eye and I haven’t touched the stuff since.

The same applies to my relationship with octopus. I choked once on the slithery tentacles in an upmarket restaurant in Languedoc whilst on a French exchange as a teenager and now look fearfully towards this particular specimen. I can almost feel the gag in my throat as I write and am reminded of this most distressing of formative teenage moments.

Mushrooms, too, remind me of a time a guy at university sent me a valentine’s card with a mushroom stuck on the cover asking me to be his valentine as I was a ‘Fun-Gal’ to be with. Sure, it made me laugh and I loved the unique approach but there was no chemistry and alas, I had to break up with him shortly afterwards. I am reminded of the breakage of his heart each time I see these slithery items in grocery stores and vegetable stalls throughout the world.

Such is my culinary malaise that I will often reply with a grimace, “Seafood and mushrooms,” when asked for dinner and what I eat and don’t eat.  Mushrooms make me feel guilty. Octopus makes me gag and reminds me of social clumsiness around a sophisticated French dining table. Sushi just hates me.

What a shame! I am most probably missing out on the most exquisite culinary delights in the world yet am letting fear and memory combine to prevent this from happening. And I always, always feel uncomfortable telling people that I really don’t like to eat these things as I love, and am so grateful for, any invitation to eat with others.  I get so excited at the prospect of what topics of conversation will be covered and the people I will watch and learn from. And I  especially enjoy getting dolled up in anticipation of a good evening with friends and acquaintances.

Once bitten, twice shy, is a phrase often associated with a broken relationship but can also be applied to our relationship with food. Memories and emotions associated with mealtimes are powerful tools to prevent us from living in an emotional and healthy state.

How many of us were forced to eat dried up fish on a Friday and now resent Christianity as a result?  Sometimes, it is through facing our fears and gulping down that octopus, mushroom or dried up piece of Friday fish that we regain power over our minds and emotions. Perhaps this is why the good Lord invented Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot to help ease our pain in both the natural and in the emotional?

Not so long ago, whilst staying in a Kibbutz along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, I was offered some tasting looking St Peter’s Fish. Juicy, succulent and smelling great (and without a hint of dryness), I cautiously accepted. The fish was lovingly prepared by a chef and perhaps this attitude towards its preparation combined with the lack of association with a religious ritual had something to do with its tastiness and flavour?  Words can’t describe how delicious that piece of trout was. Unfortunately, it wasn’t from the Sea of Galilee itself, but it certainly has made a difference in my attitude towards eating fish in the future.

It is my prayer today for freedom in our memories and a quiet yet strong healing our hearts and minds and their somewhat unfortunate (and at times overpowering) association with food.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the freedom and love that you bring through allowing us to all have our quirks and foibles and attitudes towards food. We thank you for providing us with so much food in this earth to cater for our diverse palates and menus. But most of all, thank you for providing us with new mercies each morning to enable us to walk forwards and forget about the pains associated with food from our past.  Help us and forgive us Lord for the times we have allowed our memories to prevent us from moving onwards. Crush the fear in our hearts with your love. Amen.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Lamentations+3%3A22-23&version=NIV

Listen to:  Angus & Julia Stone:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDiCXmERp7Y&list=PL3B4CAA77361F7D49

Eating together in eateries…

Eateries in Nazareth

All human beings need food, clean water and shelter but here in the Middle East, cooking can seem too much after a day at work or travelling through heat-filled lands and buying produce to cook for one can prove expensive. 

Thankfully, we have many eateries where people gather to fill their bellies up on local produce and, in turn, repair their souls whilst chatting, sharing, encouraging, laughing and burping.

Recently, I had the pleasure of eating a delicious shwarma in a family run restaurant in Nazareth. These jolly bunch of Arabs were delighted to show me their home made pickled vegetables and flatbreads. I also witnessed a fiery rant between those two brothers which thankfully seemed to resolve itself quite quickly when I flashed a smile and started to ask them to ‘shawaya shawaya’ in my dodgy Arabic.

Within a few days, I found myself stuffing my face with a yummy chicken curry in Christchurch Café, Jerusalem, prepared by a group of volunteers, of which religious persuasion I am unsure and quite honestly don’t really care about as this didn’t seem to affect the goodness of the tasty feed I enjoyed.

In spite of what the media would wish us to believe, in this part of the world, we seem to all be sitting around a large, round table where we chat to (and thank God for) our Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Atheist and Agnostic brothers and sisters who are all lovingly and happily sharing their culinary skills and expertise with one another.

Drinks:  Diet Coke in Nazareth; still water & too many creamy cappuccinos in Jerusalem.

Some love tunes to listen to whilst perhaps drinking a 2011 Dalton Cabernet Sauvignon from Galileehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_RqDOaUS6M

Lord, in spite of the differences in how we perceive and express our thoughts towards you, thank you that you are both greater than that and much more forgiving than we could ever imagine. Help us to love one another and grow in inviting those whom we consider to be different to us in to our lives and our homes to share the food you give us. May we also grow in the courage to walk lovingly towards the homes and lives of those whom we may consider too difficult or different to share our experiences and love with them. Help us, Lord. Please, graciously help us. Amen.