By the time you read this, I’ll likely have invented a new recipe. This Halloween my husband and I are hosting a few neighbors on our porch for dinner and drinks while we give candy to adorable, costume-clad children. While reading How to Celebrate Everything last week, I was moved by Jenny Rosentrach’s description of the yearly Halloween dinner of beanie weenies she hosts for her neighbors, and I was inspired to do likewise.
Yet, reading Rosenstrach’s beanie weenie recipe and imagining the flavors, I found myself looking for more from beanie weenies. I found myself hungry for a magical combination of beans, beef and hot dogs that I had at a Labor Day pool party in college.
Over the past few days, I’ve scoured the Internet in an attempt to find the recipe with little success. I did find a recipe after recipe for beanie weenies. And I found recipe after recipe for cowboy beans. Which means that tonight I will serve a dish I’ve affectionately dubbed: Cowboy beanie weenies.
My love of cooking, experimenting with new recipes and eating food is not a new thing. I grew up in a family of good cooks who passed down a passion for delicious food and meaningful meals. I traveled the world in high school, eating hot pot in Kunming, China and borscht in Alexandrov, Russia. I loved perusing cookbooks from the library and my mom’s collection, dreaming of what I would cook when I had a kitchen of my own.
Somewhere in my middle school and high school years, however, I started to simply see cooking as a means to an end in the Christian life. Cooking was a godly endeavor if you used your food to show hospitality to the visitor at church, take a meal to a new mom and keep your family healthy and nourished. Cooking certainly fell under the admonition to do everything as for the Lord, not men. Cooking was a God-honoring act when performing the thankless work of preparing meals without grumbling or complaining.
I absorbed the subtle message that cooking’s real worth was found in feeding yourself and others. If you enjoyed the activity? Wonderful for you, but that didn’t mean much in God’s story.
Yet, I couldn’t escape the intense pleasure I experienced while working in the kitchen. I loved the smell of onions, celery and carrots sautéing in oil for chicken and rice soup. I found joy in kneading bread and watching it rise, then eating the final product topped with butter and jam. I delighted in helping my mom make dinner and seeing the perfect meal come together to be enjoyed around the table with family and friends.
Though I claimed I didn’t believe in the secular/sacred divide, I subconsciously embraced that distinction in how I approached my daily activities, goals and desires. I believed all truth was God’s truth, but I subtly viewed my love of cooking delicious soup as inferior to my love of singing songs of worship.
Jesus’ Return and My Cooking
When I went to college, my love of cooking and food only deepened. I studied agricultural communications, and I fell in love with learning the details of how our food is produced. I worked at a coffee shop and crafted countless lattes and crepes. Though I didn’t have a kitchen, I would go to a friend’s home to make cookies.
In tangent with these foodie activities, I was growing in my knowledge of God, His creation and His work in the world through my weekly Bible study. My college pastor regularly reminded me and my friends that how we live today is profoundly shaped by what we believe about the future, and for the Christian, that future is hope and glory filled.
I began reading about the future we’re promised in Scripture. The Christian’s future hope has far-reaching ramifications for every problem and longing we find in this earth. I found myself drawn to what we learn about our food and our creative work.
In Isaiah 26, we see the promise of a feast of rich food and well-aged wine for all the nations. In Revelation 19, we see the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which was quietly hinted at when Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding. In Revelation 21 and 22, we see the original work of mankind perfected in the new heavens and new earth. We see Adam’s original calling to work the land, to subdue it and have dominion over it, brought to perfection through the second Adam. Humanity’s broken dignity and longing for meaningful work and relationships is restored as we live in the new city where Jesus is king.
So Why Cooking?
“Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers? Why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry or cooking?” asks Robert Farrar Capon, Episcopal priest, author and chef. These questions were at the heart of my quest to understand the role my cooking plays in the God’s work.
Capon goes on: “Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become.”
Through cooking, I have the opportunity experience and understand the “resident goodness of creation.” As I chop onions, melt chocolate, cream butter and sugar, braise a pork shoulder, set the table, pour wine for myself and friends, I uncover and savor the beauty of our world that God created for His glory and our good. I work to take the elements of creation and create something beautiful, tasty and satisfying.
I also burn garlic and over-bake cookies. I cringe when I cut into an apple, only to discover a worm has taken up residence there. I know budgetary constraints, small kitchens, food allergies and the parts of our food system that are broken.
When I finish making a favorite soup or hosting a dinner for friends, I find my satisfaction tinged with an insatiable longing for better food and a party that doesn’t end.
Cooking? Running? Engineering?
What is your “cooking?” What hobby or work stirs up joy for this world and let’s you catch sight of the future that awaits when Jesus returns? Maybe it’s your 9-5 job of engineering new cars. Maybe it’s a hobby like painting or running.
Through my cooking, I balance the tension of living with the longings from Eden and awaiting the hope of New Jerusalem. I savor the foods I prepare for my table and eat with my family, friends, guests. And my heart cries out for something more. I was made for another table, another meal that I will partake of in the new earth when our true King will reign.
Until that glorious feast, I will keep making my cowboy beanie weenies to eat with my neighbors, enjoying the food and the company while looking for glimpses of that city yet to come.