Finding God in the Kitchen
As I was emptying the dishwasher this evening, a thought struck me. God is everywhere. While this is not an entirely new revelation, I suppose I haven’t spent much time lately really seeking God in everyday things. But, as I looked around my kitchen, I realize just how special of a place it is for me and how much God must really love to be there watching me cook.
The kitchen is often referred to as “the heart of the home.” And if God is love, it can’t be a coincidence that there is some kind of link between the food we eat, that which nourishes our bodies, the place we prepare it, and something deeper and more faith-filled.
When I taught high school English, I used to remind my students that it’s significant in works of literature when characters come together to eat a meal. Eating is so ordinary – so everyday. Why else would it be put into a story, if not to teach us something about the characters or the events that were unfolding? When people eat or drink together, they are in communion with one another. Where are they eating? What are they eating? What are they talking about? Who gets up from the table and leaves early? Who sits beyond the meal with a cup of coffee and simply soaks in the company?
In a similar way, we read about eating and food and hospitality in the Bible on more than one occasion. And what is the Bible, but the inspired Word of God and the most widely read text in the world? When Jesus was teaching how to pray, he asks the Father to “give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) In one of the Old Testament books of wisdom, we are told to “Go, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a merry heart, because it is now that God favors your works.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7) The Bible’s book of poetry between lovers even proclaims, “Eat, friends; drink! Drink deeply, lovers!” (Song of Songs 5:1) And in Paul’s epistles, he teaches that “whether [we] eat or drink, or whatever [we] do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Looking back on the past year and a half of my life, food has played a pivotal role in all that has transpired. Beginning with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and some outstanding “Lazy Linguine” on Mt. Tabor, back to Greensboro where I tried my hand at a hundred new recipes during the pandemic, to my new home and a kitchen that I adore – I have found myself through the communion of food with others.
My children have foods they adore, just as I did when I was growing up. To be honest, I still do. Not many things can top my father’s spare ribs and sauerkraut, or my mother’s halupki. I have fond memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases in my childhood home waiting for my Aunt Betty to bring over the veggie and olive trays with the perfectly carved radishes, my Grampy – pipe in hand – supervising my father as he fried up calamari and smelts, Uncle Sonny helping to carve the turkey, and Nana helping my brother and I make cut-out cookies. We had birthdays and celebrations and favorite meals. Linguine and clams, pierogi, peas and macaroni, homemade spinach pizza. But even a bowl of plain Cheerios with sugar and banana for a bedtime snack or a grilled cheese sandwich after a rainy, late-night soccer game always hit the spot. Not just because I was hungry, but because of the emotions and connections that they evoked.
Now that I’m an adult with my own home, I love to entertain and I see my kitchen as a place of socialization and interaction. My aprons hang on the pantry door and the windowsill over my sink, overlooking the backyard, is absolutely my favorite place in my home. While going out to eat is special, it is the table in my kitchen where I’ve laid out pizza and snacks for my kids and their friends. That same table was the first piece of furniture I picked out and the centerpiece around which my décor is arranged. It’s also the place where I served a special birthday dinner of steak and risotto and shared a story about St. John the Beloved. It’s the homework station, the “let’s make a list” space, and the spot where I can just see – with all certainty – many more meals being shared and memories being made.
I’ve learned a lot about food in my kitchen and I’ve talked with God a lot, too. I’ve experimented with fruit – cherries and figs and apples. I’ve taught myself to cook without a recipe … successfully perfecting a few important dishes. And I’ve spent time with myself, learning who I am, being content with my aloneness, and dancing to Van Morrison while baking a coconut cream pie. There was even a night, not that long ago, that I stood in my pajamas after two shower-less, lonely, and depressing weekend days making ramen noodles and looking forward to my classy dessert of strawberry pop-tarts.
But in all of those moments – every single one of them – I knew that God was there. Because if God isn’t in my kitchen, then where else would he be? God is heroic, yes. But he is also the God of the everyday. He’s not interested in the performance of a seemingly spiritual person and how they behave in public. He dwells within each one of us. He’s in the dirty dishes and the cluttered pantry. He’s sitting at the opposite end of the table while I’m there with my children, talking about their day, listening to them laugh, and inevitably argue over who gets the last pork chop. And he’s shown me – through the Proverbs woman – how to be worthy through the simplicity of domestic acts like preparing food for others, being strong and dignified, and praising Him daily. (Proverbs 31)
So, the next time the kids ask (for the hundredth time), “What’s for dinner?” … or when you’re planning a special menu for a special person … or when the last thing you want to be doing is emptying the dishwasher … thank Him. Thank God for those commonplace moments of homespun purity. For it’s in Our Daily Bread that he comes to us as one of us. His Son ate with the Apostles just as we eat with one another, every single day. Look for God in your kitchen and you just might find him there – making sure you don’t burn the onions.