Our physical senses come alive when we enjoy food. As we savor our food, we center our minds fully on the present moment, and that helps us experience wonder. During this coronavirus pandemic lockdown, one powerful way we can experience wonder at home is simply through cooking or baking.
Many of us are preparing food at home more often than we did before this crisis. Baking bread has become especially popular, since bread is a comfort food. We can’t go out to eat at our favorite restaurants right now (although we can order takeout or delivery from some places). But making our own meals gives us more opportunities to encounter wonder than just consuming ready-made food does. Sometimes we don’t have time to cook. But when we do, eating a meal we’ve created ourselves is much more wonderful than scarfing down slices of a pizza someone else made.
Recently I cooked a simple dinner of veggie burgers for my family. As I went through the various menial tasks involved – from chopping up onions to preparing burger buns – I silently thanked God for the food and his constant presence with me. The olive oil sizzling on my frying pan sounded like music. The cold, smooth slices of cheese felt refreshing in my hands. The pungent smell of pickles excited me. The finished burgers, with their colorful ingredients stacked on top of each other, looked like joyful sculptures. Every bite was an adventure as we savored layers of different tastes together.
My physical senses became portals for spiritual wonder to flow through. I was in awe of the One who created the food as I enjoyed it. In my book Wake Up to Wonder, I describe how we can discover wonder through our sense of tasting, as well as through our senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching.
Although I was at home while cooking and eating dinner, I felt the wonder of being deeply connected. The food had all grown in the earth, nourished by wondrous natural systems that God had designed. It was harvested, prepared, packaged, delivered, and sold by people whose hard work had gotten it to the grocery store where I bought it. I thought of fellow shoppers at my local store. All of us tried to stay at least 6 feet apart from each other as we navigated the aisles, buying essentials without stockpiling anything, caring for each other as neighbors while peering at each other from our masked faces. We were all in this together. God was right there with us, I thought, as Deuteronomy 31:6 came to mind: "Be strong and courageous. ... for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Cooking dinner for my family a way of expressing my love for them. Thanking God for the food and focusing on his presence with me in the kitchen helped me notice and appreciate God’s love.
Brother Lawrence was a French monk from the 1600s who worked long days, for many years, in his monastery’s kitchen. He cooked and cleaned in the same place, rarely venturing out anywhere. Yet rather than despairing about being stuck at home, he used his time there to pursue a closer relationship with God. His writing, which was compiled in the book The Practice of the Presence of God, reveals how he experienced awe for God and tuned into the wonder of God’s constant presence with him.
“Lift up your heart to him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to him,” Brother Lawrence wrote about experiencing God’s presence through food. “One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
When we view our daily work as a way to express our love for God, we can perceive the wonder of God’s love for us. Even the simplest tasks can lead us to profound wonder when we do them with love, Brother Lawrence pointed out. “We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him… . We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed,” he wrote.
God can nourish us spiritually as our food nourishes us physically when we cook and eat with love. Even in this pandemic, God is with us – and the wonder of food reminds us of that.