A Cultural, Spiritual, & Emotional Loss

microwaveOver the last few decades, the majority of our society has moved away from fresh, whole foods and into packaged, prepared, preserved products. We’ve lost something very fundamental as a result.  Opening cans and dumping, slicing a vent hole into a plastic sealed microwavable tray, “just add water” – those things have taken away from something that, I believe, is an inherent desire within us to make the process of growing, preparing, cooking, and serving a joyful experience.  We’ve taken something that should be a very basic delight and turned it into a tedious chore that has us seeking any time-saving product that will get it done faster and with less hassle.

But at what cost?

There are many books, articles, documentaries, etc., explaining the dangers to your health when you eat processed food vs. real whole food.  Many of the articles or references to other material can be found on this site.

This is not an article about that.  This article is about what we have lost culturally, spiritually, and emotionally.


One very obvious cultural loss in the prepared and packaged business is that, quite simply, an entire generation is growing up not knowing how to cook.  Kaylee, who is a couple weeks shy of 16, has to cook one meal a week for our family.  Doing that is teaching her how to plan, how to prepare, and how to cook a meal so that it all comes together at the same time.  She has been in the kitchen with me since she could stand on a chair.  Conversely, very few of her friends know how to cook.  Most of them don’t have families that eat together.  Usually, a freezer or a pantry is stocked with packaged food and the members of the family grab and nuke what they want whenever they want it.

Alongside not cooking, we, as a culture, aren’t really entertaining, either.  Abraham hurried to prepare a meal for his angelic visitors (Genesis 18:6-7), a practice that is becoming less and less common in our culture.  Now, with so many families where both the mother and the father work outside of the home, opening our home in hospitality is becoming a rare occurrence.  Most people, when they want to fellowship with friends, now choose instead to meet outside of the home in a restaurant.  The thought process is that preparing a home for company and preparing a meal is considered a “hassle”, or a “bother”, and it’s just “easier” to go out.  The latest rage in coffee pots even has a single serving of coffee being made in a variety of flavors and strengths instead of a pot of coffee that can easily be shared among friends.  For the most part, hospitality just is simply, culturally, becoming a thing of the past.

welcome matLast week, Gregg was doing a week’s worth of National Guard duty a couple hundred miles from home.  He had to escort four soldiers to an appointment near our home, and called me at 6 in the morning to ask if he could bring them over for lunch.  Once I dropped children off at school, I rushed home and prepared a meal: beef stew, cheddar whole wheat herb biscuits, garden salad with two offerings of homemade dressings, stuffed red velvet cookies, stuffed dates, and iced tea.  These soldiers, as Gregg explained lunch plans, protested coming over to eat.  None of them were accustomed to eating in another home, and until they were here and made welcome, were uncomfortable with it.  After, they were SO thankful for it that they continued to remind Gregg to thank me again through the rest of the week.

When I was growing up, my dad brought people home for lunch all the time (my mom will tell you that he came home with three soldiers for lunch and she went into labor with me.  She showed them where the diapers were for my older brother, and left them there — with lunch and my brother — while my dad took her to the clinic to have me.)  Somewhere along the route of working mothers and convenience foods, we’ve culturally lost the art of hospitality.


From front to back, food is in the Bible, a constant analogy for what is good.  The Israelites, while wandering the wilderness for forty years, were willing to return to Egypt and go back to being slaves just so they could have the fresh food that is found in such abundance there.  On Mt. Sinai, Moses and the elders dined together to seal the covenant with God (Exodus 24:11).  Jacob and Laban shared a meal to seal a pact (Genesis 31:54).  The Last Supper, a Passover feast, was rich in covenant significance that is still fundamental to Christian practice.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? “Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  Luke 11:10-13

Aside from the importance of food in the Bible, I feel like God purposefully made food – whole food, fresh food – something intended to be enjoyed, a good gift.  I think it is designed to appeal to us on a spiritual and emotional level.  Which brings me to the emotional part.


I made a pot of homemade soup the other day.  As I was peeling potatoes, chopping onions, slicing carrots, something occurred to me.  It’s something I’ve wanted to share with you, but have had a hard time coming up with the words to say because it’s all about feeling, and feelings are the hardest things to convey in this medium.  So, here’s my best go at it:

fresh-foodThere is something very basically emotionally satisfying about working with whole foods.  Breaking down an onion, peeling a potato, slicing carrots, chopping fresh herbs — these things satisfy my every sense — touch, taste, smell, sound, sight — to create a whole moment of perfect contentment.  And, as I contemplated on it, I realized that moment is just magnified at harvest time, when the produce with which I’m working has been grown in my backyard by my family.

I believe God intentionally made fresh food like that so appealing so that we would want to prepare them, combine them, consume them, and enjoy them.  I think that when we step away from all of this freshness and open boxes, open envelopes, just add water, go through a drive through — I think we’re actually denying ourselves a God-given pleasure that is actually there to satisfy our souls.

If you are seeking convenience over fresh, I would like to challenge you to shift how you prepare meals.  The next time you want soup, don’t open a can of prepared soup — take an extra ten minutes and wash, slice, dice — let the sounds of the fresh vegetables being chopped, the sight of the array of colors, the fresh smell, the crisp flavors, the feel of the raw vegetables in your hand — that those sensations appeal to your senses and you will discover a very basic, fundamental satisfaction that is found in working with whole, God provided foods.

I am very interested in hearing your impressions of this post or, if you could, leave a comment sharing your experiences.

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