“…..and please bless the refreshments that they will nourish and strengthen our bodies and do us the good that we need……”
I smirk silently, roll my eyes beneath piously closed lids and envision brownies, cookies and lemonade transfigured into fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, organic something-or-other, packed with protein and vitamins, all contingent on our scripted gratitude for the hands who prepared it.
“What is it with Mormons and our sugar consumption?!” I think, “Is it because we don’t serve coffee or alcohol at our gatherings? It’s our addictive substance of choice?” and then wonder if we’d get the same turnout if we served veggies and hummus instead.
Between funeral potatoes, green Jell-o, and candlestick salad, it seems our cuisine befits a peculiar palette. (Having never been to a ward party outside the US, I’m not sure how this odd bit of Mormon culture translates in other countries – I hope each region holds to their own strangely endearing pot-luck contributions!)
Not only do we bring our favorite (and sometimes questionable) recipes to ward functions, we sign up to take them to each other. My small-ish ward does compassionate service (chiefly food-related, but also myriad of other kind acts) exceptionally well. Anytime we have a new baby, death or funeral, family emergency, surgery, extended illness, recovery from injury, or the like, our Compassionate Service Coordinator sends a blast email to the ward with a link to the Take Them a Meal schedule. Before you know it, the family in need is lined up with a week or two of hand-delivered meals and caring visitors.
As a kid, I remember watching my mom prepare some of her culinary specialities and asking, “Who had the baby? And what are we having instead?” When she took meals to people, she was sharing the best she had. Earlier this summer when baby #3 (my first daughter!) was born, nearly a dozen kind-hearted ward members filled my meal calendar with favorite recipes and specialties, take-out from local restaurants, right down to bags full of groceries and snacks for the little boys. Their charity was so abundantly given, their congratulations heartfelt and sincere. They shared my joy and empathized with my frustrations so much that I truly looked forward to my dinner-time visitor each night! The food filled our bellies and the warmth of their kindness lasted longer than the leftovers.
I’ve never felt so loved by my ward members as I did in these visits. Oh, I’ve had good Visiting Teachers over the years, and I feel appreciated on the days I play a musical number in Sacrament meeting, but the real, pure love of Christ came knocking at my door with a pot of stew and a chicken pie.
So why the food? What’s food got to do with it?
“Love people. Cook them tasty food.” became more than just an advertising slogan to me. It might as well be canonized right into John 15 next to “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Throughout his life, Jesus Christ fed hungry mouths almost as much as he saved starving souls, and his methods for providing food were notable miracles. When he turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana, he saved his mother embarrassment and impressed the governor of the feast. On at least 2 occasions after teaching precious truths, he fed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes so they wouldn’t faint from fasting on the journey home. He sent quail and manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness. He calls himself the bread of life, the living water, and on the day before his death, he ate the Passover feast with his closest friends and instituted the Sacrament wherein he again uses food to represent himself.
I’m starting to see the provision of food to others among the height of Christian deeds. Though it often falls to women (and the Relief Society) to impart food, it’s a Christlike act that must transcend gender stereotypes. “Feed my sheep,” he says, “Feed my lambs,” for “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these…ye have done it unto me.”
From the new visiting teacher with an awkward door approach holding a plate of cookies to the neighbor who “cooked a little extra,” I admire those who know the quickest way to “comfort those in need of comfort” is by sharing comfort food. Thanks for the love.