I really enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. I have several cookbooks and I go through them regularly, looking for tasty tidbits I have overlooked. I feel a sense of satisfaction when I hit on something that is unique, tasty, and easy to prepare.
Then I set it on the table, and receive a four-part chorus of groans.
“What is this?”
“I don’t know, but it looks like dog food.”
“Yeah, it smells like it too.”
“I’m not eating this.”
My husband, thankfully, isn’t that picky and will clean up the leftovers, of which there are plenty, because the children won’t eat. It doesn’t matter that it’s delicious and I was planning to serve it to company some time, it was that good. No, I just have very picky children, and they would rather starve until the next meal rather than eat what I made. This sort of takes the joy out of cooking.
After struggling with the whole food-thing for about a year, I reached the conclusion that from then, dinner would just be peanut butter sandwiches. I’d had it. I was going to give up. But then I read this quote from Truman Madsen.
“You faithful sisters, married or unmarried, who move daily (and hardly with a break) from the garden plot to the crucial minutia of food labels to the cups and measures of cookery; you, who struggle and preside in the kitchen and keep vigil; you, who reach out to the perennial needs of your family and loved ones; you, who with artistry gather flowers and turn an ordinary table into an altar that summons prayer and thanksgiving; you, who by your very presence, turn eating into a feast –into dining in the name of the Lord, and who, therefore, bring a bountiful measure of grace to your table, lend your faith to boys and sometimes inept men who officiate at the sacrament table. Let the tables turn on your serving. Lend your faith to our trying to act as you do in Christ-like dignity. For this is as close as we may ever come to your diving calling to give and to nurture life itself . . . come to a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
This really struck me. First off, he’s comparing cooking and preparing a meal to the preparation of the sacrament. I never thought of it that way. Then he says that as we graciously preside over our tables, we are setting an example to the Priesthood holders in our family as to the way they should preside over the sacrament table. This takes eating a meal into a completely different realm. No longer do we envision scarfing our plates down without breathing and then inhaling the napkin, or the opposite, refusing to eat. When we think of a meal in these terms, we picture coming together in gratitude, expressing appreciation not only for the meal but the hands that prepared it, and recognizing that all our blessings come to us directly from God, be it the food itself, or the electricity used to cook it. The meal becomes a benediction, whether you’re eating a roast or a bologna sandwich. The power is not in what you’re serving, but how you’re serving it.
I have no doubt that our food battles will rage on. Child #1 will eat nearly everything, #2 will eat practically nothing, while #3 and #4 are divided. I can’t change that overnight. But what I can change is my attitude and the manner in which I serve the food and teach them about food. Even mealtime can be a sacred time, when approached correctly.