Monday, July 25, 2005

A Culinary Argument for the Existence of God

Douglas Wilson wrote an article for a soon to be released cookbook entitled Hot Providence. In the article he gives a culinary argument for the existence of God. Here is an excerpt:
Think for a moment what God could have done with food. He could have designed a universe in which some sort of fuel was necessary, but where the (entirely superfluous) function of taste was missing. He could have provided us with abundant sources of nutrition, but which had the ethos of cold, shapeless oatmeal. No taste anywhere. Bleh.

Or He could have given us food that had slight variations or degrees of refinement, like gasoline. We could have had super premium oatmeal, which was more gruel-like, and then premium, like cream of wheat, and then regular, which would be like oatmeal, with the texture and everything. But still, nothing that had taste. No brown sugar.

What kind of God created taste? Not just the function of taste--because He could have done that and only provided one or two tastes--but the riot of tastes, the pandemonium of tastes, the bedlam of tastes that we actually have. Think for a moment what is actually going on out there. We have, just to take a small sampler, watermelon, orange, cinnamon, bacon, walnut, beans, make that 482 different kinds of beans, grapes, salmon, sharp cheese, honey, butter, and nutmeg. If we were to catalog all the tastes in the world, straight out of nature, we are no doubt surpassing tens of thousands of distinct, identifiable tastes. And God looked on the creation and said that it was very good, but He then wanted to expand on this good start. So in the creation mandate, He required that sons of Adam and daughters of Eve learn how to cook. This meant that they were to go out into the world, find all those tastes, and then start playing with them. What goes with what? And when you mix this with that, what happens? What happens if you mix a little more of this, but then set the whole thing on fire? Wait, I know. Let's put it in a pan, melt some butter in the pan, and then put it on the fire. And by this means, the thousands of tastes became millions of tastes. Recognizable and distinct tastes. But what for?

Who was the first guy who figured out coffee beans? If we take these beans, cook them, grind them up, and then run really hot water through them, we get a comfort drink that tastes really nasty for the first six months. But if you persevere in the making and drinking of it, it gets to be really good. So God gave us the great concept of the acquired taste--strong coffee and dark beer and black licorice.

The omnivores among us may consequently be forgiven for thinking that everything is supposed to taste good, because it certainly looks that way initially. It appears that God has set the limits (and I think there are limits) so far out there that some might think there is no point in stopping. But I have grave personal doubts, for example, about Rocky Mountain oysters, soup made out of birds' nests, and any food developed by someone in the grip of an idea having to do with healthy life style choices. That's the kind of thing that gets us grape nuts, shredded wheat, and tofu. But still, the concept appears to be that God wants to enjoy all kinds of things. This is why I think there have to be limits, because if everything tastes great, then what's the point? If everything is special, then nothing is. This is why we should be dubious about certain combinations--tangerines in milk, oreos and mustard, peaches and gravy, whiskey and ice cream. If failure in the kitchen is an impossibility, then genuine success is an impossibility. We need to measure the success of a dish with more questions than whether or not it is burned on the bottom.

So limits are important. Another place we might cross the line is when cooks get so into the idea of presentation that they start serving up what I call "art food." The food looks like it was arranged on the plate by someone who has a graduate degree in doing that kind of thing, but it tastes ghastly. Not because duck brains couldn't taste good, but because the art cook kind of forgot what he was supposed to be doing. Taste first, and presentation to accompany that taste as a faithful servant.

So I return to the question. What kind of God would create a world in which literally millions of very different pleasures can occur in your mouth, and for no apparent functional reason? This is a God who loves pleasure, and is willing to throw those pleasures around His universe with wild abandon. He insisted on creating beings who are capable of enjoying all these sensations, and, because they have eternity in their hearts, they will pursue tinkering around with a foul tasting bean until they figure out how to get chocolate out of it. But in order to be a God like this, one who loves pleasure, He has to be a God who loves. More than that, He has to be a God who is love. But in order to be love, He must be triune. Before the world was created, before anything material came to be, God was every bit as prodigal and wasteful as He is now. What kind of God would do this?

For far too long, discussions about the mystery of the Holy Trinity have been assumed to be the province of theologians with fifty-pound heads. But there are two questions that all of us can ask, and we ought to ask them far more frequently--and in the presence of our food. Those questions are, "Who would do this?" and "What must He be like?" When should we ask these questions? The times will vary, but we ought to remember the questions every time we say grace, because this is why we are saying grace. When do we recall the questions? Whenever we eat a cookie, and then down a tall glass of cold milk. When the hot gravy goes on the cheese potatoes. When we are sitting on the lawn on a summer evening, spitting watermelon seeds. When the butter melts on the corn on the cob just right. When we pour lemonade and iced tea together, half and half. When the green beans are cooked together with pistachio nuts. Honey butter. Home made fudge sauce on store bought ice cream.

Who would do this? What must He be like?

http://www.dougwils.com/

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home