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"That's why I wrote this book: to help us all hear God's invitation a little more clearly, to sift through the food-frenzied culture, and to listen to how God yearns for us to use and appreciate what he has created us." pg. 4
I love how Melissa talks about worship and its different forms. I thought I was wrong for the longest time because I didn't worship by singing on Sunday morning. Worship for me looked more like giving God my all in every aspect of life. Melissa affirms in Tasting Grace that adoration comes in many forms.
Melissa worships through cooking. She talks a lot about worshiping with food throughout this book. "God used food to tap into the deepest, most authentic creator in me, and that drew me closer to him - which I needed because my life was filled with hunger and want." pg. 36
Melissa describes Top Chef, a cooking show where one contestant begins a dish, and another has to finish it. She says, "It's the same with God, the ultimate Creator: his work leaves clues." pg. 43 He made the ingredients, and we made the food. We have to continue his creation in our cooking.
Later in Tasting Grace, Melissa says, "being our truest self is a form of worship." pg. 60 I love this. God made each of us unique, and diving into who God created us to be should be another form of love and devotion to our Creator.
True to Yourself
Many passages throughout the book are calls to be true to yourself. While on The Next Food Network Star, d'Arabian focused on the food and not on everything around her. She focused on God and his ingredients. "Or would I focus deep and hard on God and on who he had made me to be?" pg. 51
God knows exactly why you were put on this earth. He made you, your body, and your personality for a specific purpose. Melissa says, "The exact mechanism for sharing my gifts is none of my business." pg. 65 Often, I have to remind myself that God equips the called, not calls the equipped. I forget that what God wants me to do isn't something for me to know.
How to Equip Kids with a Good Relationship with Food
Though I don't have children yet, I want them to have a healthy relationship with food. For years I struggled with eating, body image, and self-confidence. I don't want my kids to battle with it too.
Melissa talks about teaching her kids to have a healthy relationship with food. She discusses how she helped her girls get over picky eating and how she did a web series about it for Food Network.
Melissa also talks about the language we use when it comes to food. We believe what we hear, especially our kids. If we label something as wrong or punishment, our kids will too. The healthier relationship we have with our bodies and food, our kids' more beneficial relationship will have.
I love this advice. I am going to store it away for when I have kids!
Lost the Art of Cooking
Our perception of food and cooking has changed over the years and not just because of the Food Network. Because of many different factors, which I'm not going to get into here, we see food as fancy and unattainable, but at the same time as inconvenient and complicated. How many Instagram accounts are devoted to food? How many television shows are dedicated to cooking? How many ads are kitchen gadgets or time savers for cooking?
Melissa reminds us we don't have to be fancy to cook. We don't have to be a chef to contribute to the conversation. And we don't have to be "foodies" to add value. That made me feel normal and human. I often think to have people over for dinner, my food and house have to look presentable, but it doesn't! It has to look like someone lives there.
What also stood out to me was the people Melissa labeled as "food-adjacent." Someone who is food-adjacent watches cooking shows and calls themselves a foodie but doesn't cook. I have shied away from anyone who calls themselves a foodie because I'm afraid I will be embarrassed by my average cooking skills. But the thing is, just because you call yourselves a foodie doesn't mean you can boil an egg!
The world has demanded cheaper, quicker food options. Because of this, Americans are oversaturated with processed foods - twinkies, white bread, etc. Melissa says that by making and eating processed foods, we are saying to God: "My idea is better than yours." pg. 148 Our human-made foods are our way of saying we know better than God.
"We want to outsmart God's design. How can we get concentrated levels of sweetness without the consequences? But the real issue is that maybe God doesn't want us to eat concentrated levels of sweetness." pg. 159
These shortcuts have a cost. Just because it's cheap or convenient doesn't mean it's a bargain. Shortcuts usually aren't shortcuts in the long run, and they have hidden costs like the high costs of eating that way.
One of the highest costs is a complicated, unhealthy relationship with food.
Every day we are bombarded with a new diet, workout program, or weight loss solution. The world wants to sell you a chemical-lined smoothie instead of a sweet banana. Our culture is so desperate to look good that we had developed unhelpful, bad diets when God already made us a diet. God's diet is already the best; don't let the world tell you differently.
Often these processed foods are sold using the phrase "unnecessary work." "Buy this pasta made with enriched grain and avoid unnecessary work!" "Buy these precut vegetables loaded with preservatives, so you don't have to do unnecessary work!"
We shouldn't label chopping vegetables as unnecessary work. Work is work. Melissa argues that "work is wonderful! Using your gifts to create something of value through work feels like being close to God because we are doing what he intended for us to do from the moment he made us. There is honor in work!" pg. 143 - 144
The other practice that is harmful to our life is "grab-and-go culture." To-go cups, food on a stick, and TV dinners have caused us to stop enjoying our food. Melissa believes that "the table is the touchpoint for our day... It's a space to pause for a moment, reflect, recharge, and reinforce our sense of self. The table is the cornerstone of so many spiritual practices, including gratitude, dependence, self-control, and patience. Adding more table time to our lives will only benefit us." pg. 209
In Tasting Grace, Melissa focuses a lot on worship, as described above, but she also warns about worshiping the creation instead of the Creator. "There is a fine line between eating healthy and exercising in worship of God and eating healthy and exercising because I want to be pretty or admired by the world. The two approaches look very similar. But they are different in a crucial way: one is worshiping the Creator, and the other is worshiping the world he created." pg. 3
In our culture, it is easy to worship the creation instead of the Creator because that is what the world is doing. Praising the creation has caused our relationship with food has gone from "it's complicated" to "it's messed up." We have labeled foods good or bad, and we see exercise as working off calories. I love how Melissa combats this:
"Then to make everything worse, we feel guilty because we know we aren't eating healthy foods, so we decide that we need to "earn" the right to eat by working out or that when we do eat, we should shame ourselves into going to the gym to work off the calories. The concept of guilt in food makes no sense when you think about it. God isn't bummed out when we enjoy his food, so why are we?" pg. 154
We focus on how we look. We poke and prod our bodies to uncover every flaw. Then we complain about each tiny blemish. Melissa addresses this. After complaining about her scars, a friend rebuked her.
"She said, "I don't like the way you are talking about my precious friend." She helped me realize it's unkind and ungrateful to speak ill of my body. Do you do this too? All these tiny jabs are not directed at ourselves; they are actually directed at God." pg. 166
That struck me. Don't criticize God's creation; it's perfect.
We don't see that Satan is the ultimate deceiver and is working through the world's messages about health and beauty. "So Satan probably just loves that words like skinny, slender, and thin have become our social shorthand for beautiful." pg. 170
"This path paved with half-truths is why so many of us, particularly women, have such a hard time balancing diet, health, and body issues in a healthy way." pg. 171
Satan knows how to destroy even the strongest of Christians. He can expertly hit each crack in our armor, so we break from the inside out. The evil one uses this "health fog" to deceive us.
Satan also uses movements like Body Positivity and Fat Acceptance to present solutions that aren't biblical. These movements say that we are the key to our happiness. As Melissa put it, "The underlying message is that women will love their bodies by making them lovable." pg. 173
What I want to highlight is what she says next: "What if, instead of changing our bodies, we changed our hearts?" pg. 173 Change our hearts? I love that idea. If we focus on who God made us to be, we will love ourselves without having to change ourselves. If we focus on God's blessing, our bodies become blessings, not burdened.
At the end of each chapter, Melissa has exercises to do, and I like the suggestions at the end of chapter thirteen: 1) "offer a quick prayer of thanksgiving before eating anything and before hitting the gym." 2) "Ask God to guide you in both what you eat and the context." 3) "Add body gratitude to your morning prayer time."