will they serve grits in heaven?

Slow food. It makes me think about grits.

Cindy Dulay, over at southerneats, says “There really isn’t much, if any, difference in the taste of slow cook and quick cook grits. Slow cook takes 20 minutes of boiling to cook, while quick cook only takes 5 minutes.”

I don’t know what she is talking about. My idea of “quick grits” takes an hour. I’ve got grits in my freezer from Anson Mills that takes four hours to cook in a crock pot, a caramelizing process that results in a sweet, smooth taste that rivals fresh sweet corn itself. But you have to wait for it.

Authentic stone ground grits takes time to prepare and it also takes time to enjoy. In fact, all good food takes time to prepare. You have to chop stuff, mix stuff, and wait for stuff. You have to plan ahead and select fresher, often more expensive, ingredients. And once you prepare it you want to take your time and enjoy it, savoring the textures, aromas, colors and tastes.

And while the slow food movement is mostly about opposing fast food, I’m more interested in the time it takes to enjoy it and share it with others.

Our failure to do so comes at a considerable cost. In “Our Big Problem,” an essay about obesity in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Theodore Dalrymple says poor food choices are eating away at our health and our economy.

A British doctor, he observes that the family meal is a ritual of the past, and that in his visits to homes of poor, unemployed and single parent families there was no table to eat at and no evidence that food was ever cooked there, other than in a microwave. He writes:

In these circumstances, children graze or forage; but unlike previous hunter gatherers, they do not come up against a scarcity of food, but rather a surfeit of it. Nothing is easier for them than to overindulge, and the appetite grows with the feeding. Their tastes never develop beyond the most instantly gratifying types of food, sugary and fatty, and they eat like children for the rest of their lives; they never learn the discipline of subordinating their appetite to the exigencies of family life and social convention. They are like Pooh Bear, for whom it is always time for a little something. It is hardly surprising if, like Pooh Bear’s, their waistlines expand until they can’t fit into a normal seat.

Are their parents too busy to cook? Probably not. It just takes too much time to prepare the food and too much energy to maintain meaningful relationships around the experience.

Dalrymple goes on to discuss the economic and (frightening) policy implications of obesity, and it’s worth the read. But what concerns me most is the relational cost. And what excites me most is the relational opportunity.

The time we spend together at a meal teaches us that our appetite need not rule us. The time we spend creating and sharing food does more than satisfy our bellies: while we wait we can feed our souls with laughter and love, creating a safe place where manners can be taught and joy can be experienced.

Christ himself was criticized for enjoying a good meal with others. And believers are looking forward to a great feast with Him. In fact, any thoughtfully prepared and eagerly anticipated meal is a picture of that celebration. As the angel said to John: “ Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

It has taken centuries to prepare. And it’s worth waiting for.

Grits ain’t nothing compared to that.

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