C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy because they were there to arouse, to suggest the real thing. That real thing is heaven.”1
Food, in all its commonality, does this: It awakens in us the desire that cannot be satisfied by the food we consume. Food points us to the reality of another world.
In the essay, “Tasting the Animal Kingdom,” Alissa Coons describes her early-teenage embrace of vegetarianism (“I could no longer eat anything that I was not willing to bear the responsibility of killing”2) and her eventual departure many years later (“I was feeling increasingly malnourished, and losing my intense appreciation of the pleasures of vegetable matter”3).
Coons readily admits to a bit of food righteousness in her vegetarian days. That’s how God created us, after all. The Garden of Eden was a vegetarian’s delight. Meat was unnecessary. Health and satisfaction were provided in Eden’s abundant plant life. The first taste buds were happy.
Our taste buds do not live in Eden’s perfection, however. We live in a fallen world with fallen bodies that eat fallen food. Our taste buds are not so happy.
We desire something this world cannot produce. Our hunger reminds us of what we lack; it reminds us we are not who we were meant to be. We hope that we were meant for something more than this.
Lewis wisely reminds us that the hunger of the soul cannot be satisfied by what this world offers. Nothing in this world—no vice, no diet—can soothe us. Every fiber of our being is marred by sin and craves for redemption. We feed ourselves with food and drink (and shopping and gossip and power and hobbies and good deeds) in the hope of relief.
It does no good. Our taste buds are screaming for a deeper fulfillment from another place.
One day it will come. God promises relief and healing from the sin that’s put us off-kilter. One day we’ll eat leaves we’ve never seen or tasted, and our taste buds will fall silent at last.
I eagerly anticipate that day when I will taste with my own mouth the food that was made for me since the beginning. It will be both new and familiar. My taste buds will be happy.
“On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” —Revelation 22:2
Read more posts from this week’s discussion on The Spirit of Food.
1. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 136–137.
2. The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields, (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 90.
3. Ibid., 92.