80. Soul Food

80. Soul Food

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Soul Food

If junk food is the devil, then a sweet orange is as scripture.
 ~Audrey Foris

It was more than 20 years ago. I was on the couch, making a shopping list, holding my baby who almost always had an ear infection, and pretending I wasn’t starting to come down with yet another bout of strep throat. That’s when the one person I definitely did not want to see came over. In walked Debbie, the “natural” fanatic. I was in no mood to get a sermon about how everybody in my family was getting sick so often because I was doing everything wrong.

I tried to sit up and look perky, but I shouldn’t have even wasted the little energy I had left. There was no fooling Debbie. She was adept at spotting all things phony.

Debbie knew I was getting sick again, and I think she must have also known that I was getting sick of her standard sermons. She had a different tactic this time. It was just one innocent question.

“When was the last time you ate an apple?” she asked.

I was relieved. “Apples? We’ve got plenty! Just check my fridge. My kids eat them all the time.”

“That’s not what I asked,” she said, not even smiling. “I asked when was the last time you ate an apple. I’m not asking for a lot. Just one simple, unadulterated apple. Think about it. Do you enjoy getting sick so often? Why not try something you could enjoy a lot more?” And she was out the door.

I sat there fuming. But years later I found out she was a true friend.

I can still remember the taste of that first apple I bit into. . . years after our conversation. It wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be. It tasted weird at first. Weird to be eating something so basic. Then juicy. Then delicious.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is something I had heard many times, but I never understood its many ramifications. It’s not just about apples. It goes for bananas as well. And peaches and oranges. Strawberries, cantaloupe—even kiwis! It goes for the infinite number of gifts God has personally packaged for us. Individually packaging each one, no less! They are all designed to help us stay well.

And what do we do with His gifts? Pass right by them, and head straight for the peach ice cream for us, and the strawberry “fruit” bars for our children.

We all too often prefer the stuff that’s been taken out of its original packaging, “processed” until it’s just about unrecognizable, thrown in with a few additives here, some preservatives there, artificial coloring all over the place, and voilà—we then consider it edible!

By putting our physical selves in tune with our spiritual selves—the way they were meant to be, we can spend a lot less time in the kitchen trying to “fix up” what God has already made wonderful. God’s candy comes bite-sized (grapes, berries), individually packaged (nectarines, bananas, plums) and even family-sized (watermelons)—pre-prepared for our optimum health and pleasure. We need to re-learn what we once knew—how to appreciate life’s simple and genuine joys.

Sure, Man cannot live on fruit alone—but there isn’t a better way to start the day than by having a breakfast of fruit. Then, for the rest of the day, if we make some small effort to eat food that’s still packed with Divine sparks of God’s loving kindness toward us—so much the better.

We don’t have to banish all the so-called “goodies” from our shelves. But every effort made in this direction can help draw us closer to God, leaving less of the distracting (and debilitating) fluff between us and Him. It can take a while to re-develop appreciation, but as the satisfaction we get from sustenance that is closer to its natural state increases, the “draw” of the “less-well-connected” foodstuffs painlessly diminishes.

You walked out my door more than 20 years ago, Debbie. And soon after that, we moved away. Then so did you. We’ve lost touch with each other, and I never got to tell you that I really wasn’t a hopeless case, doomed to donuts and ear infections, processed “cheese food” and strep throat for the rest of my life. I am still here on the couch, writing another one of my shopping lists, but, oh boy, is it a different kind of shopping list.

Oh, you planted a seed in me alright, Debbie. Knowing you, it must have been an apple seed.

~Bracha Goetz

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