Recently, I was on a military trip to our headquarters in New Orleans. This was our annual Marine Forces Reserve Religious Ministries Workshop where Navy chaplains and Religious Program Specialists come together for specified training with Marines.
Of course, if you are in New Orleans, known as the Big Easy, you have to partake of the local cuisine. Restaurants abound in this city, with the flare for the unusual. Gumbo comes to mind. This is a wonderful concoction that to the uninitiated is called soup. Taste it and you’ll never think of it in so plebian terms as “soup” again. It is made of roux (fat and flour mix), various vegetables, garlic, chicken, onions, sausage, scallions, and parsley, spiced up with salt, black and cayenne pepper. There are innumerable variations of this dish, but this is the basic. Sea foods abound, as do the most fattening desserts known to man.
Feeling a bit frisky on this trip, I decided to try some things that have never before passed my lips. It’s not like eating strange and exotic foods is new to me. When my parents moved us to Paris in 1960, I had the opportunity to sample the best of French cooking. We traveled all over Europe and Scandinavia. Growing up, we kids were always encouraged to try different foods. Once it was tasted, we could either order more, or decline. Our choice. So I tried lots of stuff. I even ate escargot, and liked it. Escargot is snails if you were wondering, though it sounds much more Continental when you call it escargot!
Then during my time in the Marine Corps, I was sent to such far away places as Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, all of which have some very interesting foods. There were many times I ate what was placed in front of me not really knowing what it was. Having been raised to eat everything on my plate, I just naturally chowed down. Sometimes it was better not to ask what was on your plate. As a Navy chaplain I have added more countries to my travels: Guam, Hong Kong, Bahrain, England, Singapore, Kenya, Australia, South Korea, Scotland, Okinawa, Spain, Morocco, and Oman. Back serving with the Marines during Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom, I traveled to Italy, Cyprus, Kuwait, the Azores, Iraq, and Djibouti.
Then there have been the mission trips with my church to Ethiopia, Malawi, and most recently, Peru, with a side trip to Chile. In Peru, one of the foods that are popular is guinea pig. It tastes like chicken.
So, back in New Orleans I decided to try a couple of new things. First, I ate frog legs. Very tasty, especially when prepared Cajun style. You eat the meat right off the bone like a chicken leg. It, too, tasted like chicken. The other food I sampled on this trip was alligator. Barbecued, it is delicious! It does not, however, taste like chicken.
I got to thinking. We eat different foods because we want to see what they taste like. We are often repulsed by the idea of eating certain things. The mission team tried to make those of us who actually ate the cute little cuddly guinea pigs feel badly. My pocket dictionary offers two definitions for guinea pig: 1) a plump tailless rodent kept as a pet, and 2) somebody or something used as the subject of an experiment or test. The way the rest of the mission team looked at us, we weren’t sure if we were to become the experiment!
It seems a number of foods around the world have a similar taste to that of chicken. This usually implies disappointment since in America we can get chicken any time we want. We want the unusual foods we try to be unique, different, something that will tantalize our taste buds. We want the good stuff.
Taste is one of the most pleasurable sensations in life. As infants, we naturally want to taste everything. It helps us interpret our diminutive world. Our likes and dislikes are formed early on with our sense of taste.
Spiritually speaking, we yearn to taste the good stuff. After I came to know Christ as my savior, I discovered a verse of scripture that says it all for me. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see the Lord is good.” I’m here to tell you that I have tasted the Lord and he is, indeed, wonderfully good!
I’ve been blessed to travel the world, being exposed to cultures, customs, people groups, beliefs, and lots of food. But nothing can satisfy like the Lord. Taste, and see that he is good!