Is Food Sensual?

Don’t read that wrong–sensual, not necessarily sexual.

(Although it might be that, too.)

sen*su*al |ˈsen sh oōəl|

adjective

of or arousing gratification of the senses and physical

Last week I read (and really enjoyed Amy Frykholm’s) newest book, See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity.

One of the things that surprised me most about the book was how much Frykholm talked about food in a book about sexuality. (Perhaps I could’ve anticipated this, being as she’s one of the contributors to The Spirit of Food, which I wrote about not too long ago here.) But food and sex share the dubious honor of being sites that are (or are thought to be) in conflict with what is spiritual. Frykholm’s reflections on her stories and those of others are stories of incarnation–of journeying toward and sometimes arriving at a place where faith is not disembodied and flesh with its needs and desires, is not seen as a threat to the spirit.

In the book, Frykholm presents a pretty compelling picture of how American Christians of various stripes have viewed the sensory world with suspicion, a suspicion that cripples people by putting that which is embodied and that which is spiritual in conflict. Do you see American culture in this:

Instead of learning from the sensory world, we aim to control it. We put ourselves on diets to control rampant eating, but we are pitiful at tasting. We make budgets to control rampant consumerism, but we know very little about actual pleasure.”

At one time in my life, I felt pretty sure that if I could just love Jesus more, I would not need to eat much more than the bare minimum needed to live. Those were the days of diet Coke, butterless toast, and  “just vinegar on the salad, please.” Those were the days when I though enjoying food was dangerous if not sinful. I am glad those days are gone.

Because despite what a current popular Christian diet book says, food is God’s love made delectable. Sure, the fact that food sustains us points to God’s sustaining love. But the fact that food is delicious, beautiful, and pleasurable is not an accident, a trap, a temptation, or something unfortunate. Food is delicious, beautiful, and pleasurable because God is.

{Read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s post at HuffPo Food on the sensuality of food here.}

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