Tag Archives: Food

Poured Out, Changed, Improved

“Moab has been at rest from youth,
    like wine left on its dregs,
not poured from one jar to another—
    she has not gone into exile.
So she tastes as she did,
    and her aroma is unchanged.”
Jeremiah 48:11 (NIV)

Wendy and I enjoy wine with a good meal. We’re not experts by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned some of the basics of pairing a wine with the food we’re eating and getting the most out of the wine we drink. Just last night I put a couple of beef filets on the grill and Wendy made some sweet potato medallions. We opened this big, bombastic Spanish red wine, a Cariñena. It was aptly named El Bombero, and its bold flavor was a wonderful compliment to the richness of the steaks.

One of the things I’ve learned about wine is that it changes after you uncork the bottle. In fact, some of the experts I’ve read believe that almost any wine will taste better if you “decant” it, or transfer it to a glass decanter, and let it breathe for an hour or so before you drink it. Wine often has an initial sharp taste from being shut up inside the bottle for a long period. That sharp or sour taste smooths out, and the true flavor of the wine opens up when it’s transferred to another vessel and oxygen has a chance to work its natural magic.

Today’s chapter of Jeremiah’s prophetic works is a message of condemnation for the ancient nation of Moab (located just east of the Dead Sea). Moab’s mountainous regions were known for their wine and vineyards, so Jeremiah leverages their wineries for the purposes of a word picture. The Moabites had not changed and had not been “poured out” into exile as other nations in the region had. But, Jeremiah’s prophetic word tells Moab she would be “decanted” when the Persian army came through.

As I pondered Jeremiah’s word picture this morning I meditated on my own life journey. One of the unexpected realities of my own journey is how much change I would experience as I reached this stage of life. When I was young I had this notion that a person sort of reaches maximum personal maturity somewhere in early adulthood and then just maintains. To be honest, I have observed fellow adults for whom this appears to be their reality. I had no idea how much, in my experience, the spiritual process of being poured out, matured, and changed is cyclical and perpetual.

Wine that stays corked, bottled up, and unchanged retains a sharp and bitter taste. I’ve observed that humans are much the same way. There is a benefit to wine being poured out, decanted, and allowed to patiently sit so that change can bring out the blessings of maturity and aging. So my spirit  benefits from a similar process as I continue on life’s road.

A Table Prepared for All

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
Isaiah 25:26 (NIV)

I love a great dinner party. We have become such a fast food, quick serve, grab-a-snack culture that it’s rare to really enjoy a feast any more. I had a friend tell me that she and her family finished Thanksgiving dinner in 10 minutes. There’s something wrong with this picture.

A great dinner party starts early with a drink and an appetizer. People mingle. There’s light conversation. Guests begin to unwind. It moves on to a table that’s prepared. Things are laid out. Everything you need for the evening is set before you. The plates, knives, forks, spoons, and glassware are a road map to the feast. There is salad and/or soup before the main course. The main course follows after and is perfectly proportioned with complementary dishes. There is an aperitif to cleanse the palate before moving on to dessert. And, there are wines served to compliment each course. By the time dessert is served you have been on a journey. A feast is to be savored, en-joy-ed along with the company and conversation around the table.

I love that God’s word picture of what’s-to-come is a feast. It’s the word picture He gave Abraham when first introducing Himself in Genesis 18. It’s the word picture Jesus gives in Revelation of the relationship He desires with every one. A dinner party. A leisurely meal with good food and good fellowship around the table.

I am struck this morning that Isaiah’s prophetic feast is for all people. So often the image of God we project to the world is that of a miserly monarch condemning the many to save the exclusive few. But Isaiah’s prophetic image is a feast of salvation for all people and all nations. When Jesus picked up and riffed on this word picture in his parable of the wedding feast he speaks of inviting those who you’d least expect to have a seat at the table, the master’s servants grabbing anyone and everyone off the street and ushering them to the table.

This morning I’m thinking about dinner parties, feasts, and a God who desires the communal oneness that is experienced with good food, good wine, and good relationship around a table well prepared.

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Top Five Local Des Moines Restaurants

For Top Five Tuesday, I thought I’d bring a little local interest. Wendy and I love a great meal out, and Des Moines offers a host of unique, local options for dining out.

Here are my current Top Five local Des Moines eateries:

  1. Start the day with breakfast at The Waveland. The world continues to suffer from a lack of great greasy spoon breakfasts, and The Waveland has been doing it right in Des Moines for a long, long time.
  2. Noah’s Ark was the place my parents and grandparents loved to go when I was a kid. Not only does that windowless “supper club” ambiance take me back to great childhood memories, but the Italian cuisine has never ceased to satisfy.
  3. Django has become a favorite for Wendy and me. The bar is top notch and the food offers a great twist on some staple American favorites. Best of all, no corking fee for brining your own bottle of wine to the party!
  4. One of the things I love about Tumea and Sons is the neighborhood feel. First, you have to find it, which says something. Then, when I enter the place, I kinda feel like I’ve just crashed a neighborhood party. You can tell from this list that Wendy and I love Italian food, and this place offers some authentic Italian family cooking straight from Des Moines’ south side.
  5. We just ate at Cafe Di Scala for the first time last week, but it’s quickly made it on my top five list after one visit. One of the things I appreciated, as one who has hearing challenges, was the quiet atmosphere. The food, wine, and service were top notch. It’s certainly the most expensive place in my Top Five, but for a special meal out this is a winner.

After Dinner Blessing

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Deuteronomy 8:10 (NIV)

The harvest here in Iowa is in full swing. Gorgeous, dry fall weather means that the corn and bean fields are full of combines and grain trucks bringing in the land’s bounty. When you live in Iowa, even if you have nothing to do with farming, you feel a keen connection to the land and the seasons of cultivating, planting, growing, and harvesting. It’s part of the fabric of daily life in the heartland.

Wendy and I love our meals with family and friends. We love setting the table, making a good meal, opening the wine, and sharing long hours of laughter and conversation over the food and drink. Especially during the harvest season there is a extra sense of gratitude I feel for God’s provision, the land which produces the abundance we enjoy, and those who labor to produce it.

The verse above is one that I have memorized and, quite regularly, at the end of a good meal it will come to mind as we sit in the contented afterglow of our feast. It is tradition at our table to say a prayer of blessing at the beginning of our meal, but this verse has taught me that it is every bit as appropriate to say a word of thanks and gratitude after “you have eaten and are satisfied.”

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Birthday 2015

The 49th birthday does not call for a particularly memorable experience. It’s a pre-cursor to a “big one” with a zero on the right-hand side. Still, a birthday is not to be wasted, and I had an enjoyable one.

I worked ahead this week so I could take my birthday off. I slept late (for me) and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Wendy. We readied ourselves and headed to Des Moines mid-morning to run some errands necessary for our fiesta birthday party planned for Friday night. I was excited to get a Face Time video call from Maddy Kate who was at Venice Beach in California. Always nice for a land-locked Iowan to catch a live shot of the Pacific on his birthday! 😉

We took my folks out for lunch at the Market Grille for lunch and enjoyed conversation, returning back to their house for even more enjoyable conversation. Adjustments at the Chiropractor followed as well as more errands before meeting Kev & Beck for some birthday cheer at Nick’s. Taylor tried incessantly to get a Face Time connection from Scotland, but we were never able to get through to her 😦

Wendy and I celebrated with our first Iowa Cubs game of the summer. It was a GORGEOUS evening at the ball park. Too bad the home team couldn’t give me a birthday “W.” We actually headed home with things tied after the 12th inning and listened to the I-Cubs drop the game in the 13th on our drive home.

My birthday party came on Friday night. Wendy slaved away all day making Grandma and Grandpa V’s lemon cake and a host of Mexican dishes for our fiesta celebration. We so enjoyed having Kev & Beck, Chad & Shay, and Matthew & Sarah join us for a wonderful evening of food, drink, and wonderful conversation together.

Another year falls into memory, and I look ahead to the final year of my fifth decade on this life journey. Praying that it is filled with life, love, and unforeseen blessings!

Eireflensjes Night

I think most families have some kind of culinary traditions. For my branch of the Vander Well family, the number one foodie tradition is eireflensjes. Once a year or so, as I was growing up, my Grandpa Vander Well would mix up a huge batch of these Dutch treats. Last night at my folks house we upheld the family tradition, and both my taste buds and tummy were extremely happy!

Eireflensjes are basically the Dutch version of a crepe. The batter is made with a mixture of eggs, flour, milk and salt. Pour just enough batter to cover the bottom of a hot, buttered iron skillet and fry on both sides until golden brown. Stacks of of them are placed on the table with bowls of sugar. Sprinkle sugar over the top one, roll with a fork, then eat. Some have substituted the sprinkling of sugar with coating the eireflensje with jams/jellies, syrup, salsa, honey and peanut butter. Most of our family are purists, however, and stick with sugar.

Our family tradition has always held that the men of the family always make them, and everyone eats until the stacks are gone.

Set the Table; Savor the Message

Table set for GuestsAnd he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
Ezekiel 3:1-3 (NIV)

I am not a what you would call a foodie. I have a rather finicky palate. I am actually really proud of our daughters. Despite growing up in a home with a fairly limited menu, I continue to watch them fearlessly trying different things. Perhaps it’s all of their travels at a young age. At Christmas Taylor enjoyed authentic French cuisine. The caviar got a thumbs down, but the escargot got two exclamatory thumbs up in her book. Good for her. As Madison flies the friendly skies to exotic North American locales, I’ve been proud of her for sampling local cuisine that I would pass up on the menu.

Despite the fact that I’m not an adventurous eater, I do know how to really appreciate and savor a good meal. There is a difference between a quick bite and savoring a meal. I eat meals all the time without giving them a second thought. There are other meals, however, which I can recall for you in great detail. The food was savored and slowly digested. The meal made a lasting impact.

I thought about that as I read about God asking Ezekiel to eat the scroll on which God’s Message was written. There are many who do not have a palate for God’s Message. There are others who are willing to sample, but not to consume. Some treat God’s Message the way I treat a taco: hastily consumed, barely tasted, never savored. But when God’s Message is part of a regularly prepared menu that is savored and slowly digested, then you begin to understand the complexities, appreciate the nuances, and it has a meaningful, lasting impact.

Today, I am setting the table of my heart, savoring a wonderful word picture from Ezekiel, and letting it digest slowly.

A Fond Farewell to Summer

It was a gorgeous fall weekend at the lake. We have, for years, started each summer at the lake by spending a weekend there with our friends Kev and Beck. This year, for the first time, we were able to also finish our summer by spending a weekend together. It sure felt like summer. Sunny and temps in the upper 80s made for picture perfect weekend.

It was a quick weekend. We arrived Friday evening and headed down to Captain Ron’s for a late dinner. As with all our weekends with Kev and Beck, the agenda was simple: Good food. Good drink. Good conversation. On Saturday we got out on the boat and headed over to Bulldog’s to pay a visit to our friend Buff, the lake’s best bartender. Saturday night was steaks on the grill followed by a long evening of conversation on the deck.

We got up this morning, spent an hour or so sitting in the sun on the dock and chatting. After lunch we packed up and headed home. After dropping us off back home in Pella, Kev and Beck joined us for a tour of our house that is under construction.

It was a great weekend to both extend and say a fond farewell to summer.

The Sour Feeling in My Gut

source: stickyii via Flickr
source: stickyii via Flickr

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Revelation 10:9-10 (NIV)

As artists, Wendy and I love stories that are honest and well told, even when the honesty includes characters acting and speaking in ways we would find unacceptable for ourselves. Some people are offended when they hear a single profane word uttered in any context, but it typically doesn’t bother us when a truly profane character in a movie swears on the screen. Profane people say a lot of profane things. We usually roll with it without thinking much of it.

Having said this, there have been many times over the years that Wendy and I have felt spiritually soured when watching television, a movie, or when reading a book. For a couple of years we avidly watched a television program that was, and I’m sure still is, brilliantly written and well acted. It was network television, so there wasn’t anything in the weekly program which we found particularly objectionable. However, one night Wendy mentioned to me that she felt a “sourness” in her spirit watching the show. Coincidentally, I had been feeling the same gross feeling over the course of the previous few weeks, but without being sure why, I hadn’t said anything. To this day, I can’t tell you any one thing that was wrong or objectionable about the show, but in our gut we both felt spiritually gross watching it. So, we stopped.

I love the word picture of God asking John to eat the scroll in today’s chapter. The connection between God’s word and food is a recurring theme throughout God’s Message. For example, Jesus said when tempted to satiate his physical hunger that “man was not made for bread alone, but for every word that comes out of God’s mouth.”

A couple of related takeaways this morning:

There is a difference between reading and digesting. It’s one thing to have a small taste of greens, but popping a pea or two is not going to do you much good. You have to consume the green vegetable in larger portions if you want any health benefit. I have found the same to be true with reading God’s Message. For maximum spiritual health benefit, you can’t just have an occasional taste. It should be fully consumed and digested over time.

Transformation doesn’t take place without significant change, and change is often motivated by discomfort. When you get used to eating a healthier, more balanced diet you soon find that unhealthy things have a discomforting affect on your body and its functions. I don’t like the way I feel after eating all of those sweets or fats, and it motivates me to avoid doing it again. Once I changed my spiritual diet to include regular consumption of God’s Message, I found that I started feeling soured towards spiritually unhealthy things. I still can’t tell you what it was about the television program Wendy and I stopped watching, but the sourness in our spirits told us we needed to cut that program out of our entertainment diet. Call it what you want. I just know that when I something is spiritually off, the sour feeling in my soul motivates me to get things back in line.

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The Most Amazing Dinner

Table Set for ValentinesHere I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

A few years ago a friend came over for dinner and made an interesting observation. “You guys are the only people I know who actually use their dining room regularly, even with your kids.” It’s true. Of course, part of that reality is due to the size of our house, which is small and affords little space other than the dining room for a group of people to eat. The point our friend was making, however, was that we attempted to make time and space for real meals around the dining room table. The television is turned off, though dinner music is usually on. It is quite normal for dinner conversations at our house to go on for hours.

As I read through this morning’s chapter, I came upon the verse above, which was one of the first verses I memorized when I was a kid. The voice is that of Jesus, who is dictating the message to the seven churches through John. The door of which he speaks is the door of the heart. When a person spiritually hears Jesus knocking on the door of his or her heart and opens their heart to invite Him in, Jesus enters and indwells that person.

Here’s where the perception goes wrong for so many people. When Jesus enters a persons heart, the result is an amazing spiritual feast complete with the most intense and challenging dinner conversation you’ve ever experienced. There is give and take. Relationship is established. Life flows like wine. You are constantly challenged and forever changed by the experience. And I have also found that communing with Jesus is like the many times that we and our guests have looked at our watches and discovered that it’s well after midnight and we’ve been at the table for hours. Time flies. It has been 33 years since I invited Jesus into my heart and life, and the spiritual feast is just starting to get really intense.

I love great meals with great friends, great food, great wine, and great conversation that goes on for hours. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it is a shadow and a taste of the spiritual meal I have been enjoying with Jesus for over three decades.

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