I’m a creature of habit. I like to tell people it’s my children who spiral if their nighttime routines get out of whack, but really, it’s me. I’m the one who comes a bit unglued without a rinse, lather, repeat structured order.
A recent evening culminated with a triumphant scene of my spouse and me basking in the silence of sleeping kiddos. This is the cherry on the sundae.
Finally, I can catch my breath and perform the monotonous. Scraping off uneaten noodles into the proper receptacle. Stacking dinosaur-covered onesies in Tower of Pisa fashion. And tuning out by tuning in to podcasts.
My playlist isn’t what you might expect. No Crackers and Grape Juice or Home Brewed Christianity podcasts for me. Been there and done that. I’ve drunk enough from those split chalices.
Theology and church-related shows are fine and dandy, but for the last 10 years, I’ve had one foot under a steeple and the other in higher education. This double whammy has left me dry and salty like Lot’s wife.
You can only talk shop so much, and I scratch that itch enough during the week. My library consists of shows stacked with eldritch horror stories and food-related content. I’ve chased chilly tales for as long as I can remember, but food? Where do I begin?
Food connects me with others. The shows I listen to cover topics ranging from different foodways involving people and regions, preparations, applications and intersectionalities – all coming together to make a one-stop hot pot of alluring accounts.
Listening to Proof, Gravy or The Sporkful podcasts, I can’t help but chase a recurring thought. This is what I wish practical theology was: relevant and helpful. Truth be told, I’ve gotten more excited about executing a perfect buttery and fluffy omelet than I have discussing patristics.
I see food representing the most intimate details of a person in the most tangible ways. What covers our plates showcases a level of vulnerability, often accompanied by a strong opinion about what and how a dish is made.
How do I know this? Just ask 10 people if macaroni and cheese is a main course or side dish, and watch the sparks fly (the correct answer for those keeping score at home is, it’s a vegetable, at least on the menus in my South).
Serve a dish without respecting the food or those seated beside you? You’ll likely wind up somewhere between a misunderstanding and an all-out unpardonable affront.
This brings me to David Chang. But first, a disclaimer. I like Chang. I’ve followed his rise in the culinary scene. I’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed his appearance on series like Mind of a Chef and Ugly Delicious.
I’ve read his books and tried a few of his recipes. I ordered his products and devoured them. I appreciate what he’s brought to the food/hospitality industry over the last 20 years.
His restaurants, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ko and Siam are all culinary expressions of his prominent presence, and he’s got the Michelin stars to back it up.
Chang is paving a new way with a voice still championing an old-school pay-your-dues mentality. He honors and reveres the chefs who came before him, making him an enigma who is actively leaving behind an industry that has shaped and given him meaning.
People, even those outside the James Beard Foundation, give him their attention. If this is your first time hearing Chang’s name or his backstory, know this: his voice wields power and influence.
Earlier this month, Chang shared his thoughts on Costco’s rotisserie chicken. He’s not a fan. Chang claims their birds are not properly seasoned and are pumped full of nitrates, making them inedible.
As you might imagine, he received pushback. Many defended the fowl as tasty, but most took Chang to task for looking down on a modern blue plate special. Their collective voices sarcastically egged on Chang while pointing out the value of a $4.99 yardbird that could be stretched into multiple meals.
As I followed this story, my mind grabbed two certainties. First, people have strong feelings about what they choose to eat. Don’t shame them for it. Second, folks don’t care to hear your views from up on your high horse. Don’t judge them.
Famous celebrity chefs aren’t the only ones who slip and forget these Solomon-worthy words of wisdom. Lots of people do, especially those hunkering down in pious pews.
As a pastor, I find myself walking beside those still trying to shed the skin of the snakes they met in churches.
Christians are some of the best heavy hitters at dishing out the one-two punch of shaming and judging. Shaming individuals for not conforming, requiring them to leave their thoughts and questions at the door. Or judging them as inferior by morality and understanding.
I do not know what is worse: looking down your nose at someone because you don’t believe their baptism stuck or informing them with smugness of how a Christmas tree doesn’t come down until January 5.
Gag me with a loaded Costco cheap chicken spoon.
And if you do, my hand to God, I won’t think more or less of you for it.
Senior pastor of Second Baptist Church, Suffield, Connecticut. Cox received his theological education from Campbell University and Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is an ordained minister affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at McAfee School of Theology. Besides reading, baking and amateur gardening, most of his time is spent with his spouse, Lauren, and their two daughters. Opinions and reflections are his own.