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Thoughts on religion, politics, life and death. And other banned topics.
The New York Times had an article today about fears today’s children have about eating ‘bad’ food. It seems that parents’ concerns about eating healthy are making their children food-obsessed and fearful. Kids are worrying about eating too much sodium and refined sugar, too many trans fats and carbohydrates. Nutritionists tell us that what kids (and most of the rest of us) need is variety and balance. Rather than avoiding particular nutrients—and let’s face it, sodium, sugar, fat, and carbs are all essential nutrients—we just need to eat a good, balanced variety. Our kids are learning that some foods are ‘good’ and some ‘bad,’ but the truth is that all food is good in appropriate amounts. The health risks from not eating or from eating obsessively are much greater than from just eating what you like.
Jesus declared all foods clean. So when it comes to the pleasures of eating, we have complete freedom. No one has to stick to a diet of carrots and fish sticks or liver and broccoli. Christians can eat pork, calamari, mushrooms, and McDonald’s cheeseburgers without fear of displeasing God—as long as they give him thanks. It seems odd that an area so full of freedom biblically should be so full of strictures and rules culturally.
It’s equally odd that in another area biblically restricted, there is so much cultural freedom. Of course, I mean sex. We worry endlessly about the health effects of what we eat but pretend that the health risks of sexual adventuring are worth taking. If everyone suddenly began to live with the kind of sexual purity recommended in the New Testament, sexually transmitted disease would disappear in two generations. The benefits of sexual purity are obvious and would be immediate. Yet hardly anyone touts them or tries to make a public health case for encouraging sexual purity. Instead, we focus on passing laws to ban trans fats in restaurants. Our efforts to protect against the well-known risks of sexual adventuring are relatively feeble. We encourage condom use and advise people to get regular check-ups. We spend millions to find cures for diseases whose root cause is well-known and preventable. All it takes is a little change in behavior. Yet for some reason it is easier to become a vegetarian than a celibate, and though we treat vegans with bewildered awe, we think there must be something wrong with someone who is voluntarily celibate.
I’ve liked oatmeal since I can remember, always hot with a generous pat of butter and a heaping spoonful of brown sugar. I sometimes have it with a little cream as well, which no doubt undoes all the touted heart-healthy benefits. I’ve had it with cinnamon and sugar, and I’ve had the instant oatmeal with maple-flavored sugar. But what I like best is old-fashioned oatmeal with butter and brown sugar. I prefer old-fashioned to quick oats because I like the chewier texture. My wife, however, prefers quick oats and likes to put them in cold water and bring it to a boil to make them even softer. To me, that’s like preferring the overcooked pasta you get in Chef Boyardee.
I also like oatmeal cookies, especially with raisins. My kids can’t stand raisins. I don’t try to persuade them; I just make oatmeal cookies with raisins and have them all to myself. Okay, I don’t do it very often, but it seems like a good idea when I do.
I’ve often wondered whether oatmeal is anything like the porridge I came across in fairy tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Dictionary.com defines porridge as “a food made of oatmeal, or some other meal or cereal, boiled to a thick consistency in water or milk.” Somehow, I always associated porridge with Cream of Wheat rather than oatmeal. Perhaps it is because my mom would take our left over Cream of Wheat and fry it in shortening the next morning and serve it with syrup the next morning. The porridge that was too cold always made me think of that: slabs of cold Cream of Wheat, refrigerated and kept for frying the next day. There never seemed to be left-over oatmeal, which I think tells you all you need to know about the relative merits of oatmeal and Cream of Wheat.