Monday, June 22, 2020

Costa Rica and The PB&J

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like food.  I like trying new recipes.  I like eating where locals eat.  I like to make food that makes people happy.

I also like the bond that sharing food creates.  I often find myself asking my husband, "Do you remember that __ we ate in __?"  Fill in the blank: pretzel/Texas, corndog/Arizona, hotdog/Kansas City.

Six years of Spanish classes were not wasted:
I ordered this pupusa entirely in Spanish
on our layover in El Salvador.

I like what I learn about culture through food.  In Boston, I ate at the restaurant that created Boston Cream Pie.  In Colorado, we tried rocky mountain oysters.  On the way to Costa Rica, our flight had a very brief stop in El Salvador.  Between the two terminals I saw a pupuseria and couldn't let the opportunity pass me by to have an authentic pupusa. In Costa Rica, we discovered that coffee is sold with sugar already added and they have a very unique method for making drip coffee. Viva el cafecito!

One Costa Rica food memory that is universally groaned at is our daily sack lunch: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a packaged snack.  The first day we discovered that there is an art to making a PB&J.  There is a certain peanut butter to jelly ratio that should be observed, and, of course, there are flavors of jelly that some prefer over others. By day two we realized that we would be eating this same meal every day and food swapping began - my sandwich for yours, this cookie for that one.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the food and for the people who prepared it.  I don't want to imagine making several hundred PB&J sandwiches everyday.  That was their contribution to our mission work. I hate to admit that it was on day two or three that all excitement for our lunches had passed.  Team members were foregoing parts of their lunches, and some chose not to eat lunch entirely.  A pile of leftover food began to accumulate at our work site.

The next day when we returned to our work site, I was surprised to see all of our food was gone.  We soon discovered that Pastor Sergio, the pastor of the church we were volunteering at, had taken all of the food we deemed inedible and distributed it to his community.  I was simultaneously rejoicing that he put our leftovers to good use and mourning that we were so full while others were hungry. It's hard to think about a neighborhood that would appreciate food we reject.  It's hard to think about rejecting food others are so appreciative of.

I can't deny the intrinsic value of food.  Everyone should have the right to eat, but this is not always the case.  Both political and personal decisions create food scarcity.  Jesus so highly valued food that it is one of the six criteria by which God separates the "sheep and goats."  That is, He will distinguish those who belong to him from those who don't by the way we respond to these six areas: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, helping the sick, and visiting prisoners (Matthew 25:31-46).

If my faith were to be judged solely in these six areas... Lord, help me; I have failed miserably.

I'm sad to not be in Costa Rica right now.  However, if I am honest with myself, I recognize that there is no shortage of work I can do in my own community. I probably won't take a PB&J to my neighbor, but I can look for other ways to feed, slake, invite, clothe, help, and visit those in need.

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