A couple of weeks ago, I finished leading a Bible study and made a trip to one of my favorite local eateries in South Georgia. The restaurant, Ranchero’s, is locally owned and cooks using local products. If you were to walk in, you’d find yourself in a place similar to any taco bar chain like Moe’s, Chipotle, or Barberito’s. Except, none of those chains could ever rise to the level of the stratosphere as does Ranchero’s.
This particular night, I ordered a quesadilla since it was the evening’s special. I asked for all of my favorite ingredients: chicken, cheese, jalapeños, onions, peppers, cilantro, pico de gallo, corn, and their signature chipotle ranch dressing. They folded up that masterpiece and threw it on the grill until the tortilla was browned to perfection. Then, served with chips and sweet tea, I proceeded to select my dipping salsa and dig in.
As soon as I took that first bite, I about let out a cheer because of how exquisite that quesadilla tasted. Flavors exploded and poured over my tastebuds, every single ingredient striking finely tuned notes in perfect harmony.
Have you ever encountered such an experience during an excellent meal?
Jokingly, I thought to myself, “This quesadilla is proof that there is a God!” At first I laughed to and even chided myself for being so childish in letting that thought cross my mind. Then, I meditated on the thought a little more, and something struck me–a thought I’d heard or thought before except then, in the rapture of that moment of eating an extremely good quesadilla, it hit me in a different way.
There’s no reason that eating food needs to be so immensely pleasurable. Indeed, the vast majority of our experiences rarely attain to the level of euphoria, but I imagine that most people have that one meal or that one restaurant that excites their taste buds like no other can.
Eating could hardly be a more mundane task in our daily existence in the sense that, to quote the movie Thor, our “mortal forms require sustenance” in order to survive. The process could be no different than pouring gasoline into a vehicle or feeding electricity into a television set. Yet, even some of our more mediocre meals have the tendency to satisfy more than our physical hunger.
Indeed, human beings have taken the simple task of eating and transformed it into a literal art form. We have taken the mundane act of eating food with other people and filled it with meaning. Sharing a meal with someone contains much value (at least it did before cell phones damaged the ritual). Families rally around and connect over food. Lover and beloved get to know one another at dinnertime.
Of course, scientists can study the brain and discover that certain pleasure centers of the brain light up. Evolutionary biologists can argue that we experience something akin to joy while eating because it is rooted in a Darwinistic, survival instinct that drives us to find food so that we don’t die of starvation or malnutrition.
While this may seem an apt mechanical/naturalistic explanation, we don’t readily observe other animals experiencing such pleasure upon biting into fruit, grass, or prey. We don’t readily see rituals wherein cheetahs or cows or primates invest the monotonous practice of ingesting sustenance with extraordinary meaning. Even if we did (for I can envision a scenario where some biologist has observed some incipient stage of such behavior in apes), this does not necessarily undercut the main point. After all, neither human beings nor any other animal requires an extraordinary sense of pleasure while eating in order to survive. The “what” of the mechanism does not necessarily equal the “why” of the event.
Such a happy feature in our existence is either a happy accident of material causation or else it points to something outside the physical universe, namely a benevolent Creator who desired to fill even the simplest, routine aspect of human existence with joy, pleasure, and meaning. Perhaps there’s a third option that splits the horns of this little dilemma, but I’ve yet to think of one.
In the meantime, I’ll just continue to thank God that He’s not only provided food but that He’s also seen to it that food can be exceptionally delightful. It’s interesting to think that a quesadilla could become an unlikely witness to the glory of God.
The thought also shines a new light on, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).