Poetry & Words

On Soviet Food and Spiritual Food

I’m currently reading a memoir of Soviet times, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias in Moscow. While I enjoy cooking, I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Why did God design food to be so crucial?

On Soviet Food and Spiritual Food

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I’m currently reading Anya von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias of the author’s Moscow childhood. While I enjoy cooking — and obviously, books about cooking — I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Certainly as a parent, preparing, serving, and cleaning up food is a nonnegotiable part of my daily routine. As I go about these chores, I often question why God designed food to be so crucial.

Why does the human body required food, simply to continue to exist? (Or, as I texted my friend the other day, “Why do these people I live with seem to want to eat three times a day?”)

My questioning doesn’t end there.

Why, in heaven, when all things are made new, does feasting still continue to play a central role?

Again and again throughout Scripture, we see food:

The fruit in the garden.

The lentil porridge.

The burnt offerings.

Loaves and fishes.

The last supper.

Perhaps eating, then, is an ever-present reminder of our daily dependence on God.

Take, and eat.

In Exodus chapter sixteen, the Israelites of old had to trust him anew each morning. Manna squirreled away under the corners of the tent or in a basket very openly revealed a lack of trust by dissolving into stinking, swarming mess of worms.

Manna, like mercy, is new every morning. Our own striving cannot sustain us overnight; only He can.

When Jesus teaches us how to pray, He does not tell us His power is vast enough to sustain us for all time — even though it is. No, he tells us we must ask Him for bread, every day. There’s a transcendental significance to the focus on daily bread. (Couldn’t he have just as easily taught us to pray, “Give us this month our monthly bread, so we need not stress about this again until the calendar page turns”? I would have preferred that.)

He didn’t, of course. There are no prayers for weekly or yearly allotments; but many promises for bread and mercy daily.

We are to turn our eyes upon him constantly, over and over and over again.

The hymn-writer Robert Lowry understood this when he wrote,

“I need thee every hour…
I need thee, oh, I need thee;
Ev’ry hour I need thee!”

Every hour. (If you have infants — or teenage boys — this is a very literal reality.)

Eating, I think, reminds of us our constant state of reliance on God. We rely on him for everything — the onrush of air into our lungs, the pulse of our beating hearts, and life itself. Simply to be alive is a gift. And when we set down yet another tired lunch on the table on yet another weekday noon, this ordinary act can be a worshipful acknowledgement of our utter dependence on God.

Work, as worship.

Food, as a worship.

Inhaling the aroma, tasting the spices on our tongue, feeling satiated, feeling hungry — these are all tangible ways to taste and see that the Lord is good. Yes, even if the meal is one you’ve had hundreds of times.

Even if you’re weary of meal prep.

Even then.

And our need for physical nourishment also echoes our need, too, for supernatural food. In the wilderness, David waxed desperately poetic in his sixty-third Psalm:

“You are my God;
I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You,
my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land
where there is no water.” 

Our souls are designed to crave Him as deeply as our stomach rumbles for food after a long day of slim pickings. God didn’t want us to miss this. He didn’t hide the symbolism in parable: he spelled it out for us when he said “I am the bread of life.”

We are supposed to feel as desperately starved for God when our spirits are hungry, just as we do for a food when our bodies are physically famished. Our bodies aren’t designed to last for long periods without eating; so too, our souls aren’t designed for only periodic spiritual dining, taken at infrequent intervals.

Later in the same Psalm where David first declares his wilderness thirst for God, he exclaims what it’s like to finally dive to God after his soul had been starved: “I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy; I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!” (The Message translation)

In the Soviet memoir I’m reading, the author describes mealtime in Lenin’s Russia as “soup with rotten sauerkraut, unidentifiable meat (horse?), gluey millet, and endless vobla, the petrified fried Caspian roach fish.”

Is this what your soul has been surviving on?

Come!

You don’t need to live like this anymore. There is living water. There is life-giving bread.

The shackles are off; the walls have crumbled.

Read! Partake! Drink it in!

The time for feasting has arrived.

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Poetry & Words

When I was a little girl, I didn’t live on the prairie

when-i-was-little-didn't-live-in-america

When I was a little girl, I didn’t live on the prairie or in the suburbs or in wide-eyed city lit by neon signs. I didn’t know apple pie was supposed to be American. I never saw a baseball game. I didn’t have a picket fence, or a dog, or any of those things that are you supposed to make you American. But I didn’t live in America, either.

When I was a little girl, I lived in the middle of a brown and white house right smack on the edge of a street called Taborska right smack on the edge of a city called Ljubljana. Our front door didn’t have a doorknob. It had a door handle instead, which was long and narrow. It kind of looked like someone had taken a capital L, turned it sideways, and jammed the short side into the door. Our landlady lived downstairs, so we called her Grandma Downstairs. Petra and Alenka, her two granddaughters, lived up the stairs. We called them Petra and Alenka. Much later when I grew up into a lady and lived maybe a million or seven miles from there, I had a daughter too and I named her A. Alenka. It sounds like music. But that didn’t happen yet, because I was still a little girl.

I had one brown-haired mustached dad and one strawberry blonde mom, and a brother who got himself locked in the spare room once. The L-shaped door handles were very good at getting locked and very bad at opening up again, so while I cooked horseradish and dandelion soup in my cardboard kitchen, I prayed for a replacement brother. The original brother was unlocked before I’d finished praying, but God sent me a second brother a few years later anyway.

I didn’t have a dog. Once I had some tadpoles, which sounds nice, but really they looked more like their other name, pollywogs. Sometimes we had a goldfish. He was a very possibly magic goldfish. Sometimes he swam right out of the bowl and was missing for a long time before he popped back into the bowl. My dad was not a goldfish but he had blue eyes on the front of his head and an extra pair of eyes on the back of his head. The extra eyes were just as good at seeing as the forward-facing ones. He had a stack of heavy books next to his bed. Since it was dark when he woke up, I’m not sure which eyes he used to read.

I don’t think my mom and dad could see very far from the middle part of the house where we lived, but as I was still a child and hadn’t yet grown eyes in the back of my head, so I could see for miles. The red clay rooftops sparkled like tiny crests, like little ocean waves in a red sea. Of course, the Red Sea isn’t actually red. I know this because I am very nearly six years old, and I know almost everything there is to know, particularly important truths such as how one person cannot see one’s own face, no matter how tangled up one gets trying to turn one’s eyeballs toward it.  I tasted the sea in Greece once, although I probably shouldn’t have because there was quite a lot of rubbish floating in it. It was a rather green sea. All the books I’d ever read said seawater was supposed to be blue, but I guess they hadn’t been to Greece.

Things don’t always end up the color they set out to be, anyway. There’s a man who sometimes who comes to visit the cats and chickens and sour cherry trees downstairs, and I think his hair started out brown but it’s beginning to have grey bits around the edges. I think to myself that it’s the same kind of grey as the sardines heaped up on the tables near the bridge in the city. The sardines started out with a silvery flash of green, I think, but mostly they end up grey, too. There are big cement columns stuck into the ground at each end of the bridge down by the sardine tables. They are grey, too, like most of the things in our city, but the dragons on the top are a kind of sad, flaky green that looks like it used to be happy. Mom says the dragons are made of copper but I don’t thinks she’s right about that.  I saw a picture of a copper penny once, in an American book, but it wasn’t green at all. Our friend tried to each me about pennies. I didn’t listen. I just looked at her when she talked, and watched my head head bob up in down in the reflection of glasses she wore to cover up her glass eye.

I didn’t need to know about American pennies, anyway. I didn’t live in America. Maybe someday I would, and there would be plenty of time to learn about pennies then.

Poetry & Words, Travel/Moving

POETRY & WORDS :: When Home Can’t Be Pinned Down

When Home Can't Be Pinned Down - Gina Munsey on OaxacabornWhen I was little, I knew my grandparents through letters and home-recorded cassette tapes. I used to dream of hugging them, of spending long days beside them, of just looking at them and listening to the sound of their voice.

And one day, a long time ago, we showed up from another continent, from across the ocean, and “by the time we were at the bottom of the hill and had parked beside the house, my grandmother, my grandfather, and Aunt Margaret were all outside, looking exactly the way they had in the calendar picture. I ran right into my grandmother’s arms as if I’d been doing this every day.

‘Welcome home! Oh, welcome home!’ my grandmother cried.

I hadn’t known it, but this was exactly what I’d wanted her to say. I needed to hear it said out loud. I was home.” -Jean Fritz, Homesick pg. 138

All those memories came flooding back to me, this month, when I set Aveline down on the airport floor and watched her run at top speed into my dad’s arms. She latched onto him, she threw her arms around his neck, she pressed her cheek to his shoulder, and I felt it again. I felt I was a girl with one foot here, one foot there. A girl to whom home was a many-splendored thing, altogether here and there.

And in between the here-ness and there-ness is a place that can’t be pinned, a place that can’t be caught or ordered around, a place that can’t be pushed into a map’s tight little squiggly lines. It’s a place I can’t visit whenever I want to, but only when the road we’re on lets us go there, and maybe that’s the beauty of it.

Grandma never stopped smiling and Grandpa buckled her into her very own seat in his truck, and we all piled in. Looking at this scene, I didn’t know if it was 1991 or 2013. I didn’t know if she was being buckled into the seat or if it was me. Here and there passed each other so closely they became one, the one thing that can’t be held down.

Home.

“I paid no attention to the road. I just kept looking out the window until all at once there on my right was a white picket fence and a meadow, fresh and green as if it had just this minute been created…the whole scene. The perfect greenness. The washed-clean look. The peacefulness. Oh, now! I thought. Now I was in America. Every last inch of me.” -Jean Fritz, Homesick pg. 133

Every last inch.

Thoughts on Grandparents, or, When Home Can't Be Pinned Down - Gina Munsey on Oaxacaborn

Babiekins Magazine, Conversations with Designers

CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT :: Gigi Rose Gray, the Artist Behind the Illustrations

This past year, I’ve experienced the incredible thrill of having my work illustrated. Since the illustrations are arranged by the publisher, I don’t see the art until long after it is completed — and I often don’t know anything about the artist who transforms my words into images. So I was especially delighted to see this interview with Gigi Rose Gray, whose tremendous illustrations appear alongside my childhood tale “The Egg Man” in the current print issue of Babiekins.

When I first saw the two pieces she drew for my story, I was in awe of how someone else could capture the essence of my childhood so well. How could she know what a little girl would see in another country? How could she know what it looked like through my young eyes?

The Egg Man in Babiekins Magazine - by Gina Munsey and illustrated by Gigi Rose Gray

It all made sense when I read what she said about her own childhood: “In Brittany I have memories of a towering armoire teeming with jars of homemade jams, walking along the ramparts of the medieval city. In Normandy I remember the ‘moules frites’ and fisherman hauling in their catch, witnessing a thief make his escape in Barcelona and galloping on horseback through the wild fields of Provence. My work has been strongly influenced by my childhood, as I remember it to be a time of wonderment and exploration which was no doubt largely thanks to my travels.”

How neat is that? This story was illustrated by someone who really gets it. That’s so awesome.

You can see more of her art on sale for a limited time here — and don’t miss the fantastic illustrations she did for another one of my stories here, here and here

Summer Vacation Tour

TRAVEL :: Heidelberg, Germany with Amanda: A Stop on the Summer Vacation Tour

So far on this virtual travel series, we’ve explored two cities in Germany — Frankfurt and Hamburg, thanks to Sylvia (Artsy Ants) and Alyx (Every Day is a New Adventure). Today, we add a third to the list, as Amanda tells us all about living in Heidelberg!

AMANDA IN HEIDELBERG, GERMANY

A bit more about Amanda
I grew up in Ohio and moved to Florida a couple months after I turned 23. I lived there for three years and didn’t really plan on leaving. Then I met my husband, a medic in the Army, who was stationed in Georgia. I moved there the month after we got married. To our surprise, a month later, we found out we had orders to Heidelberg, Germany. Three months later, we were living here. So far, we have explored Heidelberg and several cities in Germany, and we plan to visit several more. We also plan to visit other countries, although we haven’t gotten to do so yet. I blog about our life and travels abroad at Overseas Adventures. Today, I’ll tell you a few of my favorite things about living here.
Continue reading “TRAVEL :: Heidelberg, Germany with Amanda: A Stop on the Summer Vacation Tour”