Jim Caldwell

JBU's English Department Literary Magazine

Food Is a Tool

By Dr. Jim Caldwell, Department of Construction Management

Patricia Adams - Suckers

by Patricia Adams


          It was a cool, shady spot under the 36 inch oak tree.  The four foot hog wire fence and T-posts made the play pen area secure for one very inquisitive eighteen month old boy.  You could see the delight on his face when we looked down from the roof we were framing.  Then with a piercing blow these words jumped from the cheap FM radio next to the shed: "disturbing case of parents subjecting their children to conditions not fit for animals" warned the Christian talk radio host.  Hmm, I wonder if the neighbors are watching?  The solution was easy: move our son to a spot near the lumber pile and line up Cheerios two inches apart along the sixteen foot long board.  By the time he got to the end, we had several rafters installed.  I am sure that the yellow pine fibers on those round morsels provided great nutrients for Ben's diet.

         Those cheerios were an important tool for building our house, just as essential as the Dewalt nail gun.   The Oxford English Dictionary defines a tool as: a thing (concrete or abstract) with which some operation is performed; a means of effecting something; an instrument; a weapon of war.  Most of my trips to Lowes are initiated by the need to purchase consumables - lumber, hardware, light bulbs, or landscape mulch.  But rarely one of those excursions will go by without a detour through the tool department.  The thought of doing a task faster and more accurately is irresistible.  Food is not only the tool of distraction for an eighteen month old boy, but is the ultimate implement, utensil, and tool for the twenty-first century.

         Christian Talk Radio not only warned us about kids restrained in dog pens, but also promoted the latest methods for disciplining our kids.  How-to books told us to make our kids clean their plates before they could leave the table.  Leaving food on your plate is wasteful, it dishonors the cook, and people in Africa need it.  Besides, my mom made me eat grandma's split pea soup, coagulated and cold, after staring at it for three hours without once leaving my chair.   Many years later I topped that when dealing with my own kids.  Our son, testing the "clean-plate" rule, decided to conduct research on what corn flakes would look like after being saturated in milk for 24 hours.  It worked - food as the tool of discipline has helped create four adults in this world that clean their plate after each meal.  They also hate corn flakes.

         Who would argue that the most common tool of romance is food?  You face your date across the restaurant table adorned with linens and nice china.  Think of the irony: the enzymes in the saliva are breaking down the solid food with each cycle of the jaw, sending it down your throat so that the acid in the stomach can digest the nutrients into a caustic mush.  Your mind, however, is in full gear making up important facts to display your intelligence and conjuring up other sweet nothings to woo your date.

         That restaurant you go to for dating wouldn't even exist without the human body needing food.  Neither would kitchens, dishwasher manufactures, or Kaiser knife infomercials.  No great loss if that market collapsed, but is the food industry purely about making money?  What about the needy, hungry people in our communities?  A cardboard box full of food is a great tool to open the door of a stranger's house.  Try that with a gospel tract and a grin.  And then there is the dark side of food - using it as a tool of warfare and manipulation.  The regime of North Korea starving its own people to maintain power screams of the depravity of the human race.

         Finally, we live in a world obsessed with being connected.  To get the latest news from our neighbors, we don't schedule a tele-conference; we fire up the grill in the back yard and eat.  We use the tool of church potlucks to unite with our fellow parishioners.  Picture 92 year old Anna with her hearing aid squealing sitting next to little Michael Capehart who just cleaned out the desert table before anyone else had gotten even one piece.   When we want to complain about the pastor's latest sermon, we meet at a restaurant to stew over at least a cup of coffee if not a full meal.  The breaking of bread at the communion table reminds us of our fellowship with the Savior and our unity with each other.  What a great tool to proclaim our hope in Him until he returns!  So the next time you are at IGA loading up the shopping cart, spend less time looking at the health stats on the label.  Ponder how you can use all those tools.

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