The phrase “you are what you eat” has been used in one form or another since the early 1800’s. One of the first known instances was by French lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. It was not for his politics that he has a place in history; it was for his writings on food. In fact, he is considered one of the two father’s (grand-pere’s?) of the “gastronomic essay,” otherwise known as food writing.
Brillat-Savarin said, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are,” though of course he said it in French, probably while wearing a beret and chain smoking.
Such is his stature in the world of French cuisine that he has a cheese named after him.
I ask: where, other than France, can it be considered one of the highest honors of society to have a cheese named for you? After all, the only thing Napoleon has named for him is a complex.
Not to be outdone by Les Francais, around 1863 German philosopher Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach quipped “man is what he eats.” Then, in the 1930s, American Victor Lindlahr stated “you are what you eat;” the phrase immediately caught on in the U.S. and brought Lindlahr nationwide fame and fortune.
Like any modern American, he wrote a book about the experience entitled: You Are What You Eat: How one phrase took me from tuna fish to caviar.
Well, not really.
While he didn’t write a book about receiving nationwide fame and fortune, he did write a book on health called You Are What You Eat which eventually sold over half a million copies.
None of this crossed my mind at lunch Sunday, however. What was on my mind was how much I enjoy eating spicy foods. My family and I were eating with friends at a local “Mexican” restaurant after church; in fact, on many Sundays you can find us eating at a Mexican restaurant in either Rolesville or Wake Forest.
It occurs to me that if the three gentlemen mentioned above are correct, then I am a mix of Mexican, Peruvian, Cuban and many other Central and South American cultures whose cuisine I so enjoy.
Is this right? Does my love for spicy Latino foods reveal the genuine me?
Rather than being defined by what I put in my body, the Bible says I am defined by what is already there. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (NASB). In the gospels, Jesus said “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matt. 15:18).
What the Bible teaches is that no matter who we are or where we’re from, we are all alike. We are not defined by our cultures, our food or our backgrounds; these factors neither elevate nor denigrate our position before a holy God.
Rather, what every person from every culture has in common is the fact that: a. we are born, and b. we are born separated from our Creator. We are “defiled” from birth on the inside and no amount of healthy eating can make us better. This defilement is called sin and is something we all share.
This is why Jesus came- not to change our diets but to cleanse our hearts. He doesn’t offer us healthy eating or lifestyle habits; he offers salvation as a free gift to whoever acknowledges their need.
All we have to do is confess our sins and ask for forgiveness in Jesus’ name. No one else can save us.
The eternal result is that we will no longer have to go to Hell’s Kitchen; instead, we will go to Heaven’s feast (Rev. 19:9).
I don’t know what will be served there, but I know it will be incredible! I do believe that foods from all cultures will be represented because people from all cultures will be there.
Until then, though, you will likely find me after church dipping my nachos in the hot sauce you have to ask for and getting entirely too full on burritos, fajitas and chile rellenos.
If you see me with my family, come over and introduce yourself.