Taste, See, and Be Thankful

No matter how old we get, no matter how long it takes to travel home, Thanksgiving mornings always start the same way for my family: around the time marching bands take their place for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, one of my brothers stumbles into the kitchen to start making bread. My mom reaches into a cabinet for a trifle bowl and moves to a separate counter; my dad mixes together an assortment of savory recipes.

But if we were to hop on a two hour flight from Texas to Missouri, we’d find Erin Davis in the kitchen as well. She’d be setting the table for her own family’s traditional dishes (like her mom’s Crock-Pot corn or her Aunt Rhonda’s pumpkin pie cake!). The Laitkep and Davis families may not share identical menus, but we do share another kind of tradition:

As the men move into the living room to catch the football game, the women fall into familiar conversations. We bemoan the food we just ate. We vow to diet in earnest in the new year. We joke that we removed the calories from the pumpkin pie. Though we smile and pat each other on the arm, inside no one is laughing. —Fasting & Feasting, p. 105

You may be all too familiar with this Thanksgiving ritual. In your household, holiday dinners tend to come with a side of self-loathing. You may feel as though you’re stuck in the perpetual cycle of “eat, regret, shame, repeat.” The good news is that you don’t have to stay there.

In her latest book, Fasting & Feasting, Erin says that shame doesn’t have to pull up a seat to every table. “We need not chase every meal with a serving of regret,” she writes. Instead, we need to reframe our relationship with food based on the truth of God’s Word. In this interview, Erin shares how to do that—and just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

K: Erin, this week, many of us will swing from one extreme to the other: we’ll dream of the perfect meal and see it as the key to enjoying the holiday. Then we’ll feel disgusted with ourselves after we’ve eaten. Does the Bible give us a better way to approach food?

E: For every area of our lives, God’s Word gives us a more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31). When it comes to food we see two distinct rhythms in God’s Word—fasting and feasting. Fasting is denying ourselves food to dedicate ourselves to prayer in a unique way. We see it all over the Bible: Old Testament and New Testament, corporate and individual, before and after Christ. Feasting is the same way. There are significant feasts in both testaments and we often see God’s people gathering around food and celebrating His goodness. 

These two distinct approaches to food mirror the Christian life. It is a life of self-denial (Luke 9:23), of surrendering our desires to the sovereign plan of God. Fasting is a practical expression of this. Jesus also offers us a life of abundance (John 10:10), and Scripture calls us to express our gratitude for the many gifts God has given us. So, both approaches to food showcase something about our relationship with God. 

Of course we can’t always be fasting or feasting. Most days our food rhythms are much more humdrum, but even then, we can shift our thinking to be more mindful of God as we eat. He created both our need for food and our food. In other words, He gave us the need and He meets the need. That provides a daily opportunity for us to depend on Him and to thank Him. 

K: The closer we get to Thanksgiving Day, the mashed potato cravings increase. Is that wrong? What do cravings communicate? 

E: I hope not! (I don’t eat a single bite of turkey unless it is combined with the perfect amount of buttery mashed potatoes). 

I love Psalm 34:8 ESV which says, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” The psalmist could have appealed to any of our other senses: “Look and see” . . . “listen and see” . . . but he chose taste. 

Did you know that there are over seven thousand varieties of apples?! Think about that for just a moment. God could have made just one type of food or even just one type of apple! But He has given us eggs and milk, blueberries and raspberries, wheat and oats, bananas and butternut squash. Why so much variety? One, because God loves to create, and two, because He loves us and gives us abundant gifts. If He has blessed you through your mom’s mashed potatoes or your grandma’s pies through the years, thank Him! 

Of course there is another side to cravings. Second Peter 2:19 warns that you are a slave to whatever controls you. So we don’t want our lives to be steered by our cravings. Part of living out our faith is learning to walk by the Spirit instead of our flesh (Gal. 5:16–18), but I don’t think that means we have to skip the mashed potatoes. Receive them as a gift from a God who loves you.

K: Thanksgiving can bring out all kinds of food-related anxieties: worry about eating too many calories, worry about failing as a hostess, worry about not having time to work out over the holidays. How do we fight these worries? 

E: The same way we fight all other kinds of worries. 

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)

Did you catch the antidote to anxiety in this passage? Prayers of thanksgiving. It is so helpful to remember that this holiday isn’t really about the food. It’s about celebrating all that God has already given you and all that He has promised to give you. At our house, we spend the entire month preparing by adding notes to our gratitude tree. The kids and I take a moment each day to write down what we can thank God for. Our Thanksgiving guests do the same thing when they arrive. There are other ways to do this: 

  • Write in a gratitude journal.
  • Intentionally incorporate thanksgiving into your prayer life in November (and beyond!).
  • Study passages on gratitude all month long.

However you do it, find ways to keep the main thing the main thing. When we do that, our anxieties fade away and the food becomes the gravy on top. 

K: We talk a lot about family traditions during this time of year. What is the legacy of food you want to pass down to your boys? 

E: We say the same simple prayer every night before dinner at the Davis house: 

God is great. 
God is good. 
Let us thank Him for our food. 
And our family. 

That pretty much sums it up for me. I want them to know that every bite of food they will ever eat was given to them by a great God who loves them very much. As an outflow of that, I want them to live grateful lives. (And I wouldn’t mind if they also think their mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole world.)

K: It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. What is your prayer as you head into this week? 

E: I am wonder-struck every year that only a God as good as ours would take a holiday dedicated to giving Him thanks and turn it into a time of such beautiful abundance for us. All I have to bring in return is a grateful heart, but I hope my praise smells as good to Him as my mom’s homemade rolls smell to me (Ex. 29:18). So I join with the Psalmist in praying:

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the LORD;
the humble will hear and be glad.
Proclaim the LORD’s greatness with me;
let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:1–3)

Erin’s new book, Fasting & Feasting, is on sale now at ReviveOurHearts.com as a part of our Celebrate the Season sale! Shop for meaningful gifts for everyone on your list, now through December 12. 

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Mexican food, and Scripture. Katie's blog A … read more …

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