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Porcine Stories, Part I

My earliest memories are of the northern Appalachian mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, at my Pappy’s humble farm in a small community called “Bath.” To the west of his home are the peaceful Appalachian mountains adorned with ancient oaks, maples, and birch. To the East, his two-hundred-year-old, five-story barn, held together by joinery and wooden pins around a central 30” by 30” hand-hewn beam. Nearly every summer of my youth, one would find me there, gliding my bare feet through the grass to knock the morning dew off the blades, climbing the apple tree that my grandfather shaped and trained for that purpose, or on special occasions, in the cobble-stone floored summer kitchen, helping to stir a pot of scrapple.


Scrapple


Scrapple, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is everything the name infers. Scrapple is made of scraps–specifically of the porcine variety. It’s a laborious process of turning little pork meat, broth, skins, organ meats like tongue, heart, and sweetbreads, rendered collagen, salt, pepper, cornmeal, and buckwheat flour into a homogenous, gelatinous pâté chilled into bricks, sliced, pan-fried, and eaten for breakfast.


You’re likely wincing at this point—and I understand. I know there are things that I enjoy because I was raised on them, or they carry sentimental value. Certainly, scrapple is both, and it is categorically good. However, it’s more than just “good.” It became a mainstay in our family over the years as something that brought us together. It was a tradition. It was, for many English families living amid the Amish, a necessity. Pappy was a butcher and, thus, not a wealthy man. However, while being a butcher or a slaughterman, he could bring home bits and pieces discarded by an under-experienced customer that you can turn into something good, something healthy, something filling–food that really stuck to your ribs. 


He would never admit to this, but what he was doing was profound. Whether making scrapple, grinding sausage, smoking hams and bellies, it was truly profound. He passed these lessons in domestic frugality down to his three daughters and their children. It was likely given to him by his father, and I have begun to give it to my children. Lord willing, in a couple of centuries, my Pappy will have a few million descendants consuming the leftover bits of pork processing. 


Why Food?


I often ask, “Why, Lord? Why food?” So much of our lives are oriented around this. He could have made us photosynthesize. He could drop mana on the ground three times every day; he could drop mana into our stomachs! The Lord chose for us that one of the most fundamental components of humanity would be its need for food, and through our sin, it would be a struggle. The ground would work against us, the fear of man would be in our animals, and hunger pains or starvation would affect billions of his image-bearers. Why Lord? Why food? My point is that the prerogative of God’s creative omnipotence is to do as He pleases. He could have chosen to sustain us with little, but He didn’t do that. Instead, God blessed mankind with a wide variety of foods. The abundance, the multitudes of shapes and sizes, the flavors, the beauty—it is all, without a doubt, a manifestation of God’s greatness. But it is more than that. It is clear and compelling evidence of His love. He could have given little, but He gave us much.


Thus it is that God created food for our subsistence, and for our enjoyment, out of love, but there is yet another reason for food. We find it in 1 Timothy 4:3; it says to those that would apostatize and require abstinence from certain foods, these are “...food[s] that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”


God created food so that it would be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. This is no small matter.


God created food, our need for food, and our continual need for food so that we would be continually honoring and glorifying Him by acknowledging His goodness, His greatness, and His blessings in our lives.


So, we are interested in food. In its security, in its production, in the joy and thankfulness that comes with it. We’re interested in who we can share it with or pass it on to. I certainly care about food. My Pappy also cares about food. God cares about food. 


So whatever it is that you eat, whatever it is that you make, do it with thanksgiving. Do it in a way that is honoring to God and shows our thankfulness. Whether you are harvesting a fall deer, maintaining a perpetual sourdough starter, roasting hatch chilis, grinding sausage, or making scrapple--do it for Jesus and His Kingdom.



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