Margaret Feinberg is a Bible teacher who speaks at churches and conferences around the country. Her books and corresponding Bible studies have sold more than 1 million copies. Feinberg was named one of 50 women most shaping present culture and the church by Christianity Today. Her latest book is “Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers and Fresh Food Makers.” She lives in Utah with her husband, Leif.
How has exploring food in the Bible changed your approach to everyday food-related activities?
“‘Taste and See’ shares my journey of descending 410 feet into a salt mine, fishing on the Sea of Galilee, harvesting olives in Croatia, baking kosher matza at Yale University, plucking figs with a farmer and graduating from ‘Steakology 101’ with a butcher known as ‘The Meat Apostle.’ With each person, I opened the Bible and asked, ‘How do you read these passages in light of what you do every day?’ Their answers changed the way I read the Bible forever. As a result, I think of food in a whole different, more gratitude-laced way.”
In the beginning of “Taste and See,” you talk about the best meal you’ve ever had. Why was that meal so memorable?
“The meal was curated in love,” Feinberg said. “The food prepared was delicious, but my memory wasn’t as focused on dishes as much as how the experience made me feel. As weary travelers, we were welcomed with open hearts and attentive ears. The food was one expression of being lavished in love.”
How has your perspective on hospitality changed?
“I now realize that the originator of all hospitality was God. He set a table for Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day. They didn’t just walk and talk, but they noshed and nibbled. God is the host behind our every meal. He’s the one who hangs the stars, spins the sun, fashions the seasons. When we show hospitality to others, we are reflecting God’s heart to us.”
How does God reveal His character in the food we eat?
“Jesus reveals Himself as ‘foodstuff.’ The Bread of Life. The True Vine. The Anointed One. So, if we want to know who Christ is and what is being communicated, then we need to know these foods on a granular level. Think of all the people Jesus shared a single meal with. They likely talked about those meals for the rest of their lives.”
What are some conversations we should lean into around a table?
“It’s fine to talk about weather and movies and the latest sports game, but at some point, most people hunger for a deeper connection. Gently asking more probing questions about life’s dreams, struggles, desires, and longings—and sharing our own—creates pockets of vulnerability where we are truly known.”
What’s the benefit of sharing a table with someone different from us—whether a nonbeliever or someone with different beliefs?
“In our increasingly polarized and divisive world, sharing a meal with those of different backgrounds and beliefs is one of the healthiest things we can do. Jesus demonstrated this throughout His earthly ministry. He was often criticized for the people He dined with because they were so different. When we share a meal with someone and really invest the time to see and know them, suddenly issues we once viewed as black and white become flesh and blood. Our capacity to view others with compassion, grace and love expands.”
Do Christians and nonbelievers view the purpose of meals and gathering around a table differently?
“At our cores, I think most of us know—whether conscious or unconscious—that something happens when we eat with another human. The sip of tea, the crunch of a carrot, the tear of a pizza slice—all these small acts and tastes are confessions that we need something beyond ourselves. We cannot survive apart from liquid and food and, well, each other. I wish Christ-followers would remember that there’s not a table we gather around for which Christ does not want to pull up a chair.”
Do you have any advice for hosting a great dinner for family or friends?
“Don’t allow perfection of food or your furniture or your dining table distract you from the beauty of simply gathering. Sometimes we can become so concerned with the menu or presentation that we forget that the focus is creating an atmosphere for real connection. If you’re in a rush, order take-out or pop a frozen pizza in the oven.
“If you come to my house, you’ll find I always leave a pile of randomness out, so those who enter know we’re not perfect. We have messes, and messy people are welcome here. I’ll often leave something undone in the kitchen—something to chop or stir—so that guests can feel like they’re participants in the meal, in the life of our home and not just casual observers. I also pray before people come over that the Holy Spirit will show up in surprising ways throughout the evening. And somewhere during the night, I love to ask, ‘Where have you seen God at work in your life recently?’”