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Friday, November 21, 2014

Hispanic Culture: Comida (barriga llena corazón contento)

Another cultural characteristic of Hispanic culture is food. There is no question that Hispanics love food.  The saying, "Barriga llena corazón contento" (stomach full, happy heart) has the idea that when you have eaten well, you feel happy and satisfied. It reflects the Hispanic culture's attitude that food has a special place in daily living (not only this, but many Hispanics have experienced hunger due to poverty and now there is abundance and it should be enjoyed).

Every time there’s a special occasion there is plenty of food.  There’s always lots of left overs even after people have eaten twice.   A typical carne asada (grilled beef) party might include chicken, shrimp, rice, beans, grilled onions, corn and/or potatoes. Then there’s also the salsa and the tortillas. 

Let me just say a few more things about tortillas (a whole post can be written about
them). Being a Hispanic myself, I almost always eat tortillas (There are some South Americans that do not eat tortilla). Not eating with tortillas is like not having utensils to eat.  I’m not exaggerating here.  In fact, many Hispanics use the tortilla as a utensil!  Not eating with tortilla is like eating a hot dog without a bun! Then there are those “calientitas," hand made tortillas. I love it when my wife makes them.  No wonder Gary Soto wrote “An Ode to Tortillas."

There’s no stinginess in food among Hispanics. Just look at our waist. In fact, being robust is a sign of being healthy, a result of being well-fed. One favorite saying from my mom to those who are robust is "hermosa" or "(beautiful) hermoso." It refers to someone who is robust. In Hispanic culture being too skinny is seen as malnourishment. Food is to be enjoyed much like eating chocolate for many people. It is also a way to enjoy the company of others ("vente a comer" - come eat, is often a common invite when coming into a home while eating is taking place). What better way to get to know people than by sharing a meal. 

When sharing the Gospel with Hispanics it is important to make food a part of it. A good way to get to know people and show hospitality is by inviting them to go eat or have a meal at home. When inviting out to a restaurant, pick something that is authentic and be prepared to pay. Hispanics have a saying, "El que invita paga," which means that if you invite, you are paying. If you do decide to do it at home, try to have some home made food. Do not offer processed American food. There’s nothing worse for a Hispanic than to go to eat with someone and eat sandwiches or hot dogs. Have plenty of food and offer the left overs. In church, "comida compartida" (pot lucks) should be a regular. When invited to go to someone's house for a special occasion be ready to eat a lot. Hispanics will insist on you eating a lot. In fact, denying their offer sends a message that you did not like their food (and vice versa). It is a way for them to make sure you are enjoying your time.

Food is not trivial when it relates to the Gospel. After, all the Lord's Supper was part of a Jewish meal. Much of Jesus's teaching on the Gospel and the Kingdom involved dining with people. (See Mark 2:13-17; Matthew 9:10) In the Kingdom of God, there will be eating even though it wont' be necessary. See Mark 1:4; 14:25; Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 13:28-29; Luke 15:1; Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 22:1-3.
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