My son climbed into the van after school without his usual pep, his little second-grade shoulders hunched over like an old man. His mask concealed two-thirds of his face, but his eyes told the whole story: He was tired, hungry, and he needed some love.
“Do you want some jook when we get home?” I asked.
He whimpered a yes, settled into his seat, and buckled up.
Jook is Korean rice porridge, a dish often made to warm the belly — on cold days, on sick days, on “I don’t know why I feel this way” kind of days. It’s comfort food made a hundred different ways depending on who made it for you growing up.
I grew up eating plain jook when I was sick. My mom or grandma would boil cooked white rice with water in a pot until the rice became soft enough to eat without much effort. They’d drizzle a little soy sauce on top to flavor it — but only just enough to make it taste like something instead of nothing.
I never enjoyed it. It was bland, and I associated it with being sick. It had never been comfort food for me; it was necessary food I had to eat to take medicine and get better.
But several years ago, I tasted jook I didn’t want to stop eating. It had been made by the church ladies where my in-laws attend, and she’d brought home leftovers. The jook had finely diced pieces of carrots and zucchini and hand-broken pieces of mung bean sprouts. It was savory, comforting, and it felt like love — the love of generations of mothers and grandmothers, of all the hands who care for and express love the only way they know how. Through food. By asking, “Have you eaten?”
On Sunday, I held a neatly packaged plastic communion cup with the accompanying wafer in my hand and listened as our pastor led us in a time of reflection and remembrance. The familiar words wafted in and out of my head, and I thought of my son’s face that day as he ate the jook. He took small spoonfuls of the rice porridge, speckled with flecks of orange and green and bulked with chunks of chicken, and slowly savored each bite until the whole bowl was all gone. Then he asked for more.
I smiled remembering his contentment and the quickness with which he felt better afterwards. And I wondered, Is this why Jesus left us with the practice of communion to remember Him by? Was this His way of asking us, “Have you eaten?” and feeding our souls?
I peeled back the plastic and held the beige wafer in my hand. Instead of imagining Jesus on the cross as I usually do, I thought about Jesus at the table, surrounded by His friends, His disciples. I envisioned His hands holding the loaf of bread and tearing it into pieces to share with each person. I broke the wafer into two, placed it on my tongue, and in its blandness, I recalled the plain jook I was fed by my mother’s and grandmother’s hands. In one moment, I recognized the love of God and my ancestors, my spiritual and familial heritage, present with me.
Have you eaten? God asked me. And I admitted that I had gone hungry for too long, that I had accepted hunger as enough to survive when I could’ve fed on His abundance. I wasn’t shamed for not coming to His table sooner; I was invited to come and eat, now that I saw clearly.
If food is love and feeding someone is synonymous with loving them, then communion is the expression of God’s love for us — a reminder that it’s always accessible, always filling. And we can always ask for more because it never ends.
So, now, I ask you, friend: Have you eaten?Leave a Comment