Hospitality / Safe Place

Satisfied: A Conversation About Fullness, Spirituality & Food

What follows is a conversation between Karen Baldwin & Kelsey Reed about fullness, spirituality & food.

I have been thinking about this idea of being satisfied for several months, which doesn’t seem that long, now that I am in my fifties. I’ve mostly thought about why it takes so much to make me satisfied—why do I eat so much before I feel full? Why do I love to shop and buy more?

There are so many things I do in excess. I have particularly been thinking about this in relation to food, which is no surprise to you who know me or have read anything I’ve written. I am passionate about food. Growing it, shopping for it, smelling it, cooking it and eating it. It seems it is hard for me to get enough of it.

A couple of years ago I read Why French Women Don’t Get Fat. The author, Mireille Guiliano tells her story of loving to eat and gaining lots of extra weight eating fresh French pastries when she moved away from home. We follow her story as she loses her unwanted pounds by, first, eating leek soup for several days. She tells us she has kept weight off over the years by reducing the size of her portions, not by cutting out certain foods. She sits down to eat, and eats slowly, savoring every bite—including pieces of crusty French bread and a slice of tart.

I thought, “Now there’s a smart woman,” But as I have tried to practice Guiliano’s advice I keep circling around the idea, “Why do we think we need to eat so much to be satisfied?”

It’s all tied up in our brokenness. We are broken physically and emotionally as well as spiritually. As broken vessels, we never can be filled by natural means; we have a fractured experience of a likewise broken world. How can we have a more satisfying experience of this world? How do we enjoy this beauty, this artwork of the Lord’s without becoming hedonistic?

We are living in a flat just off the campus of Covenant Seminary in a big house that hosts pastors and others connected to the seminary. Sometimes we cook for the guests and sometimes just greet them when they arrive and help them to feel welcome.

Last autumn there was a group in for a conference that I cooked for during their stay. The leaves were turning and falling outside our door, mostly from the sycamore trees (the leaves are as big as dinner plates), along with other smaller brighter leaves giving contrast in both size and color. The mornings were frosty and we built a fire in the fireplace in the evenings.

I wanted the menu for the first evening to reflect the season; so off to the shops I went with my list. The grocery store where I love to shop fairly shouted that it was autumn. There was fresh apple cider with piles of apples, pumpkins of every size, greens and beets, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, bins of pecans and walnuts, all of which had replaced the sights and smells of summer. With my ingredients purchased (and in my reusable environmentally friendly bags) I set off home to organize my food preparation for dinner.

My first task was to roast a couple of heads of garlic and dice the shallots for the pork loin. I pulled out my knife and went to work slicing through the top 1/4 of each head of garlic, just enough to see the fresh cloves and smell the pungent aroma they released. I put each garlic head in a ramekin (a small baking dish), coated them with olive oil and popped them in the oven. As the garlic was roasting I turned to the shallots, and then ran my fingers through the rosemary sprigs just to release their scent. I picked the fresh rosemary leaves to pile and chop. By then the garlic cloves were golden and mushy so I squeezed each one out and mixed the warm soft garlic with the diced shallots to form a paste that I rubbed all over the loin roast. Then I rolled it in the finely chopped rosemary. My hands were coated with garlic, shallots, salt and pepper and rosemary, and were cool from the uncooked pork. It all smells of good things to come. The whole day was spent moving from one set of ingredients to another with each having a feel and smell of its own. I love the sound my knife makes as I chopped 2 pound of pecans for the dessert bars. The dried fruit and port had a sweet warm smell; the Brussels sprouts and olive oil have a different smell altogether.

There is so much to be experienced in this beautiful world that God himself pronounced, “Good.” The creation can point us to our Creator, or we can elevate our physical experience to a place it was never meant to have. The root of the problem lies in our own hearts. We are “idol factories” as Calvin so aptly put it, allured by the beauty we can taste, smell, see, or touch. Focusing on our favorites, we try to “fill up our senses,” but we are left with a deep craving for more. How do we have a more satisfying relationship with the Lord without overbalancing on the side of asceticism?

At the end of the day when we sat down to dinner I was already well on my way to being full, to being satisfied. Don’t misunderstand: I was ready to enjoy a meal, and I did savor every morsel. But something fulfilling, satisfying, comforting had been building in my soul as the day moved toward evening.

An understanding of Christ’s fullness—of who we are in him, of the significance that all things acquire under his Lordship—brings deep satisfaction. The heavenly King who put on flesh and made himself accessible has both dignified our physical experience and put it in its place, silencing the dissonant voices of hedonist and ascetic alike. With our Redeemer as our ultimate reference point, the one who has brought all things to himself and who works to redeem this broken world, we can be satisfied in our work, in beauty, in Him.

Karen: Over the last several months I have asked friends what it takes to make them satisfied, and have been helped to think more broadly. Margie Haack talked about fellowship, sitting at the table with friends, Kelsey needs to see ideas come to fruition, another friend needs intimacy, and another said his heart needs to be touched in a mysterious and profound way.

Spiritual, sensual, practical, and profound—all are things that we long to have as part of our life in order to feel truly satisfied. My experiences with food and my lovely day of preparing a meal will need to be repeated over and over—I will lose the feeling of being satisfied; but I think that it was a foretaste of eternity, a foretaste of what Jesus has for us in our relationship with him.


Roast Pork Loin with Fall Fruits
Karen Baldwin

4 lbs. (more or less) boneless pork loin roast
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 head of garlic
olive oil
2 T finely chopped shallots
3 T finely chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup ruby port
8 oz of dried fruit (You can use a package of mixed fruit or produce your own using apricots, prunes, raisins, and currents.)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 T unsalted butter


Cut the top 1/4 off the head of garlic to expose the flesh. Place the head in a ramekin (small baking dish) and cover with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cover with foil and roast at 350° in the oven until the cloves are soft and lightly golden.

Squeeze out the soft garlic into a small bowl, and stir in the chopped shallots.

Salt and pepper the pork loin, and rub the garlic mixture on all sides and ends of the pork. Next, roll the pork in the chopped rosemary and put in a roasting pan. Place in the 350° oven and roast until the inside temperature of the roast is 145°. Remove from the pan to a warm platter and cover loosely with foil.

While the pork is roasting heat the orange juice, dried fruit, and port for about 10 minutes until the fruit is soft and the liquid is thickened. Set aside.

In the hot roasting pan pour in 1/2 cup of chicken stock to de-glaze the pan and stir to release all the crusty bits left from the roast. Cook until the stock is reduced. Add the fruit and port mixture, and stir until heated thoroughly. Turn off the heat and add a tablespoon of butter and stir until the butter has melted, then spoon around the sliced pork.

Copyright © 2009 Karen Baldwin