We are deep into our recipe contest! If you haven’t sent yours in, please do so. The different ways you can connect with us are listed at the end of my column.
Can you guess the No. 1 question I get asked as a missionary? It’s not “What’s it like living in a foreign country?” It’s not “What is the spiritual condition of the people you serve?” The No. 1 question is “What is the weirdest food you’ve eaten?”
The answer to that question is fairly long. I have eaten cats and dogs, horse meat, roasted bugs, termites, scorpions and pigeons.
I have eaten chicken feet, intestines, lots of fish eyeballs, tongues and the brains of different animals. I have eaten roasted monkey, crocodiles, raw squid and lot of other raw swamp creatures. And this is only the beginning.
Of course, you can add one more to the recital of disgusting foods I have eaten: broccoli. But there is one more that tops the list.
Just months after the China’s Tiananmen Square uprising, the Communist Party invited a group of us to help them understand why its students were revolting. The leader of our team was my mentor, Avery Willis.
I had just written a book, “You Wanna Pierce What? Getting a Grip on Today’s Family.” The Chinese thought if I could straighten out a family, I could straighten out a country with a population of 1.1 billion. I was reluctant at first because Chinese food is not my favorite. But they offered our team diplomatic passports, and with God whispering “Go,” my wife and I said yes.
Upon our arrival in the country, they had a banquet welcoming our team with the top 150 communist leaders in attendance. The menu consisted of 13 courses of food.
The first plate that came out was chicken feet. I didn’t know that in their culture, you are not supposed to clean your plate but only sample it and send the rest back to the kitchen. When the cook sees how much food is returned, he says to himself. “I am such a good host. I have given them so much food they can’t eat it all.”
I didn’t pick up on this until I had eaten a raw squid and turtle soup with an entire turtle lying in the bottom of the bowl. All my life, my parents taught me to clean my plate because _____—you can fill in the blank: “children are starving in China.”
I turned to my guard and asked him, “When do we get the rice?” He told me that because I had a diplomatic passport, I couldn’t have rice. Rice was for common people, and we were special.
Going into the second week there, I was so desperate for some good old rice. We were in a small village when they brought out a bowl of Jell-O with three balls of rice in it. I was so excited! The Jell-O was sweet, the rice was perfectly cooked, and I was in heaven. Familiar food, familiar taste. I ate the bowl clean.
The cook had to come out and apologize because he hadn’t given me enough. I tried to explain to him that in our country, cleaning your plate was a sign of respect and a commentary on the delicious food. But he had to ask if I would like more. “Please,” I said.
He brought a second bowl, and I licked it clean too. So we went through the whole process again, and again, I said, “please.”
While eating the third bowl, I was trying to figure out what flavor the Jell-O was. It reminded me of sassafras tea but was much sweeter. Finally, I asked the guard, “What flavor of Jell-O is in this dish?”
Of course you know there are two rules in mission work. Rule No. 1: Never ask, “
What is it?” Rule No. 2: Never break rule No. 1.
The guard told me, “It’s not Jell-O.”
At that point, I broke all the rules. “Then what is it?” I asked.
“I think I can say it in English,” he replied. “It’s rice in toad saliva.”
“Yes, you just ate three bowls of toad spit.”
You see, they have toads in China that froth at the mouth when they feel threatened. The collected spit was the delicacy I had enjoyed. All of I could think of was 1 Cor. 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Do I like to eat these things? No way! I am a picky eater. But when it comes to reaching others for Christ, God helps what I put in to stay down.
For your cookbook contribution, please send in some recipes for normal food. No toad spit allowed.
Send your recipes to “Cookbook Contest PO Box 470265, Tulsa, OK 74147” or go visit baptistmessenger.com/contest and send it electronically.