Did you know that — botanically speaking — a tomato is a fruit?
And centuries ago, they were considered poisonous and grown only as a decorative plant?
I learned these and other facts many years ago when I typed readers’ recipes and wrote a weekly story for the Fremont Tribune’s food page.
Granted, I didn’t cook a whole lot, but I could ask questions and conduct research and write about people who did. But for many years now, I’ve been very glad we have our food columnist, Ellen Lund.
Ellen has cooked for a long time and is a personified wealth of information.
Yet for as talented, knowledgeable and Godly as Ellen is — I’m not sure if even she’d want to try what the prophet Elisha did.
We can find his story in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, toward the end of chapter four.
At this point, the devoted prophet of God is in Gilgal and there is a famine in the land.
Other prophets are sitting with Elisha when he tells his servant to put a large pot on the fire and make some soup for the group.
One guy goes out to a field to gather herbs.
He finds a wild vine and picks fruit from it.
No, the Bible doesn’t say they were tomatoes.
It just says the guy puts the fruit in this robe and brings it back. He cuts up the wild fruit and puts it into the pot.
The group doesn’t know what kind of fruit it is.
They pour some stew for the men to eat.
But when they start eating, they shout to Elisha: “Man of God! There’s poison in the pot!”
The food tastes like poison, so they can’t eat it.
That had to be dinner downer.
But whoever said too many cooks spoil the broth obviously never had Elisha in their kitchen.
He’ll do something even the most seasoned chef wouldn’t try.
He throws some flour in the pot and says, “Pour some out for the men that they may eat.”
“And there was no harm in the pot,” the Scriptures record. How did they go from poison in the pot — to no harm at all?
It had to be miracle.
I don’t believe for a second that Elisha just randomly threw flour in a pot without God’s direction and without knowing and trusting that the stew would become safe to eat.
There’s a little more to this recipe of faith.
After the safe stew story, we read that a man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing Elisha 20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack.
Elisha instructs his servant to give the food to the group of 100 men.
He’s just lived through one cooking fiasco.
Now, he probably figures he’s going to make a huge culinary and entertaining faux pas.
The servant doesn’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that even the most creative cook couldn’t stretch that meal far enough to feed this crowd.
“How can I set this before 100 men?” the servant asks.
But I’ll bet Elisha doesn’t even flinch when he says, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’”
See why I figured Elisha knew what he was doing with the flour?
Anyway, the servant does as he’s told.
And the group eats and has some left over just like the Lord said they would.
Did each man purposely eat just a little so some would be left?
Are you kidding? These men were living during a famine. I’ll bet they were one hungry bunch of prophets.
Yet God’s faithfulness is evident in this account.
As it says in Psalm 33:18-19:
“The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”
It’s a wonderful reminder of how God takes care of us and that even when times get tight, we don’t need to be afraid.
Sometimes, I think our best prayer can be: “Lord, please help me and show me what to do — or not do. Please just take care of me.”
And as we love, trust and look to him for help and guidance, God can provide for our needs in wondrous ways.
What I love most about Elisha’s food-stretching story is that it reminds me of two similar accounts in the New Testament.
All four Gospels tell about the miracle of when Jesus fed 5,000 men (not including all the women and children) from five loaves of bread and two fish.
The Scriptures say they all ate and were satisfied and they collected 12 baskets full of broken pieces left over. (One basket for each of the 12 disciples perhaps?)
Then two Gospel accounts — Matthew and Mark — tell how Jesus later fed 4,000 men along with women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.
Once again, they all ate and were satisfied. This time, seven baskets full of broken pieces were left over.
Gotta love the leftovers, don’t ya?
Speaking of leftovers, Ellen has this great recipe for leftover turkey and dressing that you make into a casserole. I made it years ago and just loved it.
I can’t find the recipe so I’ll have to ask her about it.
In the meantime, I might just chop up a garden fresh tomato, because whether you call them a fruit or a vegetable — they’re not poisonous and they taste really good with just a little salt.
Now, that’s my kind of cooking.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.
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