The Bible as Cookbook

Of course the title of Mark Bittman’s cookbook is ridiculous: How to Cook Everything. Everything? Everything is a pretty expansive category. What is behind this claim? Hubris? Hyperbole?

I love this cookbook. It was a wedding present, and it has been an ever-present help in the six different kitchens of my nearly 18 year old marriage. Its cover is stained, its binding broken by frequent 36 inch falls from the counter, and its pages are dog-eared. I have made “Basic Pancakes” (p. 747) hundreds of times, first with toddlers standing on chairs, wide-eyed with delight at the joy of dumping ingredients into our KitchenAid stand mixer, and now with tweens and teens sitting bleary-eyed at the counter, sleepily gleeful and expectant over Blueberry Pancakes (variation, p. 748). I have wowed guests with Butterscotch Sauce (p. 672) over ice cream, and (more importantly) have repeatedly put a smile on the face of my scrubs-wearing doctor wife when she opens the door from the garage and smells Buttermilk Biscuits (p. 251), the recipe for which calls for “2-5 tablespoons cold butter (more is better)”–I’ve never used less than five, because, why would you? Oh, and I’ve made many a Tuesday night chicken breast taste kingly by using the techniques posited in “Basic Reduction Sauce or Pan Gravy” (p. 791).

By opening this book, reading it, using it, practicing it, I have become a cook. Which is of course why the title is brilliant. Cooking is art and technique and passion and love, and this book has equipped me to cook, well, everything, even those foods not included in its 944 pages.

The Bible is also a How-To-Cook-Everything kind of book. Of course there are things in life which the Bible does not specifically address (“How to Choose A Major,” “How to React When Your Candidate Loses the Election,” “Macro Economics,” “What Your Smart Phone is Doing to Your Soul,” “The Secrets of a Drag-Free Dry Fly Float,” “Teen-Ager Moods Minute by Minute,” etc.). And yet, because life is art and technique and passion and love, the Bible actually does address everything. Because life is not about recipes, but about learning how to live.

The best Bibles have stained covers and dog-eared pages and broken bindings. The owners of these kinds of Bibles have learned how to cook. They’ve read over and over “Jesus Heals a Blind Man” (Mark 10:46-52), and because of that dog-eared page have ears to hear the cries for mercy that are all around and yet so easily ignored. They’ve been formed by “David Dances Before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:12-14), and so more comfortably fall into the ecstatic joy of grace, regardless of eye-rolling onlookers. 27, 133, 40, 139, 46–these are not lottery numbers, but the numbers of psalms that are ancient prayers and present poetry, friends that have been there through thick and thin. Their Bibles fall open to passages like Philippians 2, “Imitating Christ’s Humility,” because that song quoted by Paul has got into their soul, and so they return again and again so as to wonder and worship.

The authority of the Bible is a lived, practiced authority. It can be trusted, but only if it is tried. In this trying, this doing, this wrestling, these failures, those triumphs, everything is covered.


PS 1: Mark Bittman’s book is now an app. You can get it here. But you can’t dog-ear and stain an app, so you might as well buy the book here.

PS 2: I dedicate this blog post to my Mom, who taught me to cook, who bought me Mark Bittman’s book, and who has been one who has shown me the beauty of a life biblically lived.


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  1. Anonymous says

    Mom here — thank you Jeff.

  2. Rhonda Blinne says

    Good stuff here, as always, Jeff! Though I’m by no means a great, very talented cook, I’m almost tempted to buy the book based on your descriptions. And, yes, our Bibles should show the visible signs of being “lovingly used” as we pour out our hearts in praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication to our Everlasting, Risen Lord!

  3. anonymous says

    Now just need to find the cookbook

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