I’ve spent the last week thinking about strawberries. Crying over them, even.
Let me explain.
When my daughter was two years old, she would break out in hives when she ate broccoli or peas. (Weird allergies for a kid, right?) A blood test ordered by her doctor indicated that she was also allergic to strawberries. At that point in her young life, she’d never even tasted a strawberry, so the decision was made to simply keep her away from anything with “strawberry” in the ingredients list. Eventually, she outgrew the allergy to broccoli and peas, but she had been trained so well to avoid this particular allergen that she refused to even try anything that had a hint of “strawberry” in it.
This year, I convinced her doctor to refer her for another allergy test, ideally to stop the parade of EpiPens and Emergency Action Plans that we weren’t even sure were necessary in her case. On Wednesday, we received word that my daughter was not, in fact, allergic to strawberries, and the whole world suddenly looked very different.
After getting the big news, our first stop was the nearest grocery store, where she decided that her first strawberry was going to come on top of a giant cupcake. Why not? This was something worth celebrating! We took it home and decided dessert would absolutely come before dinner; how could I deny her the taste of a strawberry for one second longer?? She laughed nervously as she opened the clear plastic container that held her cupcake and then she took a big bite.
I sat there and watched her, sensing that this was one of those moments that you hold onto, because it is rare and special and precious. I observed as she slowly chewed, getting to know the seed-filled texture of the berry, and I waited for her response to the one-of-a-kind taste. The look on her face worried me a bit at first; I thought she might not like this fruit after all and the excitement would have been for naught. But I was wrong. The uncertainty in her eyes was replaced by wonder, as she enjoyed the flavor of a ripe strawberry for the first time in her life.
As parents, we introduce new foods to our tiny kiddos all the time, but it is simply part of the process of learning to eat new things. I took for granted the magic of it, as I mostly hoped she wouldn’t spit out the food or break out in hives. But introducing new foods and flavors to her at seven is very different than it was at two; she could revel in the newness of a flavor that struck her as sweet and somewhat tart, and for a moment there was a captivation with the taste and texture dancing across her tongue. It was beautiful to behold.
Part of why this entire thing has brought me to tears is that we were created to enjoy flavors; this strawberry tasting had nothing to do with getting nutrition and fueling up. There was something worthy about taking the time to taste and experience and enjoy.
Think about that.
We were created with tastebuds, and not simply as a survival tool to keep from eating things that could kill us. We were created to enjoy different flavors and combinations thereof, and there’s something to that. God could have made fueling our bodies to be as boring and mundane as putting gas in the car, but He didn’t. It may seem small, but I think it illustrates yet another facet of His crazy, creative, reckless love for us. In creating tastebuds, in creating a way for us to experience flavors – giving flavor a reason to exist, He opened a door for the creativity of those whose giftings are more culinary in nature. But He didn’t stop there. How many meaningful conversations have you had over good coffee? How many get-togethers have involved a meal? How many celebrations were incomplete without a cake? “Grabbing something to eat” is a mainstay of how we interact; breaking bread together is often at the core of developing connections and relationships. And it started because God loved us enough to give us a way to enjoy foods and flavors, even though He definitely didn’t need to.
All of this is to say that I’m really, really grateful. Grateful for tastebuds. Grateful to have been made by One whose boundless creativity gave way to such a gift. Grateful to have watched my daughter’s awe at tasting a fruit she’d only seen but kept her distance from. Grateful for the bowl of strawberries sitting on my counter, waiting for my little girl to come take just one more of this goodness that is so new in her life. Grateful that the little things are still so incredibly powerful. Just grateful.