I Am a Glutton

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
~ Psalm 63.1-8

Bad News: I live across the street from the best coffee shop in America [casual fri]

ultimo-coffee-cortadoBad news for my wallet, that is.

Yesterday Philly.com reported that food website The Daily Meal announced that they had found Ultimo Coffee to be the best coffee shop in the country.

(Annoyingly, you have to sit through their slideshow of the 32 runners-up before getting to  the Ultimo feature. So, in my opinion, you’re better off clicking the Philly.com article.)

Anyway, people that know me know that I’m kind of a coffee snob, and I can honestly say that I really do love Ultimo Coffee. I even giddily posted on this blog when I knew their second location, conveniently located across the street from my house, was about to open.

It’s an amazing shop with amazing people, atmosphere, and of course, coffee. I’m proud to be on a first name basis with most of the baristas and the owner (as well as secretly being the Foursquare mayor of that location). It’s certainly my favorite shop in the country. It’s great to see them rightfully being recognized.

If you live in Philly, I can’t encourage you enough to go to one of their two locations. If you’ve never had it before, I’d be more than happy to buy you your first cup. I’ve had the honor of doing so for many friends.

Go Philly coffee scene!

What’s With All the Instagram Shots of Your Lunch?

“Food is everything”, says my friend Ben, an organic farmer who runs a small vegetable stand at Lancaster’s Central Market. Each generation pushes back on the one that came before it, often a reaction against cultural norms that seem to be inherently evil. One of those such current ideas comes as a blowback in how we produce and consume food. Since WWII, our food supply has been mass-produced and mass-processed, often putting in it more preservatives than nutrition. In recent years, organic farming has blossomed (in part) as a reaction against the greed, industrialization and lack of nutrition of America’s food supply. At Ben’s market stand, a small sign reads something like “out of the ground comes nutrition for our food”.

There’s certainly something deeper to this little sign whether he knows it or not.

“Man is what he eats”, writes Alexander Schmemann. All of life is sacramental, and therefore, Eucharistic. He continues, “Man must eat in order to live. He must take the world into his body and transform it into himself; into flesh and blood.” In the same way, at the celebration of the Eucharist, the very flesh and blood of Christ come to man. Man eats it and in this most revered element of Christian worship, he ascends to heaven with Christ, receives the Kingdom of God, and takes it with him back into the world. Eating is sacred business in the Christian economy and without it, the Kingdom of Heaven does not come to the world. Schmemann even goes so far as to say that all food leads us to Christ.

Meals in community are sacred. They have been for most all peoples for all time.  There is something deep within the heart of humankind that knows this. There is a longing for communion and companionship over any meal we eat. But alas, our culture does not work this way. We are hurried to and fro and are lucky to grab something at a café or in a drive thru or whatever quick meal we can get out of the way to get on with the more important things of life. But, even in our hurried state, we stop and take the time to photograph our food and post it for all to see – our new “social” community – facebook or instagram. What we miss by eating alone so often, we try to reacquire via our mobile technology. Our souls crave the sacred meal together, yet, for whatever reason we make little effort to make this a primary part of our lives. We want others to share in our experience and the best way we can get them to do that is to post our square images  of eggs in a frying pan or the coffee we got on the way to a meeting on our own little online kingdom.

Each Sunday, as we partake of the Eucharist, we ascend with Christ into his Kingdom for the good of his world. In the same way, let us strive to make our daily meals a little more sacramental; a little more Eucharistic, even.

Here I am leading a Port Wine tasting with Fluffer-Nutter Sandwiches [VIDEO]

Last night, some of my best friends threw a wine-tasting and food pairing party. Some of the people closest to me presented wine and food pairings that blew my mind. I had no idea that wine could do all of that. It was the perfect way to end a very busy summer.

Above, you will find a video of me presenting my wine and pairing. I led a tasting of a Tawny Port wine and paired it with Fluffer-Nutter sandwiches (my new obsession). I hope you enjoy it and learn some things.

You can see the videos of the other wine-presenters, as well as other highlights of our evening here.

Thanks go to Paul and Natanya Ma for hosting us, and specifically to Paul for taking and posting these videos.
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Unethical Plants vs. Unethical Animals: what to eat? [OPEN MIC]

So, I have this friend…

He loves documentaries and whenever he find one that is particularly informative, he tells us about it.

If I remember correctly, he may have been the first person from whom I heard about Food, Inc. which challenged our sensibilities about where our food comes from, and the whole notion of factory farming. I was now aware. I started hating Monsanto seed company with everyone else, buying organic food items, and buying my meat at a local farm, even though it was an hour drive and the meat was crazy expensive (I eventually gave this last part up, although I still try to be somewhat conscious at the store)

Then, I heard about King Corn and saw talks like this one and became all the more sure I should stay away from non-organic food purchases and try to cook more. My emphasis became “real” food and ethically grown crops.
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On “Real” Food: a TED Talk everyone should watch

This is a recent TED Talk given by Robyn O’Brien, the author of The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It. It’s on food. She makes a pretty compelling case for the “Real Food” movement, encouraging us to move towards “knowing” our food once again–it’s source, it’s farming method, and it’s distribution.

Now, this whole local, organic thing is a pretty big fad right now (and I’m as guilty as any for being an evangelist for it–even though I’m also a weak practitioner), but O’Brien’s perspective is different. She is a former Wall Street analyst, and so she spends her time not trying to belittle or demonize businesses who have a legal responsibility to maximize profits for their shareholders. Nor does she try and show how this perspective on food is inherently “better” or more “ethical” or “moral” (even though I might think so).

Instead, she shows how our current food system is–literally–killing us. There’s no sensationalism. No partisan backhands. No sarcasm. No exaggeration or twisting of facts; just a simple telling of her story of transition from a “normal” mom to her views today.

Ultimately, she shows how changing our food system could actually be best for our nation, both economically and politically.

On a personal note: I applaud this video, and yet I still find myself not following its suggestions (even as I’ve watched and read similarly-minded “exposes“, books, and documentaries). Nothing has been enough yet to actually change my habits. My main concern isn’t necessarily money or sourcing. Rather, it’s time. It takes time to plan, shop, and cook with intentionality and thought (or so I think).

I’m sure many of the readers of this blog will agree with the principles laid out in this video. If so, I want to hear from you. No. Actually, I need to hear from you. I need help in this. What’s your story? Do you follow these principles, even a little bit? What has worked? What hasn’t? Any tips for a time-bound (and probbably, more realistically, just lazy) twenty-something looking to reform his eating habits? Sound off below.

Philly’s Outdoor Feeding Ban: Good for the City, the Church, & the Gospel (ii)

Yesterday I wrote a post about the Philadelphia ban on outdoor feeding of the homeless. I wrote about how the issue here is not about hunger, it’s about choice. It’s also not a religious freedom issue, as some groups say. These feedings have been one way that Christians have tried to accomplish their call to serve the homeless. Banning these outdoor feedings does not ban our service, just one particular way we’ve done it. Lastly, I talked about how honoring someone’s dignity is more about acting for their greatest good more than it is about creating space for them to choose whatever they want.

Today, I want to talk about how this ban is actually good for the Gospel in this city.
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Philly’s Outdoor Feeding Ban: Good for the City, the Church, & the Gospel (i)

Update: the second (and final) part of this article is up, where we discuss some ways to look at this theologically.

Just over a month ago, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia announced a controversial plan to ban the outdoor feeding of homeless individuals in the city parks and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, home to many of this city’s finest museums, including the soon-to-open (and just as controversial) Barnes Foundation.

This has been met with the expected and understandable anger and protest from many of the city’s hunger-based non-profits and faith-based homeless ministries that participate in these outdoor feedings (the ban is still in process and has not been enforced yet). Some leading homeless advocates support it.

Many of these religious groups understandably feel like this move is an over-reach of cold, heartless government, trying to keep the church from doing its God-given call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Many have felt like this is an imposition on the religious freedom of the Christians of Philadelphia.

I would like to, as humbly as possible, disagree.

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liberti easter outreach: matching donation running out of time!

1,000 meals + 3 wells in celebration of the resurrection

I have the privilege of being a part of an amazing movement of churches in Philadelphia, seeking to “live, speak, and serve as the very presence of Christ” for the city (I go to the Center City one).

Last year, the churches gave away 1,000 Easter meals to familes in need. This year we’re trying to raise money to give away another 1,000 and to build 3 water wells in Africa

This week (until the end of Saturday), a donor is offering to match any donations up to $5,000.

There’s still a lot more to go to meet that goal. We need people to donate money to help us serve our neighbors in this city. So please donate if you can. Any amount will help. Remember, through church history Lent has been a time the church has given much to these sorts of efforts.

If you can’t give money, and still want to serve, we not only need money for the meals and wells (we’re trying to raise $35,000), we also need people to call families that would like the meals, as well as people to pack the meals and drive them. You can volunteer (and request a basket) at the website.

For more information or to sign up for any part of this initiative, please visit:


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liberti east Easter outreach: help feed families in need

I have the privilege of being a part of an amazing movement of churches in Philadelphia, seeking to be the presence of Christ to this city and its inhabitants. This family of churches currently numbers three, each one serving a different area of the city (I go to the Center City one).

The church in the East part of the city has been gracious enough to spearhead an initiative for Easter where they hope to give away 1,000 Easter meals to familes in need. The baskets include a ham, sides, and desert for a family of four. They need people to donate money for the meals (they’re trying to raise $20,000), volunteer to fill the baskets and/or deliver them, and families who would like to receive one of these meals. Remember:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” — James 1:27

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink…?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ –Matthew 25:34-40

For more information or to sign up for any part of this initiative, please visit:  http://www.libertieasteroutreach.com/
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For Philly: Grad Hospital Rejoice! Honey’s 2nd Location @ 21st & South

According to the Philly.com’s Insider blog, my (and most everyone’s) favorite breakfast diner, Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat, will be opening a second location.  And where does this bastion of greatness decide to place this most-coveted of second locations?  In Graduate Hospital.  Three blocks from my house. For those that know the area, the new location will be found at this corner of 21st and South St, across the street from the great bar Ten Stone and the great coffee shop La.Va. It will also have in it a branch of the dog shop, Doggie Style.  They plan to open in the winter.  (this story was found via Philly Grubstreet)