“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34
Unable to read the menu, I managed to coax the waitress to the front of the restaurant through a series of charades and broken Japanese and pointed to what I wanted to order. Enclosed in a glass case was the entire food repertoire appealingly displayed, but none of it was real. Known as shokuhin sampuru (食品サンプル), or “food samples,” these are exact replicas of dishes offered by the restaurant.
The production of these food models has evolved into an art form over time and it was initially pioneered in the late 1920s by Japanese artisans who used paraffin for their creations. These fake food samples enabled customers to order food without the use of menus, but over time, paraffin proved to be an inadequate medium as the colors slowly faded when exposed to heat or sunlight. Now constructed using a synthetic resin called polyvinyl chloride, these shokuhin sampuru can last indefinitely. This improvement in technique has unwittingly hurt the fake food industry so it has tried to expand its market outside of Japan.
There is a great deal of craftsmanship required to produce these fake food models, so plastic food manufacturers fiercely guard their trade secrets to protect their share of the market. Models are often custom tailored to the individual menus of each restaurant, which makes them quite expensive. Most customers are unaware that the plastic food they casually survey behind the glass typically cost the proprietor of the restaurant several thousand dollars. Their attention is naturally focused on satisfying their hunger and hopefully, something on the menu will fill that need.
What then is real food? Ask a man, and he might say steak and potatoes. Ask a vegan, and they might say quinoa and kale. Ask a Japanese, and they might say rice and fish. But when Jesus was asked a similar question, He gave a totally different reply. He said: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Obviously, Jesus was not talking about real food, or even plastic food, but a different kind of nourishment that is essential for our spiritual well-being. While we are certainly flesh and blood beings that need physical nourishment, our spiritual natures require sustenance as well. We were created to fill the purposes of God, not just fill the physical desires or needs of the flesh. As Jesus famously expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6). We need both physical and spiritual food as part of a healthy diet. At the same time, we need to be cautious of the many “fake foods” that can entice us away from the greater things of God. Bon appetit!