Throughout history, food has served as much more than physical nourishment for mankind. Sharing a meal with others is a bonding experience, a sign of hospitality and respect and a way to show love. Cuisine is a huge part of every culture, and one that many people take pleasure in.
No matter how much we eat, within hours our hunger returns. As one of the essential needs shared by every person on earth, food is powerful. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We worship with food. It connects us to one another and to the past.
We see that especially this time of year—those who are Jewish honor Passover by eating unleavened bread as their ancestors did in their hasty flee from slavery in Egypt; the lamb shankbone on the seder plate commemorates the sacrificial lamb God required of his people that night he freed them (and for Christians this symbolism goes further to represent Christ’s sacrifice in order to free us from the bondage of sin); eggs represent new life, in the most basic springtime sense and also in the context of Jesus rising from the dead; empty eggshells remind us of the empty tomb Jesus’ loved ones found the morning he was risen; and the Lord’s supper, first celebrated just before Jesus’ death, is a sacrament that has brought Christians together in worship for millennia.
Food as a metaphor is a beautiful thing.
This weekend I decided to use baking cookies as a hands-on storytelling device with Corban and Mara. At age 3, Corban’s eager little heart is soaking in the Easter story, and I hoped to use this as another way to help it take root. At age 18 months, Mara just was excited to be helping in the kitchen with us, and that’s good too.
These Resurrection Cookies or Easter Story Cookies can be found all over the Internet. Each ingredient and step tells a part of the Easter story with scripture and symbolism. I used this handy printable sheet to guide us, along with our shiny new Reformation Study Bible, but halfway through it was getting too chaotic to flip through the pages so I just stuck to reading the scripture verses off the recipe.
The ingredients are simple—all things we already had on hand.
1 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pecans in a plastic freezer bag and have your child break them into small pieces by beating them with a wooden spoon. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, Roman soldiers beat him. Read John 19:1-3.
Have your child smell and taste the vinegar before adding it to a mixing bowl.
Explain that Jesus was offered sour wine/vinegar to drink while He hung on the cross. Read John 19:28-30.
Add the egg whites to the bowl, explaining that eggs represent life and Jesus loves us so much He gave His life in order to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.
For some reason they were blowing in the bowl.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt into your child’s hand and have him taste a bit before shaking the rest into the bowl. Explain that Jesus’ friends and followers cried salty tears when He died. Read Luke 23:27.
Of course, after tasting the salt, you have to let them taste the sugar. This was by far Corban and Mara’s favorite part. Let’s just pause and observe.
Yes, I let that happen.
Gradually add the sugar to the bowl while beating the egg whites on high with a whisk attachment. A stand mixer helps tremendously for this recipe. As you add the sugar, and your kids lick the spilled granules off the counter, explain that even though Jesus died, the story is sweet because He did it because He loves us. He wants us to know we belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.
Continue beating the egg whites until they are glossy and stiff peaks form (peaks stand straight up when whisk is removed). This will take a while—10 to 15 minutes.
While you beat the egg whites, have your child observe how white the mixture is and explain that white represents purity and Jesus cleansing us of our sins. Read Isaiah 1:18.
I’ll be honest, I had to be somewhere so I rushed it and didn’t quite let the egg whites get to stiff peaks. This was a big mistake—make sure you keep beating until the peaks stand straight up and don’t fold over when you lift the whisk out!
Gently fold in the pecans.
Drop the mixture by spoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Explain that these mounds represent the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.
Can’t resist a little taste.
By this point the scripture passages were background noise, but I still was able to have meaningful discussions with Corban about the symbolism. Since this wasn’t his first (or last) time hearing about these concepts, it was fruitful as another way to let the story sink in.
Now it’s time to put the cookies in the oven. Close the door and turn off the oven immediately. Have our child put a piece of tape over the door and explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed and secure. Read Matthew 27:65-66.
Now go to bed. Ask how your child feels to leave the cookies until tomorrow, and explain that Jesus’ friends were very sad when He died and was placed in the tomb. Read John 16:20, 22.
Leave the oven closed until the next morning. Then remove the cookies and have your child examine them.
The sides of the cookies will be cracked. When they taste them, they will find that they are hollow. Explain that on Easter morning, Jesus’ friends were surprised to find the tomb empty. Jesus was alive! Read Matthew 28:1-9.
Now I have to confess that our cookies were not hollow. (Womp womp.) I believe it’s because the egg whites were still at soft peaks rather than stiff peaks when I stopped beating them.
But do you see these faces? Do they care?
We pretended they were hollow. The kids were still excited Jesus was raised from the dead. And mostly just thrilled to be eating cookies at 8 a.m.
I’m sure this activity will bear more spiritual fruit as they grow older, but I think baking is a wonderful teaching tool even at this age—or maybe especially at this age. Food has that way of connecting with us all.