Latin America has a large number of children who live and work on the streets, and this case is no different in the Dominican Republic. As I am scheduled to travel to this country, I ponder on how a society can live by street food alone. Considering that a large number of nations in the region are labeled "developing nations," the levels of poverty are extremely high, which push many out into the work force to do whatever they can to make a few bucks. Poverty has no age limit and many times young children, as young as 7 and 8 years old, can be found on the streets peddling cheap goods, washing windows, shining shoes and in some cases doing more extreme things like stealing or even drug running in order to make some money.
It is common practice that some of these street children are exploited by persons who force the children to work as beggars or street washers and vendors and then hand the money over to them as they are forced to live on the discarded remnants of street food. At times even whole families are forced out on the streets to beg. I have discovered that the best cuisine is not found in fine restaurants such as Ruth's Chris Steakhouse but on the streets. Yes, some of the world's best food is found in the same place you'll find cabs, newspaper stands and crowds of people making their way to work. Some of the best food your fingers can grab is found on the street.
For instance, in Palermo, Italy, it's easy to be lured in by someone selling panelle, a snack of chickpea fritters, or caponata, a lush dish made with fresh eggplant and capers. If Italian isn't your thing, head over to Mexico City, where street food is essential to the local culture. Here you'll find churros made of fried dough covered in cinnamon. You'll find roasted cobs of corn and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Some of the best food, I have personally tasted was conch salad that came from the back of a dirty trunk in Nassau, Bahamas.
Pondering the street food that will be prevalent in the Dominican Republic, I think about the biblical story of Jesus and how he conquered the temptation of food in the wilderness. You see, Jesus is in the midst of a fast. He's been purposely abstaining from food and wandering in the wilderness to prepare him for the three years of ministry and miracles as humanity's Messiah, or Savior, that stood before him.
Yet we must imagine that, at this point, had even the nastiest of New York hot-dog carts (which are nowhere near kosher) crossed his path, even Jesus would have been tempted to call it all off and take a bite. In fact, that's kind of what happens here. In place of a street vendor, however, Jesus crosses paths with Satan himself. Knowing that Jesus is feeling weak and hungry, he nudges up next to Jesus, saying, If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread (Luke 4:3). In other words, "Hey, Jesus, if you're hungry and you're God, then what are you waiting for? How about a little street food? You make the bread, and I'll provide the butter." Tempting for sure.
Just like Jesus, you and I know what it's like to be tempted. We know what it's like to have a hunger for something we want, something that others might say we need, but that we know will serve only to distract or derail us. Click on that questionable website. Spend that extra dollar. Talk trash behind the back of this coworker. Sleep in on Sunday. Eat the doughnut. Ignore the kids. The list is endless. Temptation is everywhere. And like the smell of great street food when your stomach is empty, its pull is strong. The truth is that Jesus isn't the only one who has Satan whispering in his ear.
Temptation, like street food, comes in countless forms. And man, it can look and smell incredible! But just because we're hungry for it doesn't always mean we need it. May we model the strength of Jesus. May we run to the truth like Jesus. But most of all, when we fall, may we feast on the forgiveness found in Jesus found in the Holy Bread and Wine.