15 November 2021  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

Recently we went to the house of some Adventist friends from church for dinner. As I was with her in the kitchen, I saw her open a cupboard. She was standing so her body partially blocked it, but I saw her take out a bottle, and pour some of what looked like grape juice into some soup, then replace the bottle. When she left the room for a moment, I opened the cupboard and saw that it was a bottle of wine.

I was surprised and shocked. I didn’t have time to warn my husband, so he took a large portion. I made an excuse and only took a little. I have to admit it was delicious soup, but it seemed to me that it was something Adventist people shouldn’t have in their house, and certainly shouldn’t serve to guests.

Signed, Dined and Wined

Dear Wined,

Many chefs use wine to enhance the flavor of soups and sauces. If you have ever eaten in a nice restaurant, you have likely had something that had wine added to the recipe. Here’s the good news: according to a chef Aunty asked, one adds only a small amount of wine to a savory recipe, and in cooking most of the alcohol escapes because it’s more volatile than other liquids. What’s left isn’t enough to have an effect on you.

Still, in this matter Aunty agrees with you: one shouldn’t sneak things into people’s food that they wouldn’t want to eat—even if their scruples seem silly to the chef. Aunty once heard a cook brag that she took something with meat to potluck without telling people what was in it, and laughed about how everyone loved it! That’s unethical, and dishonest. “Do unto others…” is still the best principle.

This is especially true when something undisclosed in a dish could trigger someone’s serious food allergies.

In traditional Adventism, nothing marks one as a “badventist” more than the use of alcohol. Aunty was raised with the (frankly erroneous) notion that even the slightest sip of an alcoholic beverage makes one an instant alcoholic. While some people surely are unusually sensitive to alcohol, Aunty believes we shouldn’t exaggerate its effects, either.

But Aunty is completely sympathetic to those who want to draw firm, hard lines about what they eat or drink. Those personal principles need to be respected, even if the cook doesn’t agree with them. Aunty doesn’t criticize your friend for enhancing her own home cooking with wine for herself and her family—that’s her family’s choice. But she should have asked before she made that recipe for you, even if she believed it wouldn’t hurt you. I’m sorry she put you in that situation.

Aunt Sevvy

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